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192 Jim Boone Rd
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A record of the goings on around Michael Kline Pottery!

Filtering by Tag: advice

Simon Says: NCECA Prep

Michael Kline

As we pulled onto the highway headed for NCECA it occurred to me that finally I am one of the merging artists this year. Much thought and preparation has gone into this year’s trip. My bag is filled with swag and I have honed some techniques to make my NCECA experience the best it can be. Let me share with you some of the helpful tools I plan to employ.

The over the shoulder crowd survey
This is a common tool used by those who want to make the most of their time. When catching up with an old friend make sure you keep looking over his or her shoulder for someone else with more status. Perhaps someone well known that you would like to be seen talking to, or someone whose ego you would like to massage hoping they can give your career a boost. Never be afraid to trade up, NCECA will soon be over.

 Make sure you have your “I don’t remember you but want to seem like I do” phrases ready.

You will need these. Let me share a few that imply varying degrees of false intimacy.

  • “Heeeeyyyyyyy”. Draw this one out, the less you remember the person the longer this greeting should be. It may give you time to recollect and the lag time suggests pleasure and enthusiasm at seeing this stranger.
  •  “Wow, you have lost weight”. Always a good way to go, unless they are a recent amputee.
  •  “Did that rash ever clear up”?
  •  “I always enjoy your status updates on Facebook”.
  •  “What ever happened with that paternity test”. Note: This is fine to ask women as well as men.
  • “Got that $20 you owe me?” You never know, and if you insist enough you can always settle and let them buy you lunch.

 At NCECA be prepared to see some crappy work.

 You must be armed with vaguely upbeat but non-committal comments that suggest interest but cover your dismay, disgust or nausea. Here are a few.

  •  Interesting
  •  Look at that!
  •  You price your work way too cheap.
  •  That ‘s bold!
  •  How much time did you spend on that?
  •  I have never seen work like this.
  •  I admire your courage to present work like this.
  •  Now that’s a handle!
  •  I didn’t think it could be done, but you have ruined dirt.
  •  How many poo-flinging monkeys helped you with this?
  •  You have raised the bar for craptastic work everywhere.

And finally you will find yourself in deep and meaningful conversations that you cannot wait to get away from.

 In these situations you will need a few polite ways to excuse yourself immediately. Feel free to use any of these:

  • What time is it? Oh man I need to run.
  • Oh there goes my ride.
  • I am sorry but there is a lecture I really want to hear. (This one is hard to make sound truthful, I mean, holy cow, people talk so much at NCECA. Really how much can you say about dirt. I’d probably listen more if it was about me or Jersey Shore.)
It is always better if you can subtly make them want to end the conversation allowing you to leave still seeming interested in them as a person. So for the more advanced NCECA attendee try these:
  • Do you have $50 bucks I can borrow?
  • The infection is highly contagious; do you have any lip balm I can borrow?
  • Whoops there goes my Irritable Bowell Syndrome
  • Do you have any crack on you?
  • My therapist says I am due for a beserker rage any day now.
Anyway I am looking forward to my time at NCECA this year. You will find me looking over the shoulder of one of my nearest and dearest friends.

Simon Levin is an irregular contributor to Sawdust and Dirt. He lives and makes pots in Gresham, WI. When Simon is not making or firing pots, fighting fires, or caring for his lovely family, he is creating such wonders as WikiClay! To find out more about Simon Levin and his pottery go to

Simon Says

Michael Kline

Dear Simon Says,
Why aren't there more references to pottery in contemporary music? I just think clay is such an important issue.


Dear Listening,
What are you talking about?  Modern music is riddled with ceramic allusions and has been for a long time.  Since I first heard Patsy Cline sing "Crazing" hardly a song lacks some sort of ceramic reference.    For example, I offer this short list:

Paul Simon's "Slip Sliding Away"
Naughty by Nature’s  "(Who's Down with ) O.P.P.  yeah Yunomi"
Clarence Carter's woodfire ballad “We Be Stoking”

Otis Redding’s “Sitting On A Box of The Clay”
Soulja Boy’s new release “Mean Mug”
Bob Marley’s “Got To Have Kayanite!”

Perhaps you just need to try listening with clay in your ears.


Dear Simon Says,

Despite my partners and my best efforts I am still having trouble “getting it up” if you know what I mean.  Do you have any suggestions?

-Laying Down on the Job.

Dear LDotJ,

I do have some suggestions.  Have you tried adding grog, or even sand?   Sometimes a little more grit can offer a lot of vertical strength.   It may be simply that your clay is too short.   I suggest you try playing with your ball clays, sometimes this can help a lot.  Some folks suggest hand-building is the quickest way to create a large erection, but if you ask me, I wouldn’t obsess about the size of your cylinder.  Belief that a large pot is a good pot is a complete phalusy.  

Check out this veiny cylinder by Dick Cooter
although not large I think this is a really fine upstanding piece
For a lot of men this can be a sensitive issue; I hope I wasn’t too hard on you.  Remember It takes all kinds; woodfire potters often need to fire with soft wood as well as hard wood.


Simon Levin is a regular contributor to Sawdust and Dirt. He lives and makes pots in Gresham, WI. When Simon is not making or firing pots, fighting fires, or caring for his lovely family, he is creating such wonders as WikiClay! To find out more about Simon Levin and his pottery go to If you have questions for Simon he can be reached at otherwise please leave comments for Simon here!

Simon Says

Michael Kline

Dear Simon Says,

My parents don't give me enough allowance money. I do the dishes every day.

Most of my peers are getting twice or three times what I get.
Its not fair. What should I do?
-Poor Me

Dear Poor Me.
You know a lot of potters feel this way. Never getting paid enough for doing the dishes, while friends in other jobs earn a lot more money. Why do we persist? We do it because we love it. I mean look at these great plates by Bernadette Curran or Sam Taylor. These are nice plates, a pleasure to use or even wash if that's your thing. Or this set by Sylvie Granatelli, what fun. I suggest you throw yourself into doing the dishes and soon you will feel like a kid again.

Bernadette Curran, Sam Taylor
Sylvie Granatelli
Dear Simon Says,
A friend of mine recently told me she does not believe dinosaurs ever existed. Furthermore she believes the earth is only 6.000 years old!?! This woman is obviously crazy, but she won't believe me. What can I tell this woman to persuade her to believe in the once dominant existence of these impressive creatures?

Thank you,

Dear Velocirapture,

Your letter really made me angry. Yes I know that some people think pottery is archaic and anachronistic, but calling us dinosaurs gets us nowhere. Since receiving your letter I have done a lot of reading and reflection on these issues. I have to say that I don't think there is really anything to argue about. When it comes to choosing between a mass produced mug with a logo and a lovely hand made mug by Nick Joerling, his piece is the natural selection.

Nick Joerling

That being said; I am a firm believer in intelligent design. I mean poorly thought out pottery is so disappointing. David Pier's work is so smart and well made; it doesn't really matter to me that it wasn't made on a wheel. It's wrong to say that round pots are better just because they are more fully revolved.

David Peir

I know pottery's heyday has passed, but it is still a vibrant field full of innovation and history. There are so many wonderful potters who have resurrected the art of clay, and there are potters who's work is filled with revelations. I think if you can save your friend from her misconceptions we will all prophet from your efforts.

Good luck and good potting.

Simon Levin is a regular contributor to Sawdust and Dirt. He lives and makes pots in Gresham, WI. To find out more about Simon Levin and his pottery go to
If you have questions for Simon he can be reached at