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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: making pottery


Michael Kline

from Facebook
Hi Brett,

It all depends. Some weeks I'm very productive and some weeks things go slowly. At the beginning of my session before a firing, I may make a handful of pots a day. Closer to the firing deadline, I'm filling up tables, checking off my make list. Ironically, when I'm at the top of my throwing game (like now!) it's time to stop making! I should have stopped making pots last week, but my make list says that I still need so many of "x, y, and z". The compounded effect of this deadline kind of thinking is that the last minute making steals from the time I need to paint and glaze the existing pots and then steal again when they, too, want to be decorated. The image in my mind to describe this is one you might be familiar with. You know when there is an traffic jam on the interstate and everybody politely is waiting, then somebody decides that they are more important than the rest and passes  in the breakdown lane to get to the front? That's what the pots that I made yesterday will be doing to get into the kiln by Friday.

So to answer your question (or not) it varies. I try to average about 20 pots of various sizes a day. I also try to balance pots that require trimming and post-wheel work with pots that just have to be turned over to dry.

I'm not very good at making pots and decorating at the same time, so I tend to "stockpile" my bisque ware and sit down for a week before the loading and firing of the kiln surrounded by stacks of plates, jars cups, etc. All of them waiting for some sort of decorative treatment. Once I get rolling the intimidation of that many pots melts away and the exhilaration of painting patterns  becomes exciting.

So, Brett, I hope that approximates a good answer to your question.

Here are a few pots I've made in the last couple of days. 

C U. K?

Michael Kline

The reception for our show is tonight!
(as well as the Containment II Show,
and Eric Knoche's "quick look at function")

Come on out! Reception starts at 6 p.m.
Hope to see you at the opening tonight.
Should be a packed house!

I'm winding up my last days of making pots for the upcoming firing. Looks like these will get raw glazed! No time to bisque.


Michael Kline

You know it's a slippery slope to post 3 times in a day. But at the risk of saturating you and plain losing some of you, I submit this last post of the day. Sometimes later in the day, when one is tired and a little bleary eyed magical (at least to me) things can happen. As I was combing these bowls I thought about the feeling I had doing them.

Joy is something that doesn't get talked about all that much, but it is something that guides a lot of what I do. Combing these slipped bowls was a lot of fun and if I had another hundred I could have really gotten lost in it and I'm sure some interesting designs might have emerged. sigh

Alas, (which I think is Gaelic for girl) I was saying, when something feels good and you enjoy it, it's best to follow that feeling. Some might call it passion. Whatever you call it follow it.

I know what you're probably saying, "But where is the vine, Mr. Kline?" and to that I would say, "It ain't over yet."

So thank you if you are still reading this. As always thank you for reading and indulging me!

Stay tuned for some mad deco-rotation in the coming days!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iBegyourpardon

Just in Time for Spring Break

Michael Kline

Old tools die hard

With the snow falling pretty much all day it's hard to think that it's time for Spring Break! But as I prepare myself for my very busy week or two leading up to the firing(s) my calendar says "spring break" and that means alternative day care/activities for the gals as they wile away the days. Ah, the life of the student.

Well for us life long learners, there is no rest. But there was some relief for my twenty year old needle tool this week. In Saturday's mail came the new Mudtools that Michael Sherrill has designed and just before he and his crew headed out for Phoenix and NCECA, they mailed these beauties to me for a little test drive. What good timing!

As you can see the old needle tool broke (again) and there's not much left of it. It started out much, much longer as a piece of mahogany that I whittled away while firing Mark Shapiro's wood kiln back in 1990. I then drilled a hole in one end and inserted a snipped off nail and super glued it into place. Then I needed a bottom scraper kind of shape and sanded a pencil-like point on the bottom. I have replaced the nail a few times and sharpened the end a few times. But as I said, there's not much left of it. And, like a lot of tools we make, it's going to be hard to part with it. Basically all the pots I've made for twenty years had this tool in their making! Wow.

the MudTool needleknife, opened and closed,
looks like a shark? no coincidence.

But just in the nick of time Michael Sherrill and MudTools has provided this fine update of one of the most basic tools of the potter's trade, the needle tool. This one is called the Mudtools NeedleKnife. Michael told me about coming up with the design and how it resembled a fish in it's shape. The needle tucks under the handle for safe transport to class and or, in my case, teaching gigs. The other end is a sharp knife that is handy when undercutting you new masterpiece just before you cut off. Speaking of cutting off... oh no, not yet, remind me in a minute... I found myself using the knife end as a rib not just because it was so handy, but most of all because it was doing the job I needed.

making pots with MudTools.
I love that long metal rib!

[It's nice to keep your "quiver" of tools for any given pot to a minimum, otherwise you're always digging through a pile of wet, clay-covered tools.] The tool feels great in my large hand, and is easy to hold. The cross section of the hard resin fits nicely. The knife end will hone with use, and can be sharpened mechanically if needed. If only the needle end were spring loaded!
I've been using the Needleknife, along with my other MudTools all week and it's a fine addition to my sponges and ribs. I think Michael is doing a great job of reinventing all of the basic tools a potter needs. From ribs, to sponges (one of mine lasted a year, and with my clay that's pretty tough, and they float!), and now needle tools, the updates are smart , extremely functional, and lead the way to better pots. Given Michael's understanding of the making of pottery and it's mechanics, it's just a matter of time until he reinvents the wheel.

[pun intended]

Tomorrow: MudTools new Mudwire cut off tools!

Ribbing Handles

Michael Kline

The classic handled bowl made proudly
since 1991 with a little break around 1998

Cut the feet and handled these bowls this afternoon. I've been making a version of this pot since about 1991/92! And I've used the kidney shaped rib on all of them until tonight.

The thin edge of the tool is the part that is pressed
into the handles to give the destinctive shell look.

To get the particular shape on the handles, I use the thin edge of the rib. But I have noticed after all of those bowls the edge isn't sharp anymore. Instead I tried one of these wooden tools (marked MKM) that Reid Schoonover was so generous to give me last Fall at the Arrowmont Conference. The sharp edge on the side of this triangular block of wood was perfect to get a crisp mark on the bowls. I guess I'm going to have to include this handle in my next video. Like a lot of things we do as potters, the tools we use and the sequence and timing of when we do it, determine how the pots look.

I will try to write about some of my favorite tools very soon. Some of them I made and some I bought.

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??!!

Rock Creek Bowl

Michael Kline

copy cat bowls
[with original]
made after lunch

There is something about using a good pot that makes me want to make it. What is that impulse? Maybe trying to figure out how it can be so good, work so well? Sometimes I need a springboard to get the pottery flowing.

For lunch today I fixed a fettuccine with egg and feta cheese. Something simple and nice for Stacey and I. Stacey was working on her jewelry in her little workshop outside our house and I wanted something hot, but quick. Well, it wasn't that quick but it was simply tasty! I chose a Rock Creek Bowl that was just the right size. It fit on the table between our plates held the 3/4 lb of fettuccine for the two of us. After I cooked and drained the pasta I put it in this bowl and poured the two beat eggs in and tossed. Then I covered the bowl with a big Philbeck goat plate and waited a couple of minutes, checked email, whatever. The I tossed it again and by now the egg was just cooked and covered the pasta. Yum.

I tossed in 3/4 c crumbled Feta cheese, plenty of black pepper, and salt. It was so good that we got a good look at the empty bowl and it's odd design and its 'desert storm' palette.

Rock Creek Pottery, circa 1998

It has a shino like glaze that is ladled on or poured on in these nice little areas that break up the space of the bowl quite nicely. It was slipped and salted to a smooth sheen. Then there are these amber dots that are somewhat quarantined within four quick little brush strokes that form a kind of square. These brush strokes are done in such a way that gives the squares a kind of speed or movement. It is sort of a bird's eye view, sort of a map. The bowl has a paradoxical visual weight but feels just right. [what I mean is] The outside of the bowl is cut evenly and disregards the inside profile. The inside of the bowl was ribbed into two 'zones'. Well, there are two areas formed by the ribbed ridge. The bottom inside of the bowl is almost flat and then sweeps up to the ridge line before it sweeps up to the rim. It is cut/trimmed almost all of the way from the foot ring, which is quickly and squarely done, to the rim. The clay is lightly salted, orange in spots and dry in spots. The clay seems to have some sand which breaks up the smooth surface and gives it a subtle texture where the clay is cut. There was another small pot fired and wadded inside the bowl and it left a nice three point mark.

Well, I guess that's why I had to try to make this pot. It's too soon to tell as to my success or failure. As in many good pots, the proportions are very subtle. The timing of the lunch , picking the bowl, and my abundance of soft clay ready to be turned, conspired with my desire for this bowl. Maybe the fettuccine had something to do with it, too? We potters, should try to eat better, and use the best pots available. It certainly doesn't hurt!