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192 Jim Boone Rd
Bakersville, NC, 28705
United States


The central information hub for Michael Kline Pottery, a small one man shop of pottery making in the mountains of western North Carolina.

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The Best of Sawdust and Dirt

A record of the goings on around Michael Kline Pottery!

Filtering by Tag: Penland School

Back To School

Michael Kline

After 14 years of "independent study, I am watching and learning as a student! I have enrolled in Brian R Jones 7th Session Class at Penland. The experience so far has been really expansive!

Watching another artist work is always enlightening and can be great sport. Although physically it's passive, watching stimulates change in my way of thinking and is quite the springboard. After Brian's shadow drawing exercise/demo Monday morning we all sprang into action grabbing bisque pots from the upper shelves of the "boneyard" in the Penland upper clay studio.

I chose this Jan McKeachie vase grouping after trying a couple of other pots that didn't quite have the right shadow that appealed to my sensibilities. The next part of the exercise was to look at the shadows that the piece cast. I went outside with black tar paper or sheathing and a piece of chalk. 

observing the shadows 
drawing shadows and cutting them out

rearranging repeated shapes to come up with other shapes

transferring these forms to blue insulating board

cutting out shapes to use as molds for dishes
  As I write this I realize I am late for class! SO I will try to resume this blog later today with more pictures and thoughts. Sorry to cut this post short. Follow me on instagram for in progress pics.


Future Pottery

Michael Kline

Hello King Friday XV,

Uncle B and I had some good times in the past couple of days. I'll miss him today as his "Friday" came yesterday and he's off to the Piedmont today with family. Today, I’ll no doubt finish up my mugs in record time. There isn't likely to be any banter, except that echoing in my head.

One interesting concept that stuck in my brain after yesterday's talking (and yesterday's post) is somehow related to the idea of the ceramic third eye, or maybe better yet, the ceramic mind's eye. I'm not sure how. It's also related to time travel (bear with me, please) and future pottery, good lord willing.

Part of the agenda that Uncle B set in front of me, scribbled on a scrap of paper, was the notion of limits, deadlines, procrastination, and the addiction to urgency. (paraphrased) I had a rush of thoughts. The first being that I wanted to put off that agenda item till later—Pass!


Then I panicked with the thought that I have too little time to be at Penland in the first place, making pots for charity when I should be making pots in MY shop for MY kiln! At the same time, the real silver lining for me is that I AM  building momentum making pots, I AM having a thrilling time in conversation with Scott C(Uncle B) and so what’s the big deal?

This could turn into a very tangential, stream of consciousness post, so let me try to avoid that train wreck, or some random meteor shower of thoughts, by saying that everything we do in this moment as artists is some kind of investment in our future work.

I ask myself,

  • how will this time I'm spending effect the work I make? 
  • am I spending this time working toward making better work? 
  • is this studio full of crap that is encumbering a good flow of creativity? 

The pots I make for Penland I do ultimately for Penland’s benefit. But it is also helping ME make better pots by allowing me time to work out some form ideas with very few of the usual risks. As Scott said yesterday, something to the effect of, “at least we were keeping our hands muddy” the time spent in conversation and clay are rare and can’t be measured. Progress was somehow being made.

The progress bar is moving along! [or is it?] There’s a lot to be said of the progress bar.

All I really want to say, as I sort these thoughts out on the keyboard, is,

Keep pushing, keep striving! Your future pots deserve it.

Now,  Go on and get outta here!

It’s later than you think.

Have a great weekend.

My Brilliant Ideas

Michael Kline

I was surprised when I saw the results of the reduction firing of the mugs I made for this summer's Penland Benefit Auction. I guess surprises can be good or bad.

Half of the mugs I glazed with a shino glaze, then painted a floral wax pattern, then dipped them in the shino glaze again. All the while seeing in my ceramic "third eye" a brilliant layering of glazes, fired to perfection, with a gorgeous contrasting pattern of leaves and vines.

All perfect! Brilliant!

[cue the Jaws music, show potters laughing, sharing their pottery jokes, unaware of the hazards that this distracted moment present]

Then, in my distraction,  I went ahead with the remainder of the mugs, forgetting to dip the first layer of shino and blissfully and ignorantly, painted away my wax patterns, dipped them in the glaze, only to realize that I had forgotten a crucial step!

Oh well, there was no reset button with that wax resist, and nothing to do but submit the pots to the kiln with my sheepish grin and fingers crossed that the bare clay would look ok and the mugs salvageable!

When I saw the mugs I realized that my ideas are never as brilliant as they exist in my ceramic mind's eye. BUT, my mistakes are sometimes golden!


Not all mistakes are golden, but they are always worth scrutinizing. The mug pictured was one of the dozen or so mugs that weren't glazed like I had planned. The glaze was much redder than I imagined. I was thinking of a more tame bland shino. To my surprise the rich red/orange was a nice contrast to the bare stoneware.

The mugs glazed right, were awful, IMHO. Shiny, pattern barely recognizable, blah! I mean, they're OK, maybe I need to look at them again, after sleeping on it. But my impressions were NOT good. I didn't even want to photograph them.

Anyway, enough about that. I'll save it for my next magazine article for Pottery Psychology Today.

What a tangent!

The real highlight of the day was definitely throwing pots and talking shop with my blogging buddy, Scott Cooper. Here's Scott clip cloppin' the treadle wheel at Penland.

Scott wrote brilliantly (as he does) You can read about our little Penland symposium here.

I'm heading back up to put some handles on the mugs I threw yesterday, so I must be going for now.
It's Scott's last wet day and he's chasing plastic. Time for me get to the real work. The clock is tickin'

Chiow wow wow and Happy Valentine's Day y'all!

A Very Short Video About a Very Little Dish

Michael Kline

Catherine White Demo @Penland from Michael KLine on Vimeo.

Here's the exciting conclusion to the little molded dish Catherine White demo'd for me the other day. I shot this with an iPad in portrait mode, so apologies for the funny view. All praises to Vimeo for handling the formatting issue without a hiccup. Enjoy.

Hopefully more Catherine to come next week!

NOTE: Catherine writes so beautifully and thoughtfully on her Penland Experience, here.

postscript: for everyone who like numbers, this happens to be the 1450th post here at Sawdust and Dirt! Thanks for reading!

Let the Sun Shine In

Michael Kline

It's Saturday and the girls are in school today!! It's a gorgeous day and I've been meaning to do a blog about this cup! It's a cup that I made in MM (that's 2000 in Roman). It's made with a grolleg porcelain, Helios, from Highwater Clays in Asheville, NC. It claims to be one of the world's best clays, maybe second only to my red dirt home clay! heheh...

I wanted to show it here as a reference to the hydro-abrasion (a Michael Sherrill term) that I mentioned the other day (see video). I can't remember if I have talked about this particular phase of my making career, but it all happened back in 1999 when my studio mate at the Barns at Penland, Shawn Ireland was moving out and was passing off stuff he didn't need or want as he was packing up. He came in and held out a quart can of Shellac and asked me if I wanted it. I didn't know, at the time, what the hell I would do with a can of shellac. I didn't know the work of Jim Gottuso yet, after all! I said yes just to help the guy out, you know how it is for hoarders, it was like a small intervention. ;-) Actually Shawn was very neat.
So, I went to the list serve (clay-arts?) and looked up some possible reasons Shawn would have a can of shellac in his studio. I knew shellac was used for woodworking projects. Shawn was also painting on canvas towards the end of his residency, and still makes wonderful paintings, so that was possibility. But lo and behold, there was a thread on the list serve that very day on using shellac as a resist! And so began hours of painting and sponging away the porcelain to get these translucent effects on the porcelain. As you can see the edges stressed out from all the handling and cracked in the firing. This was common.

The process was extremely time consuming, but I didn't mind that. But my wrists were suffering from all of the very careful handling of the constantly thinning pots, not to mention a chronic stiff neck. Then there was the frustration of actually going through the clay wall. And then there was the almost impossible way to photograph these pieces for the record. So this chapter in my career was closed about a year later. But like all good stories, it's worth telling again. I have a new can of shellac and I'm preparing to use it on some of the pots I've been making in the last few weeks. I'm even going to try it on some swirl ware!

For those of you keeping score, this piece was fired in the salt kiln at the Barns at Penland and it is lined with my 1% Copper glaze. Fired to cone 10.

OK, back to this wonderful Saturday afternoon of porcelain pottery making. I've just getting around to using my Matt and Dave porcelain that they were so kind to send me last summer! I'll let you know what I make with that! So far it's been really nice! Thanks M & D!

Hope you have a great weekend, too! Did you make your 12 today?

Got Pottery?

Michael Kline

I guess a lot of folks got a flip video camera for Christmas, including Evelyn! Here's a little pottery review I made before dinner last night. I can't guarentee there will be more videos here on the blog, but if I can get someone to do voice overs or if I don't have to speak I will be more motivated. It's sort of like hearing your OGM on your voicemail. Weird.

Today is a snow day and I plan on getting the girls involved in a photo shoot up in the studio!

"Film at 11"

View From the Crunch

Michael Kline

The return of the swirl. These tankards (steins) are made with 2.25# of clay! I'll be taking one these to the Pizza Shop for a fill-up of some of their fine brew! Still potting here as crunch week continues. Last wet day is the 12th but it might have to be moved to the 14th with recent schedule changes with the family. Empty bowls at Penland tomorrow night. More later or in the a.m.

Back to Earth

Michael Kline

What a weekend! I just got back from a couple of days of amazing discussions on Craft hosted by the Penland school and the American Craft Council! About 30 artists, gallerists, curators, writers, museum directors,and bloggers came together (from all over) for some intense talks about craft and its relevance! I felt honored to be part of the fishbowl.

Hopefully, I will have some time this week to crank up the old 'still and bottle some of my thoughts on what was talked about right 'chere on ye olde blogge. *hic

Meanwhile, it's back to earth and some of the pressing concerns in the studio.

Penland's Newest House

Michael Kline

Evelyn and I made it over to the ribbon cutting at Penland's newest structure, the guest house, where my sink is installed! Since I was in the ribbon cutting party, I don't have a picture of that. But here are some pictures of the new house and the beautifully wooded area surrounding it. The house is built next to Dora's cabin and on the site of one of my favorite mobile homes ever, Ebner's. Ebner's was taken away to that great trailer park in the sky sometime last early Spring.

jungle gym yoga?
architect Dail Dixson, 2nd from l, with others checking out the physical plant!

Penland Ramble

Michael Kline

SO it's been a while since I spent several days at Penland firing the sinks. I've wanted to post some pictures from those times, that seem so long ago, now, but I've lacked the time and resources, until now. (and even now I should be loading a bisque and getting the pots made) But blogging and potting are two different sets of hands, one pair covered in slurry, another copying and pasting! It's a situation I find myself in more and more. When to blog, when to pot, when to be with family, when to walk the dog, etc. You get the picture. There is sort of an inverse outcome of actions at play here. More blogging/less potting. More potting/less blogging. Until I get an "administrative assistant" here wedging the clay or handling the photo processing, Blogging may be slow in the coming weeks, cause the potter must make pots!!

Blah, blah, blah, on with the Penland ramble and in the garbage with the whining ramble!

jocelyn, kenneth, and jana posing by the
hot kiln with sinks on one of the
hottest days of the summer!

two guys, two hands, two scars.
Zack Lopez (l), Adam Whitney (r)

product placement: obviously this potter is sponsored by MudTools!
who really needs this many ribs!

cute kiln loiterers!

cups from the kiln.
love the soda on the edges!

famous bay area artist visits!

new Penland guest house
(where my sink is installed,
more on that next week after the ribbon cutting!
party people at the guest house

pink o'clock at Penland

Sink Saga Continued

Michael Kline

white slip. wax resist. more white slip!!

I'm heading over to put the sinks in the soda kiln, Lucille, over Penland School way. Here are the sinks after their wax painting and slip dipping were done.

black wax resist. white slip

white slip. wax resist. more white slip 2

sorry, no picture of the
black underglaze slip brush work. layer o'tenmoku. layer of amber
it'll be a surprise for Wednesday!

I'm not sure what I'll do with myself tomorrow as I sit there watching the gas kiln. I'm sure I'll stick my head in a few studios and see what's going on!

Look for a Penland Ramble post tomorrow or Tuesday!


Michael Kline

I have been commissioned to make sinks for the new guest house at Penland and I will be painting and glazing them on Saturday. I've promised to give y'all a sink how-to, but unfortunately didn't do so well in technical writing as a young engineering student back in the day. But here goes...

First off, if you can make a teapot you can make a sink. But to make a big sink you'll need a few more chops to get'er done. First off, to make a finished sink that is 14.5" in diameter, I used 25 lbs. of clay! I threw the sinks between 15 and 16 inches. Also, I wanted to make them rather heavy to possibly avoid warping. (we'll see) This required a bunch of clay.

[sorry no pictures from the throwing stages. oh wait, here is a picture of some that were later destroyed and redone]

Then I let them dry really slow, and trimmed the foot as I usually do, but made the foot a little narrower as it related to the rim than I usually do for a bowl.

Then I cut a hole to accommodate the plumbing. (with the shrinkage of my clay, I made the hole about 1 3/4".

Then I added a coil that threw to make an overflow "chamber". After that was sufficiently dry I added a slab. [Well I guess, according top these picture, I added the short spouts that would serve as my overflow first. ;-) ]
Here are an assortment of little spouts that will carry overflow to the overflow chamber and down the pipe.
Doesn't this look like a strange kind of teapot? The two spouts will have a rubber tube between them! This is Kent McLaughlin's design that he freely shared with me and I hope he doesn't mind that I'm sharing with you?!?!

The overflow openings.
You leave a comment if you have a question. The overflow part is the critical design part.

  1. painting designs on the sinks and glazing them.
  2. moving them carefully over to Penland
  3. Load into their new soda/salt/wood/gas kiln!
  4. try to stay out the way of Sam Chung's class!
  5. Unload the kiln and deliver sinks to a waiting crew to install in the guest house.
Sorry I wasn't more thorough. I could have taken more pics. Until next time...remember questions comment if you would be so kind. I love hearing from you.

Penland Ramble

Michael Kline

it all started with lunch with lillian and stacey
under the veranda by the pines

which was after a morning at kid's craft camp

kathy steinsberger in the
letterpress shop

exhaust fans in the
printmaking shop

a view through the letterpress shop

john davis who made the movable
book above and below
, based on some painted barns near cameron, nc

also in Emily Martin's books class
were many delightful "tunnel"
books like the one above

i had nothing to do with the above design.
it predates my influence at penland!

pattern everywhere!!

i thought it would be cool to
photograph the fields at Penland from the air.

then I saw this!

damn, scooped again!
see the fall offerings at penland

lillian took many of these pictures. she
really has a knack for it. i took this one of her
at the end of a wonderful afternnoon at the
Penland School.

thanks for letting me indulge in this photo essay.

Penland Clay : Summer 2010

Michael Kline

hayne bayless and lindsay rogers
penland, summer 2009

Maybe you've already heard about summer 2010 at Penland, but thought I would share this if you haven't. This schedule is still subject to change.

Complete information will be posted in early January (or maybe a little bit sooner).

Clay 2010
Session 1: May 30 - June 11
Kathy King and Paul Wandless--Print and Clay Buffet (both studios)

Session 2: June 13 - 25
Kristen Kieffer--Altered, Ornamented & Electric
Alice Ballard and Jenny Mendes--Cross Pollination

Session 3: June 27 - July 9
Judith Duff--Japanese Style: Forms and Shinos
George Kokis and Rodney McCoubrey--Clay, Myth, Fairy Tale

Session 4: July 11 - 23
Bede Clark--Wheel Pots: Geometry and Vitality
Carlos Alves and Katrina Plato--Meaning and Mosaic: Ceramic Tile in Community

Session 5: July 25 - August 10
Sam Chung--Fusing Form, Surface, and Idea
Kenneth Baskin--Successful Slab Construction

Session 6: August 15 - 27
Elisa Helland-Hansen--Pots for Food
Tip Toland--Gesture, Psychology, and the Human Figure

Session 7: August 29 - September 4
Michael Sherrill--All Things Malleable
John Byrd--Mixed-Media Ceramic Sculpture

Penland Clay Slides Tonight

Michael Kline

Hayne Bayless introducing his studio assistant,
and my wonderful neighbor, Lindsay Rogers.

Tuesday Night is clay slides night at Penland this summer and it was a great night of wonderful work. First my bud, Hayne Bayless was up and among other things he was gracious enough to show a few of our pieces during his talk that we did together, last time he was passing through. Then my neighbor, Lindsay Rogers (who is assisting Hayne) showed slides of her pots, her visual influences, and pots with food! Sarah House is Hayne's other assistant. She should not be confused by our Sarah House, from Burnsville, NC. She talked about her work and the influence of scientific discovery on her work.

After a group intro by three studio assistants, James Watkins showed slides of his impressive work and travels. His assistants followed with quite a variety of work.

I take for granted this "cultural entertainment" that happens nightly up at the school, where teachers and their assistants briefly describe their work and show pictures for about ten minutes. It's quick and impressionistic at times, but it allows everyone time to present their work and still allow time to go back to the studios to get a little work in before it gets late.

Here is a platter that James Watkins made today using
sodium silicate to give the surface a crackle.

Here are Hayne and Lindsay looking over some
imagery Lindsay is working on in the work
she is making this session.

But tonight there wasn't much work being done as
Alan Tinney and Jan Welch were entertaining from
the upper clay porch. It was a blast as the moon
rose nearby in all of it's glory on this clear cool night.

There are a lot of friends teaching this session and I hope to ramble a little more and post some pictures of the great stuff I'm sure they're gonna do.

some of my pots that await

Meanwhile there are pots to make. But that a story for another day!

Penland School Auction Catalog Online!

Michael Kline

my slice of the catalog

The Penland School of Crafts 24th Annual Auction catalog is now online here. There are 230 + artworks that have been donated for the annual event. Check out the catalog through the 4 pdf files. The piece I donated is in the Saturday Silent Auction. Apparently there are a few tickets left. Hope to see you at the auction!

Download PDF directly:

Friday Night Silent Auction
Friday Night Live Auction
Saturday Silent Auction
Saturday Live Auction

Penland Ramble (of Sorts)

Michael Kline

checking for balance
I didn't ramble around Penland as I usually do, instead I took a break from my own pottery action to swing up to peek in on the upper clay class being led by Daniel Johnston. I just happened to get when Kaye Waltman and Daniel were taking a big pot that Kaye had made outside to glaze. Here is a series of pictures of that process.


walking it out to the kiln pad

Getting ready to pour the glaze. The Brent wheel has had
it's belt removed so that the wheel will spin freely.
The glaze and another way to
pour and conserve the glaze.

Daniel Johnston @ Penland

Michael Kline

One of the curses of being ten minutes from Penland is its strong gravitational pull. Especially when friends and colleagues are teaching up there. I spent several afternoons up there last session when Ayumi was there teaching, and insisted that I would hit the wheel hard this week and crank some pottery for the upcoming firing (#31). But I found myself drawn into the lights of the pot shop at Penland last night like a big ole Luna moth. And big were the pots, too.

Daniel and one of his students burning
the midnight oil last night

Daniel is showing his coil and throw technique which he employs on his fantasticly big pots in Seagrove, NC. I will swing by a few more times, I'm sure, before the two week session is over. I'll try to bring my tripod next time.