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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: loading

Friday Message

Michael Kline

It's been quite a run these last couple of days, but the kiln and most of the pots are ready to be loaded! Everything is wadded and the first shelves are in the kiln.The weather is absolutely gorgeous with a warm breeze.

John Simmons is doing some stem and leaf designs on some flower pots and I'm doing some last minute painting. I'll posts pictures of some of the pots I've been painting as well as announce this week's giveaway contest.

So don't stray!


A Good Fit

Michael Kline

I went over to Courtney Martin's kiln and helped her load the kiln yesterday. It's almost the same size as my kiln, just not as tall and the footprint of the shelves is 48" x 36" whereas my kiln is 48" x 48". And like most kilns it ate a lot of pots! I found it interesting how pots fit together in the kiln and how I am aware of the various shapes that I make. So when Courtney was loading her kiln and trying to find the right pot for the right spot, it took us a while to get a sense of how these pots would fit together. But it didn't take her long to get to stacking. It's a 3 dimensional jigsaw puzzle!
Today we fire!

(I guess CM is over there stoking already. I'd better get over there and get to work! ;-) Have a good Friday!


Michael Kline

While adjunct potter, John Simmons is stoking up the kiln, I'm taking some downtime and downloaded a bunch of pictures from the last couple of days deco-rotation highlights. But I wanted to quickly share with you new strategy I'm employing in this firing, soda ash rocks!

I'm not sure what to call these things, but Emily Murphy uses them to salt (soda) her kiln. But basically they're a mixture of soda ash, baking soda, and whiting (calcium carb) which is mixed with lots of sawdust (but no dirt). Here's a link that explains the whole deal. Check it out.

Ironically I've been having trouble getting good sodium penetration in the upper part of the kiln. Hopefully these will take the place of salt cups that I've used in the past.
Here is a contextural shot showing the balls in place.

I'll try to get around to posting more deco highlights on the cooling days as well as some before and after! Follow the firing on my twitter feed, where I will make updates throughout the day.


Loading Day

Michael Kline

By now the kiln should be loaded and I should be resting for tomorrow's firing. But instead I'm just now beginning to load. It usually takes 8 hours, sometimes 10. As things are going it will take 10. Stacey has promised to bring my peanut M & M's this afternoon. A tradition started by Cynthia Bringle in the early days if this kiln. CB would also bring salt for the kiln and salt for the potters along with her pots which I happily loaded among mine.

Not all the pots got glazed but time waits for no one, especially potters who have no respect for its determination and vigilance.

A few weeks ago I confidently stated that I would not rely on kiln "magic", but instead would inject a certain intentional quality into my work. After a week or so of 18 hour days I'm hoping for not only a little wood firing magic, but a minor miracle to boot!

it's on to the next one, firing XXXVI !

Backstory: 34, The Firing

Michael Kline

the stack for #34

As I gather my thoughts about the events surrounding the loading and firing of the kiln, my first thought is that you wouldn't believe me if I told you. But I guess I've decided to try to tell, anyway. Since I took a bunch of pictures of all of the calm moments, but none of the near disastrous ones, you'll just have to give me the benefit of the doubt. OK?

Tim Ayers came down from Penland to help me glaze my pots and eventually load the kiln. Tim and I worked steadily, mixing glazes and dipping pots. But I must have been in la-la-land to think we could glaze all 300 pots (usually a long days work anyway) and load the kiln (usually a ten hour job) in time for me to get a few hours sleep before starting the firing early Sunday morning! It just didn't add up, but we carried on. [Maybe this is a clue as to why I didn't make it in engineering school so many years ago??!! But, wait, this is simple math! ]

Not to dwell on long ago failures........after a couple of speed bumps during the loading (read: after stopping to glaze more pots) I found my energy lagging as I began the second tier of shelves. It was after supper and I continued to feel a kind of dread. I was thinking at the time that almost every step of the way during the past week had resulted in some minor disaster due to my poor planning. My resolve to work at all hours was getting me only so far and time was crunching down on me.

Then out of nowhere, the storm hit. My kiln shed is pretty big, but it doesn't have siding and it completely open to the weather. When the rain comes down (and horizontal) everything gets wet. And it did that night around 9 p.m. I couldn't cover the pots with tarps, because the wind would gather up the tarps and sling the pots away. I just held on and prayed that the storm would pass quickly. It didn't. Just when things seemed to calm down so I could focus back on the loading, another wave would come through. Very high winds and lashing rain continued. Like sea captain tied to the steerage of his ship, so I seemed tied to the kiln. I stayed on course to get the pots out of the rain and into the kiln!

As I worked through the storm I noticed, and was very grateful, that it was fairly balmy for this time of the year. I should have know what that might mean. shortly after this realization, of course, the thunder and lightning came! So now I'm listening to the "thrash metal band" of trees being bent over by the high winds, tin roofing that covered a wood pile flying away in the dark, and thunderous cracks exploding all around. No one should have been out in that, much less loading a kiln. But being in the state of denial that I was in, I kept telling myself, like the little engine that could, to "keep going, that the storm would pass", etc.

The storm continued for more than an hour and then the next plague: power outage! HA! Of course, just when I thought it couldn't get any worse it did! When any rational, sane person would seek shelter and say the hell with it, I thought in my own seemingly rational way, ..."well, let's see, I can get a flashlight, headlamp, kerosene lamp, etc" So I did. I retooled to finish my job.

The volunteer firemen had the road blocked down below with a powerline down from a fallen tree and the only lights were the flashing reds and my florescent battery powered lamp I was using to load my kiln. Eventually, the rains slowed and the winds moved on to terrorize the next county over. Eventually the firemen got curious to know what was happening with the back and forth moving light up on the hill. They drove up my road thinking they was some kind of arcing power line or something, but they just found a half crazed potter trying to load his kiln. What a strange sight that must have been, to walk up to this dark shed with this big shadowy hulk of a kiln and chimney and a funny looking soaking-wet guy with a hand held lamp going in and out of said kiln! I tried to explain my dire predicament. What part of deadline and loading a pottery kiln did they not understand?! Ha! They were glad that everything was "OK" and chuckled as they walked back to their truck with their flashlights. I got the kiln loaded eventually by about 2 a.m. The power company brought their cherry picker to fix the line and I sadly watched as they drove on down the road, but still no power. Damn. I guess there were more lines down. So I decided to rest a bit and wait until the power came back on to put the door up. It came back on around 4 a.m. and I woke up and went to work on bricking up the door. The door bricks are in pretty bad shape and I made a firm note to replace the bricks before next firing. Also I noticed the door of the kiln is spreading a bit. So the picture below shows how much chinking I needed to fill the gap!

After making this epic confession of poor planning and bad luck, I'll try to keep the rest brief and leave it to the captions. After all, I have a kiln to unload today!

this is how it all starts

balmy sunrise through the pines after the storm

like a dog soaked to the bone, my shed

my clay pit flooded with about three feet of water.
proof of the big rain!

later that afternoon the weather had another surprise, sleet

Lindsay Rogers stoking, notice the smile on her face and the
snow/sleet on the ground?

Lillian tooling up for her stoke!

staying warm by the kiln

Salt! Success!

I realized that our damp stack of wood was disappearing and that we needed maybe another half hour of stoking to get the temp we needed. So I used my "phone a friend/lifeline" and called Courtney and John up the road to take them up on their offer of dry wood. Courtney's kiln is just 0.8 mile up the road and it has the same firebox length, so the wood is the perfect length for my kiln, too! We barely used half of what they brought and got the kiln even all around thanks to Lindsay's great stoking. The Snow Creek Pottery Posse rides again! Thanks Lindsay, Thanks Courtney!!

By 11 p.m. the epic firing was over, and as all potters must hope in a moment like this, when all has been done that can be done, I hoped for a good firing.

Check back (if you have the time) to see pictures from the kiln!!!

If you're still reading, thanks for indulging me to recount this crazy epic.

Loading 34

Michael Kline

Just a brief note to all of y'all keeping score at home!

Yesterday the fabulous Tim Ayers came down from Penland where he is assisting Tom Spleth, to lend his help getting the pots glazed and ready for the kiln. Lindsay Rogers came by, too, to finish up some last minute details to some kiln shelves, etc. but by 4:30 I was still glazing pots and realized that the loading wasn't going to happen and that I needed a good nights rest. So I put the firing off until Monday.

Unfortunately that means that my main fireman, Alan Gratz won't be able to make the change to Monday because he'll be going to Japan! He'll be badly missed but we wish him a Bon Voyage. Alan is mainly going to teach a writing workshop there, but maybe he'll get to fire some kilns in Japan while he so does his writing residency. I heard they have a few. Have a great trip Alan. We'll save your stoking slot for #36.

That brings us to who will be there to fire this kiln and once again the Snow Creek Pottery Posse will save the day! The posse includes Lindsay Rogers, Courtney Martin, and yours truly and we all live within a mile of the Snow Creek Road Pottery Corridor. Seems like we should get one of those fancy highway signs like they have in Seagrove to direct the masses who crave our pottery!

Well, speaking of traffic...the weather was really wonderful for glazing outside and we had a few visits over the last few days as people are starting to come out and tour the early spring landscape! The first visitors since the New Year!!!

The shop will be closed today, but I'll be around back at the kiln getting it loaded up with pots, if you care to stop in! But expect to wad some pots! I'll try to send some pictures of the loading as I go along. You can also follow my twitter feed (to the right in the sidebar) for quick updates.

Other News: last weeks Poll is closed. The tallies were pretty consistent from the beginning with about a third of potters who read the blog having internet connectivity in there studios! Wow, it was a higher percentage than I would have guessed. Thanks for everybody who took the poll. I'll try to post my next poll tomorrow.

That's all for now.

Thanks, as always, for reading!

33 Loaded

Michael Kline

Here are some images of the loading. I hope these images are self explanatory. But don't hesitate to ask questions if you have them. I'm just tired for now.....

Loading 33

Michael Kline

The kiln is ready to load, finally.
Looks like another late night.
It usually takes about 9 hours to load and brick up the kiln.
Are ya with me?

Michael Kline

Almost everything was glazed yesterday and I just have a couple of touch-ups before I move it all down to the kiln this morning. I'll try to upload some shots of the stacking if I can, but I'm pressed for time because I'll be heading over to Knoxville in the morning for our home sale. More on that when there is time. Good Saturday to everyone.

Just a Coupla Pics Before I Unload the Kiln

Michael Kline

"Now everything's a little upside down
as a matter of fact the wheels have stopped
What's good is bad, what's bad is good
you'll find out when you reach the top

You're on the bottom."--Bob Dylan, Idiot Wind


I've been dragging my USB cable and digital camera baggage around all day and failed to post the other pictures and make further comments on the crazy weekend I had. I guess the "after the firing" recovery has taken more time than I thought it might. One shocking realization is that I'm not in my twenties anymore, and an all-nighter has serious implications on one's memory and alertness. The next firing will be different, I swear. [Or my sweet wife, may cease to be sweet to me]

Here is a series of pictures showing how my plates are wadded and fired. This technique was developed by my buddy Will way back when.

First my wadding station has a soft surface that won't chip the slip off of the pots. The wads are made with stiffer wadding so that they won't collapse under the weight of 4 or 5 plates.

Then glue is dropped on all of the wads, then sea shells from Pawley's Island are placed on the wads to make a nice flashing mark where the wad would have left just a dry white dot. The shells resist the salt and keep the plates from sticking, too.

Then the plates are carefully stacked. Just as with the kiln shelves where the posting has to be supported one above the other, the wadding has to be in-line.

Here is the actual stack placed in the kiln. On top of the stack are some cups that also have shells glued to the wadding.

Speaking of posts, aka. kiln furniture. I wad all of the posts so they will stack without wobbling. Also the soft wadding conforms nicely with crooked, warped shelves! Since I use a lot of these, the wadding process gets expedited by rolling a coil of wadding and the running the wadding along each corn and pinching off a little bit rather quickly. There's no need nor time for carefully rolling wads. These wads are glued on as well so that they won't fall off as I stack them into the kiln.

My neighbor Tom Dancer brought over by a little box of glass from his days as a glassblower. I sprinkled some of the blue granulated stuff on these plates as an experiment. I also took some plate glass on the upper edges, hoping it will run down into the center a little bit.

Here's John Simmons, one of the heroes of the firing, coaxing the pyrometer into the 2000's. Not only did John bring a trailer load of kiln dried 3% moisture oak and poplar from Johnson City. He helped cut and stack it as well. John has a few pots in the kiln, and I hope he'll be rewarded for his giant efforts.

Here's John Geci, a neighbor and glassblower getting it hot at the end of the firing.

Here's Courtney Martin, Geci's newlywed, and I kicking some cone nine azz [as gary would say]. We're also sporting some Ayumi Horie His/Hers T's. Git your magic firing shirt here.

Well that's all for now. I'll unbrick and unload the kiln in the morning.

Back Story

Michael Kline

another Turner porcelain teacup with wax
and Stonepool tenmoku.

Here are a few more pictures I meant to post the other day, but was to busy giving tours of the new studio!

the staging area for loading into the kiln. Not seen
are a couple more tables behind that have the big
jars and some more plates.

birdie that is going to fly real close to the fire

a detail of a short stack (of plates)


Michael Kline

the kiln is ready, I hope I am!

Firing # 30 of the kiln. Hmm seems like I owe you all a little info before I light the fire. Here are some pictures to catch you up.

remember "our" pitcher?
here it is glazed.

"our" pitcher in the kiln

A scene from the "grand" opening

more to come after I finish the fire!

Beer Break

Michael Kline

I'm finally loading the kiln and thought I'd take a break and have a cold beer. Root Beer. that is.
;-) It's getting warm and it's going to be in the eighties tomorrow. I just hope the rain will hold off til Monday. Fat chance of that happening.

The setup to load the kiln always take longer than I think. Getting all the ducks in a row. But now that I don't have pack the pots and drive them to the kiln and be highly organized for the transfer I end up making all these mini trips up the hill to the shop, for glue, a hand towel, the level, etc. You get the picture.

The sun has come out after a rainy morning and it's a breezy afternoon of loading pots!
Pictures later of the stack.

Day Late & A Few Dollars Short

Michael Kline

Its been just two short weeks since I started this crazy cycle, and I needed another another day to load the kiln. As usual I have a burst of productive days at the end, just as I was getting warmed up, which means more painting, hence the day late on the official burn date. Oh well, I guess I'm lucky to have the extra day as my "lifeline", or "my phone a friend"...Here are a few pictures taken just before shutting down the loading tonight.

view though the kiln shed of kiln furniture,
door and other stuff piled up in the kiln shed

some of the remaining pots to be loaded in the morning

these jars look almost camouflaged sitting all in a group.

some Shane Mickey pots ready for the refire.

more jars, etc. I have a table just the
right height for wadding between the kiln and the majority
of the pots. I also clean posts at this table. For the loading, I staple
a piece of foam to the table, so that I won't rough up the glazed edges
of pots that I turn upside down to wad. The table is in the lower left part of the picture.

I will try to finish ASAP so that I can get a good nap in and start the firing about midnight. Any body who wants to come help me stoke on Monday, come on over, I could use a hand. Until then, I'll get on the phone and make some calls.