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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.

Thanks for visiting.

The Best of Sawdust and Dirt

A record of the goings on around Michael Kline Pottery!

Filtering by Tag: process

Pots on Scholarship

Michael Kline

stamp inlay, pottery, north carolina, wip
my favorite and most challenging part was
that little place just below the rim
Last night I “finished” these jars and wondered where the time had gone. In this kind of zone I get lost in the learning of a new technique and the observation of something new and exciting emerging, but also heard the caution from the rational side of my wood kiln.
pottery, nc, wip, stamping, inlay, sanggam, mishima

pottery, nc, wip, stamping, inlay, sanggam, mishima

pottery, nc, wip, stamping, inlay, sanggam, mishima

pottery, nc, wip, stamping, inlay, sanggam, mishima
committed to the 52nd firing!

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.


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?

Processing the Process

Michael Kline

Everywhere I walk today is a now familiar squishing sound. The clay beneath my boots is saturated with the rain. On the hill and in the shallows behind my house, squish. I suppose it could be solidly frozen or covered with snow. That wouldn't be bad.

I've struggled and deleted a couple of drafts to this return to the blog. Soggy brain, I suppose.

As you might have guessed by some of the previous picture only posts, I have been looking at my pots thought the lens of my camera. Seeing the pots through the camera and the subsequent viewing on the desktop photo software give one a very different view of one's work. It takes the same rigor that one develops over the years to imagine the pots after we've treated them with slips, glazes and fire or heat. The ceramic process is somewhat of a dream that is usually idealistic and never incorporates the slightly uneven firing, or the glaze applied too thickly, or the number of things that can happen during a firing. Nor does this dream imagine the wonderful things that are somewhat mysterious and surprising about the process of finishing clay that renders it into a hardened ceramic pot.

But the perspective that the camera and the photo process give, help me to see the details of the pots that in a different way. Similar to the distance that time gives after a firing. The ceramic dream gets revised and the reality of the finished pots sinks in.

So, like Rip van Winkle, I slowly wake up from my long blog sleep and dream about the pots I will make in the coming weeks. The blog helps me to process the process and understand the results of the kiln. I look forward to sharing it all with you here. I hope you will come along with me.

Thanks for reading.

- Posted using BlogPress


Michael Kline

Still, I ponder the question of being green! The comments to my previous post have been very insightful and my roving/surfing eye has been led to this post by Laura Zindel from 2007 on Diana Fayt's blog!! There is very little that I can really add to this very thorough post except to share some of my own personal thoughts, so here goes.

A comment by David Carter on the Eco-Salon blog post summed it up for me,
"The most persuasive argument for pottery being green is its longevity."
Yes, once fired, a pot is pretty much here to stay, much like other synthetics, you know, the kind with numbers on their bottoms. Yes, ceramics was the very first synthetic material! Twink twice before firing that second! A fired ceramic mug may take a lot of natural resources to become what it is, but once made and kept out of harm's way can last for centuries! My friend Beth Schaible carries one wherever she goes to use over and over.

A while back I blogged about reclaiming clay. I guess it doesn't make sense when looking strictly at the bottom line, and yes, I guess if I were to just dump it it would just go back into some geological mix, but there are hidden costs. I'm not an economist, but it seems to me that most people buy clay that has been transported over many miles from the point of extraction, the point of manufacturer, and then to our shops to be formed. That's a lot of moving around! Much of this clay is highly processed. These processes all involve oil, gasoline, etc. I guess one of my motivations to reclaim clay is that it doesn't use any additional energy except my own and then maybe the small amount of electricity to run my pug mill for a half hour.

As I review my own practice a couple of things really flare up.

  • bisque firing my work
  • small-one person studio model
  • use of extracted materials and metals for glazes/slips
  • use of water when processing local clay
All of these points can be improved on, of course.
There really isn't any reason to bisque fire my work, except that my wax resist just doesn't work on bone dry or leather hard clay. I've tried. Should I pursue another resist technique? Or another decorative approach?

The small one person studio is such a poor model for efficiency. When people share the resources of space, materials, kilns, it is more eco-nomical, and eco-friendly. Maybe a community kiln is a good start?

The materials I choose to use are mostly local, but I do use a small amount of manganese, copper and cobalt in my wax and glazes. Manganese come from South Africa, China, and Gabon. Although a mine in Salida Colorado also extracts the ore. Chile is the world's largest miner of copper, followed by the U.S., China, and Peru. Congo is the world's leader in cobalt extraction, followed by Zambia, and Canada. I happen to live a county that produces the most feldspar in the country, yet I buy it from the supplier in Asheville, an hour away. This should be easier, but the distribution chain doesn't necessarily include my Ford pickup. Maybe this could be an easy fix with the right contact. I'll get back to you on this one.

When I process my clay I use a fair amount of water to hydrate and blunge. I do tap off the excess from my barrels after the clay has settled to use on subsequent batches, but still we're talking about 40 gallons of water for every 200 lbs of clay, by my best estimate. I do have rain catching barrels(buckets) to catch water for my day to day uses since I have no plumbing in the shop. This is fine for most of the year, but in the coldest months I have to carry water from the house.

I guess I have some work to do to improve my own sustainability. The economics are tricky, especially in these times. But maybe folks truly want to support a local, green, sustainable practice. Whether these issues trump the artistry of my pottery remains to be seen. I think artistry and sustainability coexist quite nicely now, and can be improved upon with improved awareness and desire to be a better potter and a better person living on this earth.

That's all I have for today. There are pots awaiting my attention up the hill. Maybe this post could continue as a series? I may not be the best person qualified and it feels like there is a lot to discuss and figure out. But if you lend us your thoughts, we can move this ball down the field.

Monday: Clocking In

Michael Kline

Monday morning coming down.

I've made a quick visit this morning to check these tumblers and flip them. They were thrown late last night, and needed to be flipped to even the drying. Since the wood stove was going overnight I wanted to catch them before they got too dry. These were thrown fairly thick and will be faceted when they are about a "cheddar cheese" hardness.

A funny thing happens when I throw a bunch of something. Many times a form will evolve in the space of a ware board. [Check out the shapes of the cups on the left with the cups on the right.] During this session I was thinking that I should make these quickly because the real time is spent in the faceting later. Since time is of a potter's premium I was looking for a way to make these that would be direct and at the same time freeze a sort of freshness to the throwing. [this isn't very logical since I will be faceting, later!] So towards the end of this grouping I was throwing the cups in one pull, and then collaring up the top half, if that makes any sense....I know, it's hard to describe this...

Anyway it's all in my head and the results play out in my hands. The desire for change is pretty strong in me. The back story of this shape goes way back to my "altering" days. Under the influence of "trickier" pots. I haven't made these for quite a while, since I've been in "crockery" mode. But Stacey (and others) ask me when I'm going to make this pot again, so it's to the service to my "clientele that I yield for this one. And I'm glad I did, but this desire for change could explain my impulse to evolve this shape.
It's mailing time! Thank goodness Stacey is here to help with the labels and stamps! Then they're off to the post office. If you're not on the list by now you'll probably not get a card this time around, but you can sign up to receive future postcards and emails announcements here.

I'll try to follow up this post with the results of the faceting. It will be facet-nating, I'm sure. [sorry]



Michael Kline

It's as if I blinked and it was morning. Not far from the truth considering my bedtime. I just wanted to jot down a few things so that i would remember them or at least be able to refer to this post to check things off the list.

  • unload bisque kiln and clean up the pots to paint
  • organize the remaining pots with their respective motifs
  • check glaze buckets and give a good mix
  • move pottery from kiln shed "showroom"
  • find more wax resist
  • find Custer feldspar for tenmoku tests
If Stacey weren't already picking up my parental slack, I'd enlist her and the girls to help move some of the pots and get ready to load the kiln tomorrow. She's been awesome as I suspect she's getting used to this crazy week. It seems that I would know how to time everything by now. After 29 firings I know what it takes to get all of these ducks in a row. #30 has been particularly challenging. Working in the new studio has been a blast, but I'm still feeling my way around to get the work done. Just last night I put up more shelves! The walls are pretty much all shelves now. I am realizing how luxurious the space in Micaville was. I still could use another table...oh,
  • find table for additional bisqueware
Carol Lollis, Sam taylor's wife puts the process this way:

I know I’m not that far outside but I often feel as though I am looking in on the Pottery.

Let me explain. I have gotten very used to watching the cycles and anticipating the moods that come with the life style of potter.

The down cycle starts right after the firing. Slowly the kiln cools, Sam rests, the house gets cleaned, our family life reclaimed. The next couple of weeks are filled with lots of co-parenting, dinners made when I get home and the house hold running like a well oiled machine.

Then gently I start nudging him towards the studio and he slowly begins the motions. The studio gets cleaned, tools put in order and clay readied, but mainly he wanders in circles aggravated with the need to start from nothing again.

Then as if it has never stopped things are going full force. Every extra moment is spent with the pottery, shaping, working out kinks, trimming, seeing, and making. He goes to bed late, gets up early, time goes by faster faster, until our date night. We rent a movie. I curl up on the bed and make wads while he sits in the chair and makes cone packs. It is much needed down time. Next the troops start trickling in, they load the kiln, food gets made, and play mixes with work. That is the firing. Wham, finished and it starts all over again.
So off I go, up the muddy trail to the shop to get things going again. I hope this reporting isn't gratuitous. My hope is that, if anything, you all will know what goes into making this pottery.
As always, thanks.