Get in touch!

Use the form on the right to contact Michael Kline!

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.

Thanks for visiting.

The Best of Sawdust and Dirt

A record of the goings on around Michael Kline Pottery!

Filtering by Tag: in the studio

Funny Handles, or How I Delight and Scare Myself at the Same Time

Michael Kline

I've really been trying to break out of some habitual pottery making, this week. Probably due to the stimulation and/or the self conscious reactions of conferencing! There's nothing quite like seeing presenters at a conference, or working side by side with some very talented potters to shake things a little loose in the head and the hands.

That's sort of the rationalisation or explanation of this pot, anyway.

Last night I needed to handle this bottle. I felt like it needed another element to fulfill some kind of balance. This isn't exactly a NC style jug, the neck is a bit long and narrow. The proportions don't scream whiskey. (maybe the shape is suggesting more of a Chambord type bottle?) So I thought I might give it a pair of vestigial handles, as you do.

As I pulled the little handles off the side of the pot I literally flipped the attachments above rather than below the attachment in a fit of spontaneity and experimentation. It was quite a little thrill.  [private wooohoo moment]


I know, ha-ha, sometimes I can be a little full of myself or melodramatic.

Anyway, all this just to say that I went with it and kind of like it! But like a new pair of shoes (which I really need, btw) it takes a while to get used to it. This ain't exactly Catawba Valley shape language anymore. I even hesitated to share this little odd pot with you! But, hey, it's just pottery, right?

Well that's all for now. It's Saturday, which means  that I need to update the FB Ceramic Index, but there's so much to do with my clay hands. And as you know, using a computer requires clean hands. SO the Index might have to wait.


Will I see you next week in Milwaukee? If not, you can follow my trip here, or on IG, or on FB.  If you are on FB check out our interactive group page that Carole Epp has organized. It's sort of a companion convo to our NCECA presentation on social media( Friday 3/21 9 am). 

Thanks, as always for taking the time to leave me comments and reading my pottery bloggery.

Contrasts and Scale

Michael Kline

Freshly slipped pots this afternoon.

The jar to the right was dipped in the bucket by holding the pot by the slightly out-turned bottom. The bottle on the left was covered with slip with a rectangular piece of foam rubber. I used a combination of squeezing the slip out and swiping through it.

But scale has its limitations or at least scale dictates the tools and suggests the approach. For example, if the piece is too wide for the container of slip, I pour the slip over the pot. Sometimes the pot is too heavy to grip by the foot, as in this case. Most pots that are easily handle-able, are dispatched by dipping.

I don't exactly know my motivations for not just setting up a way to pour the slip, and alternately grabbing the sponge to apply the slip, but in the first moments of squeezing the slip out and swiping I knew that I wanted to continue.

Ah, spontaneity!

The mark-making with the sponge seemed appropriately scaled for the bottle but I wonder how it will work on a smaller scale? Maybe a different sized sponge? I would have tried, but I'm out of pots for the time being. Time to make more and see!

Stay tuned,  "Watch this space!"


Michael Kline

When I start a session in the studio, whether it be a long one or a short one, there are some obvious tasks that need to be checked off the list.
  • schedule firing date
  • mix and pug clay
  • clear wheel
  • clear wedging table
  • piddle around for an undetermined amount of time
OH! Yes, the last one is a very interesting one. I could expand on that last one quite a bit, and might if I had time! But like a dog circling around a resting place a few time to prep the area for lying down, I circle around the studio, thinking of all kinds of things that need to be done. There are all kinds of things that have very little to do with making pots and are barriers to just getting to the wheel and turning it on.

Part of the issue for me is the clearing of piles of random stuff that finds its way to my work table, residue of finished and unfinished projects. Packing materials, tools, yesterday's afternoon cup of coffee. You get the picture, right? Maybe you have the same stuff getting in your way?

But these things can all be put away routinely. These aren't the real hurdles for me. The real challenge to getting my work started is some kind of psychological-emotional leap of faith (maybe self doubt) There's a kind of re-remembering that I has to happen.

I have to remember to breathe, clear the mind, and prep my hands, arms, back! Each part of the process has to be re-membered each time I start, whether it be throwing, decorating/painting, glazing, cutting and stacking wood for the firing, firing the kiln, even stacking the bisque kilns.

It seems that these activities require lots of hats and a lot of remembering. They are usually contrary to one another, like working with the wetness/dryness continuum in forming the pots, then the abrupt change to painting hard, pink bisque ware, then firing the wood kiln.

There's a LOT to remember, right? It's fascinating and perplexing at the same time. In the beginning it sometimes feels like one is starting down the pottery road with square wheels. (Well, maybe they're hexagonal.)

I guess my point is that my particular processes can be bumpy, turbulent. I guess it doesn't have to be, I've certainly tried over the years to smooth out some of the edges with some alterations to the process, but I guess I've settled into this process, because it produces (or I produce) the kind of pots I like to make!

The pots would be different if I change course. It's not that I live and "never" learn, although it might seem so sometimes. Evolution happens, sometimes.

But beginnings are slow. Momentum/Flow takes time. After some time passes and I remember that I am in the shop to make pots and the way is made clear and the clay is wedged, the wheel spins. Ideas come forth, remembering happens, momentum build, pots fill the shelves.


Now, what is that firing date?

Getting Into It

Michael Kline

I guess the least I can do before I head up the hill on this Sunday morning is to show what go made yesterday between visits from friends passing by, a giant downpour of water from the sky, a great pottery art opening at the CLG, and bedtime.

Late last night, as I made a few more pots I listened to PJ Harvey's Let England Shake, over and over. It's a fascinating mix of sounds and stories. I guess that's an endorsement. Sometimes listening to an "album" over and over puts me in just the right "trance" to get into the work later at night. Tom Spleth once told me that he rarely listened to music while he worked. But occasionally listened to a few songs in repeat mode. Amy Tavern calls this kind of listening a "monster". One of Tom's monsters was Superman's Song, by the Crash Test Dummies, and The Wallflower's One Headlight? (I think) I guess we all have our ways of getting into it.

This Could Get Ugly

Michael Kline

I've been waiting for just this sort of cute kitty and freshly thrown pottery moment. But is it what I really want at this point?

Probably not. Might be better to photoshop this one or better yet, politely show kitty the door!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

$10 CM idea

Michael Kline

I'm probably not the first potter to save those little spongy foam thingys that Orton cones come packed in, but I thought I would at least share with all of you all who think pottery blogs are worth reading. If you want to send me 10 of something in return for this useful info, it would be appreciated. [imaginary tip jar]


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Ceramic Arts Community

Michael Kline

Since its inception this past spring, I've been a moderator at the Ceramic Arts Community Forum. I moderate "In the Studio"!!

Other forums include:

You really should check it out. There are a lot of generous folks over there answering questions and making suggestions.

Over in the Aesthetics Forum I found a discussion of a great article written by S/D blogger Simon Levin, entitled "The Suck Factor".

I hope you will join in the discussion and I'll see you over there!

Do Over

Michael Kline

bigger and better around the heap of dropped jugs.
1,2,3, and 4 gallons

First of all I wanted to thank all of those who sent their condolences on Facebook yesterday (and this morning). It was just what I needed after yesterday's minor tragedy.

What tragedy you ask?

Well, In my hurrying around, I decided to put some freshly slipped jugs on a ware board that was wider than the wall brackets it was resting on. As I placed the third jug on the board it tipped toward me and there was a lot of dancing to somehow save them from hitting the floor, but to no avail. After much very loud cussing and throwing down of my cap I called it a day and headed down the hill in disgust. I knew that the shelf was for narrow boards and not the wide one that was on there! So I kicked myself around for a while and decided I'd better leave the scene before I started to break other things in my rage.

So after supper I decided that there was only one thing to do. Make the pots over. Although I had planned on painting a bunch of mugs and bowls to kick off the deco round, I decided that for my own good I would get "back on the horse" and get"back" to the wheel and knock out some more jugs.

So now I really don't have time for this blog to tell you about the auction at the pottery center, nor show you some interesting pictures I've been taking of the budding trees and shrubs around our "estate", nor expound on the transition I make in the shop from throwing pots to deco-rotating and glazing. Maybe ATF!*

Until then, take it from me, be careful out there!

To quote my old college buddy, Ward Wampler, "Gravity. It's not only a good idea, it's the law!"

*after the firing

This Week's Poll: Online?

Michael Kline

staying in touch

I've been thinking about the changes in my work habits in recent years and the contrasts of today's pot shop with the studio when I started out making pottery. In many ways the interweb has brought us all closer together and made the world of pottery a smaller one. We are all aware of what we are all doing and that is having an effect on the things we do and influencing the pots we make.

Whether we like it or not, email, twitter, facebook, and other sites on the internet are common ways of communicating for our generation. Do you have an office with a computer near your studio, a laptop you carry with you, a smart phone or iPod touch? Is this interconnectivity helping and informing your work? Or do you find yourself distracted by information that seems urgent but in the end keeps you from getting your work done?

updating facebook during a demo at Penland

Please let us know your thoughts on this. Obviously you all are reading this blog somewhere! Maybe it's on your iPhone, or laptop, maybe you read it while you're at the day job.

Would you be so kind as to take the poll to the right on the sidebar? It is totally anonymous and only takes one click!

Thanks. Now back to my pots!
Thanks for reading.

12 X Noon

Michael Kline

So sorry it's taken me so long to edit all these entries in the 12 by 12 noon challenge. Of course we'll have to take everybody at their word and that these pots were made before noon!
It's gotta be noon somewhere in the world right(?) From what people were telling me in their emails, I gather that they had fun and it was a bit of a challenge! If anything, I have realized all of the things that get in our way that prevents us from making stuff in the mornings. I promised to get these pictures up yesterday and here I am scrambling to get them all organized and uploaded before the East Coast of the USA gets their 3 feet of snow and we lose electricity! So far here in the mountains, just rain.

The images are in reverse alphabetical order by first name. (no wonder I am cross eyed!)

Here we go!
a serene winter window
into will baker's shop
bakersville, nc

widge thorpe getting a jump on
this years holiday season

ron philbeck's dinner plates
waiting for goats, birds, and clothes lines

rebecca brandow's cups
with slip trailed(?)

keith phillips, who, btw, was
the first responder to the challenge
check out keith's great web site

was athens ga potter juana gnecco
looking at will baker's bowls?
great minds throw alike!
more of juana's work here

joy tanner spinning some bowls
up on bad creek.

john dorsey bottle collection.
see detailed shots here

joann axford's flock of 12!

12 glaze tests by blogger Jeanette Zeiss!

gang of 12
rah rah rah
by Scotland potter
Hannah McAndrew!

pods by 49th united state sculptor Cindy Shake

Abilene's finest, Brandon Phillips

Thanks everyone for the fun! I hope these pots are getting finished by this late hour and I look forward to seeing more of your work.

As for all you slackers out there, you had better send me your doctor's excuses soon or I'll have to dock your pay!
Have a great safe weekend.

Ripple in Time

Michael Kline

Timing is everything, someone once said. In my case I have to confess that it takes me a long time to make a pot, or a kiln load of pots. As I've spoken about before here, life in the summertime, the kids home from school, friends visiting from Penland, put a pleasant speed bump in the old pottery making path.
My approach, and maybe potters everywhere, relies on a certain momentum. Clay dries or stays damp, depending on the weather. A potter walks through the shop pushing their finger into soft pots, checking the clay, waiting for further attention. This gesture keeps the potter in "touch" with the pots. Momentum in the shop is an accumulation of all of these moments of "awareness" that one gets from being in the shop. Remembering also comes with this momentum: pots that still want to be made, updates on shapes from previous cycles of work, attempts at new forms.
Blogging has been a real good outlet for me and a great way of staying in touch with you. But there comes a time when I've just got to get the pots made. This, hopefully, will serve as an apology for not being in touch with all of you (whom I'm so grateful for).
I've had to postpone my firing, and cancel a show. But in the scheme of time and momentum, the pots will be better, I hope. Thanks for reading!

Getting A Handle On It

Michael Kline

bucket on rolling cart with Mud Tools rib

A board of little mugs that I had made the other day, Saturday(?), awaited me this morning. After circling around and looking for the right arrangement I ended up with this setup to add and pull handles on them. I score the pots with a big serrated rib that Michael Sherrill gave me last Fall. I like using it because it's stiffish (is that a word?), it fits nicely in my grasp, and makes quick work of scoring. It simply feels better than the small serrated rib I had used for years.

scritch, scratch, poke, poke

Speaking of "feel" my daughters were hanging out the other day when I was throwing these mugs. Lillian decided she would help me, so after a short training session, she controlled the speed of the wheel, as I said faster, slower, etc. It felt like a team of glassblower's working in tandem on a piece. The crank on the old Shimpo is pretty stiff, but I must say the little gal got pretty good it. While she sat on the stool crankin', she also poked at a couple of the mugs. After a few of those, Evelyn wanted to get in on the fun. The mug at the right is poked by Lillian, the one on the left is Evelyn's design. I found it interesting that Evelyn decided to make a different mark than Lillian. After E made her marks, L gave it a scratchy try on the next one (always copying her older sister).

But all of this has me thinking how much these and other small pots are all about the finger tips. Maybe it's the relative scale of our hands/fingertips and the pots they encounter. Maybe this is a little bit vague. hmmm. One of the things that resulted from my accident a few years ago, was the difficulty of throwing tableware. (cups, bowls, production work) My fingers got sore from the repeated finger work required from throwing these smallish pots. My reaction was to make bigger pots that I could turn with ribs or a curled hand holding a sponge, hence a transition into larger pots that continues to this day. Now, though my fingers are stronger and smaller repeat ware isn't a problem.

Just a few thoughts on throwing, which I will now do since my lunch and this post are done!

where's that lotion??!!

Black & White Is The New Technicolor

Michael Kline

Beauty at every step

So today was a big day for this blog, we had a lot of folks register with Disqus, the commenting component of this blog. Basically, it widens the conversation by letting everybody choose what to comment on, whether its what I write, or what someone else writes. Any time you participate, you will receive an email letting you know when someone has replied to what you've said, if that happens, and the "discussion/thread" can go on until it spins completely out of control. Ha... Like at Ron's the other day, to quote Ron, "Oh, brother." Watch out for those body snatchers, Ron. I hope you will be able to continue your blog?!

Back to pots...

Here are a few pictures.

Platters with wire cut rims

After a surprise trip to Carvers Gap (on Roan Mountain, 5512 ft.) to celebrate Evelyn's first day of school, (really her new back pack and school) I turned the feet on all of the platters, cut some rims, and made a couple of jars.

Capping. The top was thrown first then set aside
then added to the bottom section after it was thrown.
For more about capping, click here.

It really important to weld the seam in one direction,
and then the opposite. This assures a smooth seam,
no thick lump.

The finished jar

The wheel at the end of the night.

Black and White is the new khaki.

Good night.

All Creatures, Mostly Small

Michael Kline

Last night it seemed like every bug on the mountain was attracted to my lights in my out of doors studio! Bugs I've never seen before and they of course landed on my pots that I was trying to throw. Oh well, it's all part of my world here and I'm getting used to it, it's mostly a very pleasant space to be in.

This is what happened to my pitcher making, it was a mess as I prophesied in an earlier post. I did end up with one keeper, wooohoo. Maybe today.

The bowls I made in the morning became dry enough to flip early in the afternoon and I finished trimming them by midnight! The dry weather and the almost constant breeze is working for me, I think. My fear that they would dry unevenly and too quickly motivated me to turn the bats periodically. It seemed to work, the pots dryness was fairly consistent and even. Today my wife and daughters return from their visit to Knoxville. So I look forward to seeing them again, but need to continue to crank'em out for the next week. I'll give those pitchers another shot and make some platters, maybe a few cups.

A Potters Best Friend

Michael Kline

We used to say "when in doubt, make pots." And when you need to get your ass moving, fill the tables with bowls. My deadline is fast approaching and I need to kick it out for the next few days, chase the plastic, get'er done. I made these bowls and after lunch I will make a mess of pitchers.
My camera seems to work OK in B/W mode. I kind of like it. It looks sorta old timey, which you know I like.

I won't even go into the trials and tribulations of be my own contractor and working with the inspector, but I will say phase 1 of the wiring is done, but no power, yet. But I have squared away a bisque kiln just over the hill at Courtney Martin's. Thank you Courtney!!!!!
At least I will be able to bisque the bigger pots. They require a little more handling than the smaller pots when I'm decorating.
Oh Gotta go like Kenzan.
Have a great afternoon.

Monday, Monday

Michael Kline

A few views of my Monday.

I really love my Leach treadle wheel for cutting feet on bowls and throwing my tumblers, mugs, anything small. It's comfortably to sit on, and it's quiet. If you look closely you will see that I have a variety of foot treatments on these little bowls. I haven't made these in a good while and couldn't make up my mind. This is a form of sketching for me. The next round of these little bowls I will be more decisive and committed. I actually like the ones to the right that don't really have a foot ring. They're more flat bottomed, they make the rockin world go round.

From my studio wall. I love this little painting/print from a page in some art magazine. I'm starting to think pattern as the firing approaches and I always draw inspiration from the beautiful rendering in this image.


Michael Kline

I had a little workshop/demo at the Micaville studio Saturday. It was sponsored by Art Centered Studio in Bakersville. It was a small group but we had fun and hopefully I passed on a few things that will be useful to these budding potters. I love teaching but wish I could improve the pots that I make as demo's. Seems that throwing pots and talking are at odds with each other. Yet I try to explain everything that I am doing while doing it. In the end, hopefully, I get my point across.

In the picture above I am explaining the form and function of this large pitcher. This a gallon+ pot that is fairly light, but when filled with water will weigh ten lbs. or more. But the thing I like about the form is that it can be tilted without lifting to pour into the receiving cup. By the time the pitcher has emptied about half way and the lower belly is resting on the table, the pitcher is light enough to lift and continue pouring. Just a little form/function love for ya.

I hope to work through the 'plastic' today and get back to throwing on Tuesday. I'm a little behind schedule as my firing date is quickly approaching and there's much to do/make including a day of cutting and stacking wood. I will also begin the bisque firing march and start glazing in a week and a half.

We will christen the unfinished new studio during the annual Spring Studio Tour, June 14-15, just before the firing. So there's lots to do. Have a good Monday.

[Thanks to John Ferlazzo for taking some pictures with my camera while my hands were busy. ]