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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: Scott Cooper


Michael Kline

Re-entry to my chilly mountain life after a week in Florida has been the normal treacherous segueway that it usually is. The charmed perspective that travel gives is a direct result of the lack of the routine and the responsibilities one leaves behind. But now that I am back the "chickens have come home to roost."

I'm juggling these chickens and, at the same time, organizing the ideas and awesome experiences from the Florida Heat Surface Conference so that I can present them here. But that will have to wait, maybe another day as life gets in the way. But it's great to be back in the bosom of our little house here on Snow Creek Road.

In the meantime, I thought it would be a good time to plug 2 of my favorite potter bloggers. Check these posts out when you can. I love that Scott and Carter dive deep into the writing and share the many trials and tribulations of pottery making. Their writings make our world a little smaller and help us realize the common threads that connect us as makers.

Scott Cooper's "Dr. Strangethrow, Or: How I learned to stop sitting and love the Brent"

Carter Gillies's "Teaching Fail"

the timelessness of night

Michael Kline


 The thaw is happening, I think. During the #hunkerdownbythewoodstovepolarvortex the kids got home schooled and I beat a path from wood stove to wood stove, studio and house, respectfully. I also checked water pipes, chickens, road conditions, email, calendar. Seems like I would have had plenty of time to make pots, to get that studio hoed out and crystallize my vision for a bump free flow.

[insert perplexed, vexed, and cross-eyed emoticon]

On the heels of my declaration of a 500 word guarantee here on ye olde blogge, I stood there like a deer in the headlights of the big brain freeze, mental frostbite. So, just as one rubs hands to create friction, thus heat, thus thawing, I will try to rub some brain cells together and make a clickity clackity sound with this keyboard to illustrate a few "thaw-ts".

So, here we go. [pause, deep breath, now go!]

Something interesting happened at the wheel the other night. Yes, I did say night. That time of my day when it is quiet and all are asleep, except for me. The darkness of night has a timelessness that, MS and I used to jokingly referred to as "3 o'clock in the morning". Timelessness in the sense that the darkness (outside) is not specific, compared to the light of the sun, glaring morning light through to pink o'clock, then dark.

Unable to train my thoughts on much through my day, I was able to sequester and focus on the pots later that night. With headphones on, some music playing in my head, I was able to get some pots made. Some really great pots, IMHO. I know what you might be saying. "This guys has some kind of mental problem, either distraction, or maybe something worse!" Could it be that I go through a brief period of ADD or PTSD before the highly prized momentum flows? I'm sure someone more qualified than I can diagnose what potters, like moi, might be experiencing.

[note to self: don't stray, get to the point]

Oh, right. I do want to share something other than a pathology of distraction with you.

So, I've heard potters speak about the wheel as their sketchbook and I would say, yes! It's the only way I can "draw" pots. Some potters are very good at portraying pottery in 2 dimensions, I applaud them and I think that a 2D sketchbook is a must, but in reality I don't draw pots in mine. I use my sketchbook to work on patterns and loosen up my "brush-mind" (I'm about the start a new one that Stacey gave me! A beautiful new sketchbook (made by John Hartom) for Christmas!) So, yes, put me in that group who think that the wheel is a better sketchbook for pots. Ha! Maybe our wheels are the original 3d printers!

In the past I have certainly played around with this notion of the wheel as sketchbook. Throwing a series of pots can result in a board of pots all the same or all different, depending on one's intentions AND skills. I've written about the impact that first pot can have on the rest of the pots and how there is redemption in a series of the same.

The other night I had a bit of fun chasing down something that happened unexpectedly. Rather, maybe it happened from some sort of prodding by my sub conscience?(the best kind of prodding?) Maybe I was bored with the way I usually make swirl ware and that boredom exerted itself and prompted me to take a risk, after all, it's just clay, as Cynthia Bringle would say. But I tend to think, or better yet, obsess, of the times that I have failed when I take a chance.

I never think of those momentous times when my whole body of work has shifted because of something I tried that was out of the ordinary. Hmmm, more psychological evidence of pathology...But why are we afraid of risk if the outcome of something wonderful, something truly personal, and new can come of it?

Most people would probably say that pottery is a pretty safe business. But think of the speculation, the risks that a potter makes/takes when submitting our pots to the kiln?! Not to be too melodramatic, but, instead, to make the point that potters aren't to blame for playing it safe because of this looming risk of the kiln, but does playing it safe promote healthy living pots?

[OK, now I've done it. Which rabbit hole should I take?]

Let me reel (real?) myself in just a bit. Which risks do I decide to take, which sleeping dogs do I let lie? We can't always work at the edge. We can't always run at full clip. Pace is everything. Change is slow, Just ask Carl Sagan. But when we, as potters, are ready for change, we make it happen, perhaps prompted by a kind of boredom, perhaps triggered by our sub conscience.

So I guess I was ready to insert the wrench into the way I make my swirl ware. It wasn't something I put on my to do list that night. It was something that happened spontaneously. Maybe this emerged from the noise of the day, from the "urgency" of the day, or maybe from the desire to see something different.

This new "twist" on my technique was kind of thrilling. In this small way I am changed and I am motivated, jazzed, pumped up! The hexagonal wheel makes a light bump and down the road we go. It's an exciting thing when this happens in the shop. As potters, it is our challenge to make this happen, over and over again. Give life to the pots. Give our life to the pots. No pressure, as my friend Scott would say!

When we talk about giving life to our pots, what do we mean? When we talk about pots having something special, what do we mean? I guess we mean that something from our soul has somehow been transferred to the clay. Something that can't be written, something like a quality without a name. Maybe it's simply an excitement we feel when we are making . Maybe it's a kind of joy we are experiencing?

Hey, come on, it's just clay, right?

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!


Michael Kline

Sorry to butt in on your day behind the keyboard,  and this is Not a real post, just an acknowledgement
of 6 years and 1489 posts at this here blog. Whether it is a worthwhile effort, only you can say.

Much has changed in the the last six years! This forum marches on, despite the many soldiers of the cause falling out for one reason or another. I'm reminded of seeing the "ClayArt" meeting room at a recent NCECA, and saying to myself, "ClayArt? Haven't they heard of the internet?"

ANd with that snarky thought,  there must be folks out there that grimace when they hear the word "blog". ("...hasn't he heard of Facebook?)

Is the pottery blog archaic? Have we become jaded from the ease of something like Facebook? No time to read blogs, just responding to the visual stimuli? I'm not sure if I have another 1500 posts in me, we'll see, I never thought I would ever get to this point in the first place! For those of you who missed it the first time, here is the inaugural post from Feb 6th, 2007.


I'm "finally" heading up to hill to continue making mugs for the Penland School Auction and more hanging with Scott.

Pottery Bloggery Meetup

Michael Kline

Hi everyone.

Yesterday I had a nice time visiting with Ron and Scott up at Penland.

about this high
Scott is on "sabbatical" here, making pots in the Penland Clay studio, Ron was up for the day to visit. Penland is that kind of place, a crossroads. Sometimes I am lucky to find myself there making friends, visiting friends, or peeking in to see what's going on in the studios.

scott's NC pots, from the small salt kiln at Penland

We talked about pottery, blogging, kilns,  and making a living.

What else is there?

Oh, glad you asked.
Well,  God and Art, of course!

Here's another potter on sabbatical, Chris Staley with his latest video.

ALSO: After talking with the blogger boys yesterday, I have decided to reinstate the comments on this here blog. If you have anything to say, let us have it! Don't be shy, just say Hi!

have a great Mardi!

Must Reads and Muses

Michael Kline

I just read some great pottery blog posts and wanted to encourage you to check them out. It's difficult to keep up with all of the good stuff out there these days! I know I certainly have some catching up to do!

So here are the must reads for this week.

Scott Cooper's January 30st post on This Week @ St. Earth Pottery

John Bauman's Feb 5th post, The Kiln Muse

and Carter Gillies' post, The Long View

Maybe this will be a weekly column. If you have a post that you really liked leave a link! An easy way to do this would be to copy and paste the blog post's URL into your message!


This Week @ St Earth Pottery with Scott Cooper

Michael Kline

a studio shot from "This Week @ St. Earth Pottery"

I wanted to let everybody know that Scott Cooper's blog, "This Week @ St. Earth Pottery" is now available as an RSS feed! This means that you can subscribe to his weekly blog in you reader or link to it through my blog roll whenever he updates it! Yay. Scott never fails to write insightfully about the potters life and always has a great quote to lead the way each week. I've had a link to his blog in my blog roll, but it's way down at the bottom. Now you'll see it pop into the blog roll every week in a more convenient place. I hope you will enjoy it as much as I do and will be glad you found it!