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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: mixing clay

Funny Numbers and Fresh Clay

Michael Kline

I'm a bit behind reporting on the happenings leading up to the next firing and the Cousins in Clay reunion, but here goes in a matter of a few photos!

I was happy and a bit overwhelmed to have two helpers yesterday, my intern Adam MacKay and his partner Molly Belada. Molly and Adam are undergrad ceramics majors at App State, in Boone. Adam has been helping me every week and Molly has been helping my neighbor, Courtney. After some number crunching and clay body calc, we set up the mixing area where I proceeded to find not one, but two wasp nests in two open bags of clay. Ouch. After some thorough paranoia and nest removal M and A mixed up enough of the fireclay mix that will be added to my red dirt in a week or so (I hope!)

The girls came up with a friend to make some pots (read: show off their pottery skills to their friend) but their wheel was covered with reclaim clay, so I set up my Shimpo banding wheel and hand turned it for them. It was just the thing and soon they were off to the woods to do some exploring and I was back to work.

I'm managing to get some nice pots made in and around carrying out final plans for next months Cousins in Clay Show. There's a lot to do but I'm so looking forward to seeing my old buds, Mark Shapiro and Sam Taylor, and all the pots they will be bringing. Check out our Facebook page to find out more.

OK, time for some lunch, then more pottery this afternoon.

Red Dirt Harvest: The Earth's Best Clay, Really

Michael Kline

after about 2 weeks of very dry weather the clay is ready to be bagged, or stored.
notice the big space between the wrapped clay block and

the wooden frame.

Maybe not a commercially viable clay, but it's the only one like it for me. Maybe this makes it more valuable to me!? Maybe it makes the pots better? Who's to know? It's still a lot of work until I improve the "extraction" process!

Here's the update I promised on last week's clay harvest. A narrative in pictures...

The texture of the sheet (and some air bubbles) is intact when uncovered

I got this trick from Ron about cutting the clay to remove.
each section holds about 100# clay
ready for storage. notice impressions from the wire in the clay frames.

Boo Hoo and The Effects of Pottery on Hamsters Guinea Pigs

Michael Kline

Briefly, Monday wasn't that great, nothing to report except a bunch of "poor. poor, pitiful me". I continued to correct my clay mixing that began it's ill fate on Saturday. The red dirt that I had blunged and screened, turned out to be more wartery than needed to add to the dry mix. My calculations were a little off. I guess I never thought about how much liquid I actually had. After drawing as much water off of the red dirt slip, I still had a twenty gallon garbage can and a 15 gallon tub. That's quite a lot of liquid for 350 lbs. of dry clay. So I threw up my racks and poured the red dirt slip in the racks to drip overnight. This morning I added the slightly thicker slip to the dry mix and ran the mixer most of the day trying to get the right dryness. Finally I put half of the bungs in the sun to dry out before I pugged. This firmed up the blend quite a bit in the breeze and sun. There's got to be a better way. The mixer is very slow when the clay is so wet. I think it was designed for much stiffer clay. With my very soft mix, the tines just "spun" and didn't really "push" the clay through...oh, well.

I did manage to trim the bowls from the other day, although, woe is me, I trimmed through several. Some real rookie moves. It wasn't my trimming that I was having trouble with, but the bottoms of the bowls were really too thin to cut a foot. It was a case of design not matching the circumstances. I left a couple with flat bottoms, but they just didn't seem right. [sorry, no pictures to illustrate this point] In the end, the bowls seemed too light and will probably become potatoes in the firing, if I keep them at all.

I finished up the day with some more bowls. I made a few of this style of bowl aprés Rock Creek Pottery. I used to have several of Douglass and Will's cereal bowls, but they all eventually met their Waterloo. I made a handful of these last firing and got one or two right while the others missed their mark. It's a tricky pot made particularly tricky when made from memory. But the memories of those bowls is maybe better for the hands in the making. After all, I hand washed those bowls for years and must retain some memory in the way they felt in weight and shape!

I'll end this sob story with a couple of funny pictures. I'm sure you can guess who's pot this is?! Ron probably doesn't know the effect his pottery has on hamsters guinea pigs!!

one hamster guinea pig

two hamsters guinea pigs

Filling the Table, Filling the Kiln

Michael Kline

These are about 16-18" in dia. (40.6 -45.7 cm).
I used about 16 lbs(7.3 kg) per bowl.

All I can say is that if there is plenty of clay I can turn it into pots. It seems like such a simple factor in one's production. Having just pugged the clay, I pulled off a pile of pugs, versus opening a bunch of plastic bags. I can't tell you the difference in mixing your own clay versus commercial clay. It's not for everyone and it probably doesn't compare if you add up time, equipment needed, etc. But it makes me excited to make pots and that is probably the single most important factor in any good work! But how do we quantify that?