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192 Jim Boone Rd
Bakersville, NC, 28705
United States

828-675-4097

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: potter's life

Ayumi's White Pots

Michael Kline


White Pots

Studio Assistant: Molly Spadone

Michael Wilson: Director and Filming

Chloe Beaven: Video and Sound Editing

Miles Beaven: Music


Here's is Ayumi's video transcription.

Best artist statement I've seen, heard, AND read, lately!




Like a lot of people, I split my time now between the digital world and the physical one. My head’s filled with amazing stuff I see online, and yet I also need the messiness of the clay and the materiality of it to feed me on some fundamental level. I remember going outside on a freezing cold winter night when I was at the Archie Bray almost twenty years ago. I looked up at the stars and remember thinking that it was the cold that made me feel alive and part of this world, it wasn’t just seeing the vastness of the sky. It was the sensation of touch, the cold air on my skin. And I think the importance of touch gets lost sometimes in the digital world, because it’s all about the visuals now. Being cold or being uncomfortable makes you aware of your physical self. I don’t think we necessarily need to be uncomfortable to be aware. Awareness can come in different ways and clay is one shortcut to this kind of awareness. It makes you remember being human and being vulnerable. And that’s a lot of what my work is about.




There’s a meditative quality to all this repetition we do as potters. It requires being completely present in order to make work. You’d think that this kind of repeat would make you spacey and not pay attention, but it’s the opposite, where things become focused and you notice all the tiny details like a scrap of clay hanging on, or crack starting to develop. This is the kind of work that hones my ability to see each pot as an individual and it’s a different level of quality control than what happens on an assembly line, because certain pots take on a personality. It’s like oh- “that’s the one with the snaggletooth or oh that’s the one with the pimple on it’s handle”.




Play is a huge part of my work. In making pots, in drawing, in taking pictures and in thinking about how I get work out into the world.




There’s this incredible sensuality to soft clay that I hope lives on it the finished piece, so that other people can enjoy it and be aware in their own way of play and being present. Soft clay is so much like holding someone’s hand or giving someone a squeeze to say hello.




The thing that photography and ceramics have in common is their ability to preserve the ephemeral. Clay can record a spontaneous moment, just like a picture can. I love the cycle of ceramics. Clay is basically decomposed rock, so in the studio, we record this spontaneous gesture into it, into clay, we fire it and then this piece comes out hard as a rock again and lasts forever. That lovely moment of play is frozen in time.




Most of my work is fairly graphic, so it reads well online. But my white decal pots are different, actually they’re pretty much the opposite. They’re invisible unless you’re up close. And then even when you’re up close, they’re still impossible to read unless you handle the pot. Turning the pot lets the light catch the opalescent drawing. Potters can’t exactly compete with our culture’s addiction now to cell phones these days. And I don’t think we should, but I think it’s part of the dialogue when we’re talking about making hand-held objects. So what makes these pots unusual is that touch and holding them is integral to understanding what they are. There aren’t any shortcuts to that. And this brings us back to this notion of being present. I think of them as slow pots, because slowing down allows us to notice things. When I take pictures, I say, here, look at these beautiful things in life. And when I make pots, I pay attention to all the tiny beautiful details that make a pot what it is. The way my tool furrows through the clay or mashes an edge or how a handle can be crooked to hold a finger. All these things matter because then when I also put a white drawing on a white surface that’s very subtle, I’m asking the user to work harder, to meet me half way, and to be present in that moment.

Thanks Ayumi!

Balancing Act: The Life and Work Continuum

Michael Kline


It's been a busy year already, and, as often happens during a deadline driven session, the days (and nights) go by too fast and I lose track of the week. Yet, on Sunday, Kyle Carpenter and I loaded his kiln with the pots I've managed to make in the last couple of weeks. Unfortunately, the porcelain I made didn't get decorated and glazed. (Why i didn't get those pots done is probably a good essay in procrastination, waiting to happen)

Most everything else fit and was fired yesterday. Phew! Thank you KYLE!

So today, I'm cleaning up the mess left in the wake of making and glazing, literally and figuratively. Some of these include mopping the floor, cleaning brushes, reviewing my task list, and fulfilling email promises made, and writing about it (here, now).

Waiting for pots from ANY kiln is at first relief that the work is done (for now), then impatience and wanting to see. There's plenty to do to make up for the long days and late nights. My family eagerly wants me back in the fold after my own poor scheduling and over overwrought commitments to my work and ambition. But the life of the artist (and father/husband) isn't tidy. I used to say to folks about self employment, "I love being my own boss, I get to work any 16 hrs a day I want!" But in all honesty, there are many days when I miserably fail at getting the work done, much less 12 x 12, especially at the beginning of a session. But the days coming up on the scheduled firing I'm manic and full of panic and am to aware of time passing, hearing Stacey's grandmother's click chime away the night. 

So I sit here today, wondering, with hindsight, how I continue to find myself in these manic/panic unreasonable deadline sprees. It's clearly not just the wood kiln, because the deadline of firing KC's salt kiln produced the same old routine, even though there wasn't wood to cut and a huge pile of shelves to clean. I work best in a panic. But panic is an addiction, a rush, an influence under which I theorize/fantasize is the only condition that truly good creative work can be done. But putting myself and my family and friends under that kind of pressure is not sustainable and unhealthy. And I feel doesn't allow one's work to develop for the long haul. 

There's clearly something going on that I have to address to avoid future panic. There's much work  to be done, debugging of bad routines and  clearing the mental  impasses and clutter.  (Oh, clutter.)
Writing helps and I'm grateful for this blog to give me a kind of outlet. Thanks for letting me dump thoughts on you here. 

And making good pots helps, too.  So, "without further ado", I'm off to clean up the latest train wreck for hopefully the last time.


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!

Small Talk

Michael Kline

Just when I thought it was safe to just get my circa 1970 Shimpo Scream™ spinning today, I find myself putting a material list ready for my man Buck who is coming over to wire, kiln, mixer, and pug mill. Just when I finished reclaiming/mixing about 500 lbs of clay! Damn™. But I'll really be glad to have the pug mill running again. The circa 1967(?) Paoli mixer pugger will get wired just in time to mix a new batch of clay, too. A potter's got to have clay! The drying rack is filling up with pots ready for a bisque so I've got to move the kiln off the front porch. All of these things will help with efficiency in the work shop. Besides more time™ in the day, I really need some serious streamlining™.

The rain today is a reminder of equipment that sits out in the rain needing tarps, muddy places that need gravel, a kiln shed that's full of leaves and other items of winter's blowing winds. All of this and blogging, too! A potter's life is never idle, no time to sit under the shade tree.