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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: clay


Michael Kline

2018 Yunomi at CLAYAKAR

Michael Kline

Here is a behind the scenes look at just a small fraction this year’s stellar collection of yunomi at CLAYAKAR.COM 👉@clayakar👈Do you recognize any of the potters? I made a pilgrimage to Iowa City, Iowa after the St. Croix Pottery Tour last weekend, to visit Sanjay and Jigna Jani, the folks who brought you the gold standard of online pottery exhibition, AKAR Design. Their annual Yunomi Invitational has been wildly successful and this year’s collection will be splendidly available at 10 a.m. CST. Some of the pieces can be seen in 360°! Because of several scheduling conflicts, this will be the first year i will be absent from the show. 😔 (but I guarantee i will be there clicking through hundreds of cups by 180 potters) 
A post shared by Michael Kline (@klineola) on


Michael Kline

Here are a few videos from my Instagram feed showing some of the work I've been doing lately. Hover over or click the image to get the video rolling!

Click here or on the instagram logo below any of the videos to go to my Instagram page to see other images of studio life!

Spied the Moon Monday

Michael Kline

Most days I wake up with a heart full of promise and a road of good intention lies ahead. After my coffee, which always seems to be there waiting for me (thanks Stacey) I do the rounds, feeding the chickens, getting the eggs, boiling the eggs, and clocking into the internets to see what's coming downstream.

Today I woke up really tired and didn't have time to go through my usual routine.

The girls are in a morning camp up at Penland so I ferried them straightaway over the mountain to their camp, came home and went to the studio to check in with the twelve from yesterday.

I spent most of the morning, aside from a brief visit from a fine group of students from ArtCentered, trying to throw small pitchers and had some success. It has been a while since I made a good group,of pitchers and it took me a few tries to get them. I often wonder if I should toss out the first couple in a series and rationalize that even the mediocre pot can be a good pot for a glaze test. And none of them were that bad really. (delusional?)

I packed some pots, went to the P.O. and dropped off some stuff over at Bandana pottery, where I sat and talked to Michael over a cold beer. Even though we live just a few few short miles apart, we rarely have time to drop in to just sit and talk shop. What a treat it is when we can.

After about 60 paces of mowing in the field and some nice callus forming on chops, I came back to the shop where it had cooled down nicely to finish my 12 for today. Well, it must be noon somewhere!? Midnight is fine with me, especially in the summer.

Just as i sit down to write this travelogue for the day, a skunk wafted by the studio and I rushed to close the doors that would keep Jack inside.  He paced between the doors looking to get out and meet this smelly dude and became so excited that I thought he might jump through the window screens!

Jack's snoozing by my feet and the skunk has moved on and it's probably safe to walk down the hill to the house without a skunk altercation. I'll enjoy the new path I've made with tonight's mowing and I'll really enjoy that path to my slumber!

A Summer Day

Michael Kline

 Some say that I'm a lucky guy.  I would agree. Making pots for a living is a pretty sweet life. Although there are those days that I second guess the vocation that has chosen me and think about the greener grass on the other side. But mostly, when I can make some pots, visit some friends and spend time outside working, I'm pleased.

Today was pretty leisurely, but I made some pots, (oddly undocumented in this photo series) saw some beautiful pots at Michael and Naomi's home sale, and mowed some of the field outside the house. The evening, after supper is when I get my exercise swinging the scythe. It's really my favorite time of the day. When the house still holds the day's hot, the field is a great place to be. The sky changes every time I pause to strop the blade and I take in deep breathes and note of the drama of clouds, the color of "pink o'clock". It's always a good workout and satisfying to see the freshly evened grass of the field.

I think to myself, as I topple the goldenrod and blackberry, that I am somehow rescueing the grass.  That someday goats or cows will thank me.

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!

A Penland Afternoon

Michael Kline

VA potter Catherine White's hands on some clay

One of the great hopes and dreams I have as a member of the Penland community is to take a class at the school every summer. A summer break kind of thing. This dream doesn't lean in particular to any medium,  it's just to be there, to see how people make stuff and to get jazzed up about my own work. But that dream is being deferred for now.

But another one of the great things about being in the neighborhood of the Penland School is dropping in the clay studio to see what's going on, even if it's just for a peek or a glimpse. Of course, nothing much gets done in my studio when I visit Penland, so I try to stay clear when I have approaching deadlines, etc.  But since I am just now getting back into the clay this week,  I rationalized that it was a perfect day to nose around the studio and see what they were "building in there."

Sitting at the picnic tables out by the Coffee House, that is adjacent to the Pines Dining Hall, you can see the whole world go by. It may take a few sessions, maybe a couple of summers, but eventually everyone I know walks by. It's the center of the universe. The other day I ran into Warren Frederick and his wife, Catherine White. Catherine is leading the workshop in the upstairs clay studio. Her workshop would have been the class I would have taken this summer, no doubt.  So I was more than willing and very happy to let myself get swept away for that beautiful clear afternoon (and was glad I had flipped over and covered all the plates I threw the day before).

Walking in that studio that I have been walking into for over twenty years is always familiar and always new. The room is the same. The doorway, the floor, the windows, the view, are the same , but what is happening in the room is always unique. I was excited to get a look at everyone working, but the electricity in there was the real elixir!

Catherine showed me what she was making and with a little drool forming at the corner of my mouth I scanned the tables to see the clay and the slip on the forms that were already everywhere on that second day of class. It really is the reason I live here, so close to that school. The chance, even though it is rare given my obligations with family and work, to step in there and nose around.

I was completely excited by what I saw and then was lucky enough that Catherine took the time to show me how she makes her beautiful bisque molded dishes. I could go on about the luxury of such a situation, maybe I will tomorrow, but for now I will end this post with some pictures I snapped.  Here is Catherine cutting out a little round dish that she has previously coated in white slip and wiped through a pattern with her fingers.  Tomorrow I will post a short video of her very clever way of attaching a little foot ring to this little dish. Stay tuned for the exciting conclusion!

Dirt Love

Michael Kline

Ooo I'm loving the new recipe I just ran through the pug mill! The addition of bentonite and sagger clay are making up for the red dirt's lack of plasticity and is throwing itself right out of the pugmill! Usually I don't use much of the clay until it's rested a day or two, but, likewise, I can never resist trying some right away.

The red dirt that I'm using was dug around Easter and has been sitting around mellowing . This afternoon I took the sun dried slop that I mixed the other night (fireclay, feldspar, sagger, bentonite) and ran it though the pug mill and then weighed it in six pound balls. Then I weighed six pound amounts of red dirt. Then I matched the two and threw them into the mill together. The other end of the mill produced a slightly marbled pug of gray and red. So I ran them through again to homogenize the two clays. Then I put the finished clay in some plastic totes.

Now, tonight, I'm making a few pots before calling it quits on the making side of things.

The bisque ware is piled up all over and I will get to setting up my painting area tomorrow.

While I am really loving this clay, I wouldn't mind being here or here this weekend. I wish all my potter friends at these events much success! Sell'em all!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

This Is It?

Michael Kline

After looking all over the shop for that other bin of red dirt clay, I have come to the sudden realization that I don't have another bin of clay! This is that last one. I'd better get my shovel and commence to digging! Must have been dreaming.

Fortunately, I have a bin of sandy stoneware. And I guess there's always commercial clay at the store. Hmmm....

'better get that shovel. Time's a wastin'.

Mixing the Dirt

Michael Kline

I've been playing with the "Big One" the last couple of days. It's a circa mid 1960's Paoli clay mixer. I'm still trying to figure out how it's best use is.

click on images to enlarge so you can see my
fancy hose shut off feature

I started by scrubbing the interior and rinsing. There was a fair amount of rusty bits in there. Then I dumped the red dirt of varying wetness/dryness.

crushing the dirt into smaller pieces

On top of the dirt I put in the rest of the dry materials.

The mixer goes "forward" and "backward" and I used this feature to keep the mix in the main mixing section. Yesterday I mixed a small batch of red dirt clay and today mixed up a big batch of the sandy version.

the sand station in the distance.
the sun and wind helped dry out
the sand which helped in sieving it.

We have a huge pile of sand left over from Stacey's paving project and it adds a bit more texture to the clay. I tested it out last firing as well as doing a calcium test with some muriatic acid. However, it contains some material that is too large. To get the little stones out I dried the sand and shook it through my sieve. I know, it does seem like a lot of trouble...but nothing but the best! (keepin' it local)

Here's the recipe. If you have a local red clay, fire in a wood kiln to about cone 9 1/2 and use salt, then you may get close.
45% red dirt (15 mesh)
35% fireclay (35 mesh)
4% ball clay
3% XX Sagger
13% g200 feldspar

i sent the clay through the machine
twice to get the consistency right!

stacked pugs


I'll use this clay for my white slip and wax resist work as well as my alkaline glaze.

Now it's off to the shop for some after supper pottery!

That's it for now.

Random Monday

Michael Kline

Here are a few pictures that describe the day I had today in no particular order.

some of the sandy light stoneware I'm using this go around.
For glazed pots.

hay bales. we lease the hay field to our neighbors who take the hay!

pugging some reclaim

more plates with light sandy stoneware

little tumblers in #6 tile slip

a nice mug I got in the mail from Scott Cooper. We're trading!

remote control.
Today's sounds included Ben Webster, NPR, The Ravonettes,
Destroyer, Deerhunter, and Wolf Parade!

the table. 12# bowls, 3.5# plates

random things that are collecting on the woodstove, including a vase
I am donating to my high school reunion
(thirty years!!) raffle!
I was supposed to ship it Friday, sorry Angelia...

Activities not represented in this photo barrage,
  • fixing the digital converter box so that we could watch PBS on our analog, rabbit ears powered TV again
  • talking with some potter friends on some of the many unused minutes of my upgraded cell phone plan
  • making a 7 foot haystack, old school style, with the pitchfork.
  • playing with the girls
  • facehookingbooking
  • grabbing chickens
  • fitting and oiling a new screen door, getting it ready to hang
  • feeding chickens
  • laying in the hammock
It was a full-on day that's just now ending with this post. It was a gorgeous day, the kind of clear bright Monday that my Dad would call a "blue Monday". Until next time.......

Mixing It Up

Michael Kline

A few things to report, today. Aside from a couple of new grates needed, and stoke door maintenance, the kiln is ready! The pots are being bisque fired on a daily rotation. Clay waiting to be made into the pots needed for the show at Leslie's. Also, Micah and I cranked up the old mixer. If you remember from previous posts, I purchased an old mixer from Tyrone Larson over in Asheville, back a few months ago and lugged it back up the mountain from Asheville. (the Larsen's used to live just over a few miles from me until about 10 years ago.) They have, no doubt, mixed tons of clay in this mixer and moved it to Asheville with them. They sold it to me, and I hauled it back "home". It seems to be working just fine. The photo above shows a "wave" of fire clay/sand mix I'm using to clean out the mixer. First we hosed out all of the iron rust flakes and leaves, etc. that were in the mixer. We then dumped in about 100 lbs. of sand and 200lbs of fire clay, added water and watched the mix with our hands in our pockets! I still want to devise some safety switch and screen covering over the hopper. The auger moves pretty slowly but I don't want to take any chances. There is a reverse and forward switch that helps mix the batch. When it was ready I reversed the switch and the clay came out the 3 inch pug at the other end of the mixer. (sorry, no picture) I think I could mix at least 400 lbs at a time, maybe more. There's nothing like a big ole batch of fresh clay to get a potter spinning!

I'm the helper at Evelyn and Lil's school in the morning so I better hit the sack. More on the May Ferrin show to come. Also, painting and glazing!

Ramping Up: A Feat of Epic Proportion (or stubbornness)

Michael Kline

Maybe it was a coincidence, but today, Nick Joerling came by to drop off some work we're taking up to D.C. for him. And I had the time to try to move the old Peter Pugger into the studio. Incidentally, I bought the Peter Pugger from Nick, back when I was a resident at Penland. But I failed to coerce Nick into helping out, Damn. So, as I checked the e-kiln and watched its slow climb in temperature, I had time to push, pull, and strain to get this heavy machine up the steps and into place. I tried chaining it to my truck with marginal success. The pug mill has two hard wheels, but it was almost impossible to move around on the gravel, hence the truck idea. I built a ramp out of 4 x 4's and scraps of plywood, boards, etc. and I can't tell you how much joy it brought me to use these little scraps of plywood and boards that most sane people would have burned or thrown out.

But I was still stumped on how to get the mill up the ramp. It's heavy! I felt that there must be some way I can get this up the ramp by myself, or with the truck!


I broke down and called Stacey to see if she could muscle it up the ramp with me. But she wasn't coming home for a while and I was growing impatient. I tried to think about simple physics, pulleys, winch, levers, hmmmm???

Then it came to me!! What i needed was another wheel! Duh! SO off I go to the hardware store to buy a caster for the front of the mill and made this third wheel.

What followed I don't have still images or video footage of, but first I tried to push this behemoth up the ramp and slipped a couple of times, but the adrenaline was coursing through my veins. Would I be pugging clay by the end of the day?? I stepped back and then had the sensible idea of pulling the mill up the ramp. So I pulled a chain around and through the frame and stepped up to the porch to try to pull. I was able to get the thing rolling up the ramp with all my might. But then I had to let go of one hand to re-grab the chain as I pulled it toward me. Could I do it, should I do it?? (this is where a soundtrack would come in real handy) You must be thinking that I have lost my mind, by now??

Well as you can see from the pictures below, (you'll have to take my triumphant word for it), I got the mill up to the porch level, and easily rolled it into the studio. But then I realized that I one more feat to perform. The final ramping up onto the platform that the mill sits on. No problem, thought I. And for once I was right. Just a simple ramp made with ware boards and the ubiquitous scrap pieces of 2 x 4 and 2 x 6! With a rolling start I rolled the mill into place and plugged her/him in.

The rest of the story is history. I mixed a batch of very, very sandy reclaim clay to run through to attempt to get some of the flakes of rust out, before i run my "good" clay through.

AHHH. Now I'm ready to turn some pottery!