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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: cutting wood

Wood, Fire, and the Potter

Michael Kline

wood yard
It's been a dizzying day that began way to early after an all-nighter  firing over at my good neighbor, Courtney Martin's kiln. It's about over as the sun heads over the hill, thankful for a little longer days as Spring nears. I've burned a lot of wood and cut a lot of wood today. Tomorrow I head to Asheville to help Kyle get his kiln ready for his next firing. If the business of my potter neighbors is any indication, the economy is turning itself around. But are we potters good barometers of economic prosperity? Many of us are in this business for better or worse.

As we fired Courtney's kiln in the wee hours of morning, we lamented the reality of this unusual vocation. So much work.

We were heavy with the long day and the stress of the unknown outcome of a kiln reluctant to climb in temperature and a woodpile that, despite it's loaves and fishes miracle, eventually succumbed to our zealous stoking. The stress will, hopefully, be redeemed for some pots that might reveal it's potter's love for the process.

We weather the storms of hard times because we live for the fire and the clay. With the door of the kiln bricked up the process of the firing is somewhat abstract. Temperature, pyrometric cones, smoke, heat, and light are the elements that concern us for the time being.

But with the door of the kiln opened, revealing it's bounty, we remember why we  endure the process.  the pots.

Sawdust Day

Michael Kline

Here's John Simmons making a beautiful stack and standing on the truck bed to reach to top row. This is more than we will need for the firing in February but it forms a nice wall to the elements.

There's never too much wood!

Pots & Chores

Michael Kline

I finally finished my pots yesterday after slacking with other things and I needed a little warm up to my brushwork ahead and
painted a bunch of invitations to the studio tour coming up on December 3, 4, 5! Are you on my mailing list? [sign up here]

I also cut some wood that is too big/wide to stoke in the wood kiln, but makes nice heat for the house and studio. Nothing is wasted here! Unfortunately this makes for a lot of various pile of wood around the kiln yard. But I developed a pretty quick way of cutting and stacking.

I'll be deco-rotating the pots for the next few day until I haul them over the hill to load with Courtney next week. I will send images of some of the motifs that emerge from the session.
Digg Button

Have a great weekend.

Just Pictures From Wednesday

Michael Kline

More jars aprés Ron above
and a funny pattern idea for a set of mugs, below.

I'd show you all of the wood I cut today, but we've done that, been there.

Instead I enter these pictures as a way to catch you all up to what is going on
around here pottery-wise. I'm starting to feel the singe around my edges from the crunch week burn. Tomorrow will hopefully be a big day at the wheel! As for now I'm going for 12 more by 12 (midnight) I hope you're getting some rest! Night...

Beginnings 2010

Michael Kline

As I gather news of all my potter-blogger buddies it seems like everyone is finished with the parties and celebrations and is setting back to the work of making pottery. As much as I'd like to be stepping up to the Shimpo to make new pots, I am preoccupied with all of the tasks leftover from 2009.

The kids loft bed, stepping stool, and book shelf that I put together for them for Christmas sit in the studio ready for paint. My pile of logs still need to be split and added to our dwindling supply of firewood for the two wood stoves. Everything is frozen solid out side, including slips and glazes that were left in the tool shed. (I've gotten out of the habit of preparing for Winter since I moved here to NC from the unrelenting winters in Massachusetts. We hardly have more than 3 or 4 inches of snow that lasts for a day or two, much less 15" and highs in the 20's.) I need to dig more red dirt!

It seems that, for me, the return to the studio work is a little like a plane waiting for permission to land, circling high above. I always have to clear the runway and tie up loose ends before I can think about getting the clay to spinnin'.

Today was a sawdust day. I cut cord wood all afternoon and split a fair amount. Besides the cord wood, there is a massive pile of edgings to cut for the winter and spring firings. The snow needs to melt before I can. The chain on the saw needs replacing. (This post is a looking like a big to-do list!)

Hopefully by next Monday I can get to the dirt, but for this week it looks like a lot of sawdust!

Wood Pile

Michael Kline

not much left to file anymore,
time for a new chain

Just in the nick of time the wood is all cut and stacked and out of the rain. My chain is just about used up. I know how it must feel. After working on the invitation to our home sale in Knoxville last night, I had nothing left for the pots. Sometimes that happens. It was a good day overall, though, I just have to get up there and make pots!

cutting instructions

The wood I get is from a saw mill in Buladean and it arrives in bundles and dumped from the bed of the truck. I cut the straps holding the bundles and restack the wood. This way I avoid getting my saw dulled by hitting rocks that are gathered up in the bundles with the wood. I also grade the wood and cull the boards that are too wide, etc. This pile is mostly what is known as eight quarter, or two inch boards. I get two firebox length cuts from the 12' length as well as 2 cord wood [wood stove] length cuts at the end. [See arrows in photo.]

the scene in the wood yard with various cull piles. there is a fair amount
of clapboard thick boards in this bundle which I will try to use
on the kiln shed at some point. I use all of the wood one way or another!

I hope you have a productive day. As always, I'll have pictures of the day later.

Friday Roundup

Michael Kline

It was a gorgeous day to be outside digging dirt, cutting wood, and walking with Jack. The clay pit in my filed has been neglected until today and I dug about 6 five gallon buckets of dirt, blunged and sieved it through my window screen sieve/box. It settles quickly and is in a garbage can and two galvanized tubs. Here's a picture of my sponge-siphon drawing extra water off of the clay tub. I thought of this after hanging a towel on the edge of my clean up water bucket one day. After a few minutes I noticed that the towel was wicking water out of the bucket and onto the floor. So her you can see where I've rigged a big sponge over the edge of the tub and held it in place my the angle iron. It really poured for a long time like this until the water level had gone down beyond the reach of the sponge. I know you're probably thinking that there has got to be a more efficient way for some one to process their clay!! I'm sure there is, but this is all on the fly so that I can get the clay processed for tomorrow's mixing. Usually I let this red dirt sit in racks for a couple of weeks.

I have the girls to "help" tomorrow and will try to mix about 800 lbs of my red dirt stoneware.

I continued where I left off before the rains, with the kiln wood cutting and stacking. The wood's pretty soggy, but I think will be fine for #33 coming up on the 25th. It'll be a close one. I guess they all are. Maybe next year I will catch up.Ha!

My good pal IlaSahai came over to make some pots for the first time in a long time. Ila and I go way back to my earliest days in Worthington, Mass. Originally from Gloucester, Mass. Ila has been involved with the Penland School as a core student and later as a resident artist! Like many former resident's, Ila bought property in the neighborhood and now calls Bakersville home. She is currently on the faculty at ASU (Appalachian State University) in Boone, NC. It was great to see her making pots in my studio. She'll be back tomorrow to tend to the pots she made today. It's been a long time since we worked in the pottery studio together. Well, technically I wasn't making pots today, but you know what I mean, and I hope we can do it more often!

Here's an article from 2006 on Ila's residency at Raliegh, NC's Artspace Gallery 1

That's all for now, nighty night...

Life is Good

Michael Kline

Today's views from the main throwing place at my Shimpo Scream! The bottom picture shows haw dirty this window can get. The other window, the clean one, is the one I most often glance out of. It also provides great light that helps me to see the profiles of my pots.

With weather like we had today I was quickly out the door after some a.m. pugging to cut wood for the rest of the afternoon. I burn the kiln with poplar so I can squeak by just a few weeks of drying, but the kiln runs like a Nascar, or should I say Formula 1 car when the wood is well seasoned!

I got to thinking how lucky I am to be doing what I do. There are times when I don't feel so lucky, but today it was a blessing to be out cutting wood for the kiln and making pots. We squeak by with our meager income, and have everything we need to be happy. I just wish I had a couple of more weeks to get ready for the next firing!

Last Day of Summer

Michael Kline

Today is the last day of summer and tomorrow Autumn begins! To attempt to cover what happened over the weekend would be futile. So many thoughts go through my mind as I work, I wouldn't want to bore you, but I'll try to mention a few things.

It rained mostly and pots sat wet on their boards. Mighty Micah came over Saturday to help cut and stack wood. We got a good amount done, and will finish later this week. We'll see how it burns being just about two months or so from being completely green and also getting a fair share of rain as it sat in the wood lot near the kiln. Hey! two months is plenty of time to cure out a pile of poplar, right?! Well, I know it will burn (eventually), it's just a matter of how much green wood I'll use compared to fully aged, ripened, dry and snappy poplar that I've had for the past two firings this year.


I decided to build a fire in the shop on Sunday in an attempt to dry out the place after all the rain. The doors were sticking too much from the swell! When I opened the lid of the wood stove, I was shocked to see several expired bats. They must have come into the vacant chimney pipe and gotten trapped. I love bats and depend on them to keep the mosquito population down around here. But, I'll have to put some screen around the chimney opening so this won't happen again. Mea culpa.
Speaking of winged creatures, it has been a banner year for them with all the rain, I suppose, but also the beacon that is the shop at night. Here are a couple of interesting moths that I captured on "film" the other night. Any moth experts reading? I've never seen these before.

Seagrove potters and bloggers, Meredith and Mark Heywood stopped by for a visit today, but I failed to snap a picture of my buddies because I was busy working my jaw. Hopefully Meredith will send me a picture. I saw her snapping some. Penland potter and neighbor Catherine Dotson was their guide! It was a great rainy Sunday afternoon visit.
Evelyn came up to fetch me away from my work and take me down to the house for supper. But she was captured by what seemed like a lot of fun: listening to loud rock music and making pots! So I gave her some clay and kicked the treadle for her and she made a few pots before we headed down the hill to eat. She was telling me how she wanted to decorate them for the firing. That's my girl!

I finished off the weekend by cutting feet on some little bowls and realized that the tool that I bought recently to replace the old "Dolan" trimming tool is not the same as advertised. Maybe it's one size bigger than mine. It's certainly sturdy and made of good materials, but the size of the "ribbon" is quite a bit larger(compare the two where the metal goes into the handle) and a bit clumsy compared to the old one. I do like the bigger handle on the new Kemper, fits good in my big hand. The old one is so worn out that it's just now hitting its stride and cutting beautifully. So I split the difference using the new tool as much as possible, usually beginning the cut, and finishing (and conserving) with the thin fragile edge of the old one. I guess I'm hoping to have a sort of changing of the guard at some point when ythe old tool breaks through. Hoping that when that time comes, I'll have worn down the new one sufficiently. ( I guess I could file it down, duh)

I head into that second and last week of making before I switch to shop over to a decorating and glazing venue. I've filled the kiln in two weeks before, but it's a frenzy. I'll try to keep you up to date on the "fun".

Session 32 Begins!

Michael Kline

It's been a very rainy summer here in the mountains, and at the end of August there is a slight mildew-y odor in the morning air. A lush carpet of grass in my yard has been impossible to keep up with but the rain has made for a beautiful bouquet on the hydrangea my mother gave us about three years ago. This bush was literally a foot long stick when it was planted. I think it likes this spot because it gets a lot of sun and the drain field of our septic system feeds it daily!

My lumber mill connection, Milan Street has been by three times now, and I've got my work cut out for a while. In this photo you are looking at 2/3rd's of the total amount needed to be cut. This is enough wood to fuel my kiln for the next year and probably enough cut off's that I can heat the shop. The key for me is to get it cut and stacked so that I can use it as soon as next month. I cut a pickup truck load of wood this evening and will try to cut every day.

This afternoon I pugged about 600 lbs of reclaim from the last session in the shop. I managed to throw a few plates after supper tonight. Most sessions begin with a whisper, with a few pots here and there, a loosening up of a distant memory I have of the wet process of throwing pots. Towards the end of a session, it's a juggling act of throwing painting, glazing, and firing the kiln. After the firing, there is a period of commerce, a distribution of the results.

With the Etsy online sale a success, and the pots shipped out, I re-focus on the excitement of wet clay. It's good to feel that the wheel is turning, and I'm excited about this 32nd firing. What will emerge from the intensity of focus in the coming weeks? Seems like I've done this a few times before but the results can't be predicted.

Tomorrow I head over the mountain to my home state of Tennessee to get my wisdom teeth pulled out. Fun! I'm not sure what kind of shape I'll be in to throw pots or cut wood, but this is a start and that's a lot for now.

I hope that I can recapture some momentum here at the blog after an eventful summer of regular visits to Penland, crazy weekly schedules, vacation, etc. Hope you'll be along and I hope you'll join in with a comment from time to time. It's always nice to hear from you!