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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: swirlware

The Chosen Ones

Michael Kline

yunomi cups for AKAR Design annual yunomi show swirlware decorated pottery

Out of the 30 swirl cups that I fired last month in the wood kiln, these are the 5 i have chosen for the annual AKAR Design Yunomi Invitational [2014] [2013] [20??]. I wanted to choose a group that showed a variety of color, swirl, and brushwork.

The process is a curious one, that begins with an invitation to do a show along with some of the best potters in the country and challenges me to make cups that push my abilities and techniques into new areas. Curious because in the end you might say these cups look like the kind of cups that you might expect from me. And you would be partially right, I guess.

But, contrary to my last post, this palette and style is but a subtle variation and refinement, not the kind of obvious change I talked about the other day. Each firing there are a handful of pots that are unusual and maybe not what I expect. Then I try to reproduce their goodness, whatever it may be, often missing the mark or guessing wrong on the combination of variables that affect a pot in the wood kiln.

So, to get a group of pots for a show like the Yunomi show, I might need 30 to get 5 or 6 exceptional ones. It's a strategy or process of "make bunch and some might fly" that many a studio potter are grateful for and since it's fun to make a lot of pots, its a great way to work.

But the other thought I have, or the other question you might pose, is who am I to judge?

Everybody has different tastes, different needs. Some like their pasta soft and some like theirs al dente. But in the end, I guess someone has to throw it against the ceiling to see if it sticks. [ba dum tssshhh] and I guess that would be me. But in the end, or at the point of sale, you, O fair and trusted customer, are the final judge!

The AKAR Yunomi show opens on the morning of May 15th and a LOT of the pots sell in the first hour! My advice would be to be take the morning or the day off, bookmark the website and get a front row seat! You should also follow AKAR Design on the Facebook for some fun preview action!

Thanks so much for reading!!

the timelessness of night

Michael Kline

OK.

 The thaw is happening, I think. During the #hunkerdownbythewoodstovepolarvortex the kids got home schooled and I beat a path from wood stove to wood stove, studio and house, respectfully. I also checked water pipes, chickens, road conditions, email, calendar. Seems like I would have had plenty of time to make pots, to get that studio hoed out and crystallize my vision for a bump free flow.

[insert perplexed, vexed, and cross-eyed emoticon]

On the heels of my declaration of a 500 word guarantee here on ye olde blogge, I stood there like a deer in the headlights of the big brain freeze, mental frostbite. So, just as one rubs hands to create friction, thus heat, thus thawing, I will try to rub some brain cells together and make a clickity clackity sound with this keyboard to illustrate a few "thaw-ts".

So, here we go. [pause, deep breath, now go!]

Something interesting happened at the wheel the other night. Yes, I did say night. That time of my day when it is quiet and all are asleep, except for me. The darkness of night has a timelessness that, MS and I used to jokingly referred to as "3 o'clock in the morning". Timelessness in the sense that the darkness (outside) is not specific, compared to the light of the sun, glaring morning light through to pink o'clock, then dark.


Unable to train my thoughts on much through my day, I was able to sequester and focus on the pots later that night. With headphones on, some music playing in my head, I was able to get some pots made. Some really great pots, IMHO. I know what you might be saying. "This guys has some kind of mental problem, either distraction, or maybe something worse!" Could it be that I go through a brief period of ADD or PTSD before the highly prized momentum flows? I'm sure someone more qualified than I can diagnose what potters, like moi, might be experiencing.

[note to self: don't stray, get to the point]

Oh, right. I do want to share something other than a pathology of distraction with you.

So, I've heard potters speak about the wheel as their sketchbook and I would say, yes! It's the only way I can "draw" pots. Some potters are very good at portraying pottery in 2 dimensions, I applaud them and I think that a 2D sketchbook is a must, but in reality I don't draw pots in mine. I use my sketchbook to work on patterns and loosen up my "brush-mind" (I'm about the start a new one that Stacey gave me! A beautiful new sketchbook (made by John Hartom) for Christmas!) So, yes, put me in that group who think that the wheel is a better sketchbook for pots. Ha! Maybe our wheels are the original 3d printers!

In the past I have certainly played around with this notion of the wheel as sketchbook. Throwing a series of pots can result in a board of pots all the same or all different, depending on one's intentions AND skills. I've written about the impact that first pot can have on the rest of the pots and how there is redemption in a series of the same.



The other night I had a bit of fun chasing down something that happened unexpectedly. Rather, maybe it happened from some sort of prodding by my sub conscience?(the best kind of prodding?) Maybe I was bored with the way I usually make swirl ware and that boredom exerted itself and prompted me to take a risk, after all, it's just clay, as Cynthia Bringle would say. But I tend to think, or better yet, obsess, of the times that I have failed when I take a chance.

I never think of those momentous times when my whole body of work has shifted because of something I tried that was out of the ordinary. Hmmm, more psychological evidence of pathology...But why are we afraid of risk if the outcome of something wonderful, something truly personal, and new can come of it?

Most people would probably say that pottery is a pretty safe business. But think of the speculation, the risks that a potter makes/takes when submitting our pots to the kiln?! Not to be too melodramatic, but, instead, to make the point that potters aren't to blame for playing it safe because of this looming risk of the kiln, but does playing it safe promote healthy living pots?

[OK, now I've done it. Which rabbit hole should I take?]




Let me reel (real?) myself in just a bit. Which risks do I decide to take, which sleeping dogs do I let lie? We can't always work at the edge. We can't always run at full clip. Pace is everything. Change is slow, Just ask Carl Sagan. But when we, as potters, are ready for change, we make it happen, perhaps prompted by a kind of boredom, perhaps triggered by our sub conscience.

So I guess I was ready to insert the wrench into the way I make my swirl ware. It wasn't something I put on my to do list that night. It was something that happened spontaneously. Maybe this emerged from the noise of the day, from the "urgency" of the day, or maybe from the desire to see something different.

This new "twist" on my technique was kind of thrilling. In this small way I am changed and I am motivated, jazzed, pumped up! The hexagonal wheel makes a light bump and down the road we go. It's an exciting thing when this happens in the shop. As potters, it is our challenge to make this happen, over and over again. Give life to the pots. Give our life to the pots. No pressure, as my friend Scott would say!


When we talk about giving life to our pots, what do we mean? When we talk about pots having something special, what do we mean? I guess we mean that something from our soul has somehow been transferred to the clay. Something that can't be written, something like a quality without a name. Maybe it's simply an excitement we feel when we are making . Maybe it's a kind of joy we are experiencing?

Hey, come on, it's just clay, right?

From Here To Digital Eternity

Michael Kline

swirlware cups

"Round and round we go, and where we stop nobody knows."

Here are some of the cups I packed to ship out today, I wanted to record these as they will be out of sight, and out of mind, soon and I found something in each that I wanted to save. To remember. Maybe in hopes that I would remember these qualities when I come back these forms again in the future.

Photographing the work has become easier and cheaper. But what is the cost to keep track of all of this stuff and why can't I find pictures that I actually need when asked by galleries? Is it in my iCloud? I'm sure there's an app to keep track of all these apps that hold various versions of these pics (or is it pix?) An app for an app for an app.

somewhere out there.

There are thousands of pictures on my various digital 'buckets' or 'bins' on this machine, or on various external hard drives, or saved on servers in some distant data center. Somewhere out there. Pity the archivist of the future. Which to save? Which to delete?

I'm not sure what I will do with all of these files and folders on the computer named "pottery" or "pots" or the very descriptive "pics". Go through them in my spare time?


meanwhile there is the work of the mind's eye,
the camera of the imagination.

i think I'll upload some of those pictures into some lumps of clay.




Blue, White, and Gold

Michael Kline


Here is a pot that was fired in today's lustre firing (cone 018). I've been busy finishing up the pots for the wood kiln and didn't have time to properly photograph the ones that Stacey and I painted this morning. I'll try soon, promise! Since I had this one down at the house, I snapped this shot with the ole web cam.

My "leave a comment" contest is still on and since I'm leaving early in the a.m. to go to Seagrove and the NC Pottery Center's annual meeting, I won't be able to do the drawing with the gals until Monday. That means that any comment left here on the blog on any post(NOT ON FACEBOOK OR TWITTER) between now and Sunday midnight, EST. will qualify for this weeks gift certificate.

OK, Thanks.

Where's That Confounding Horse?

Michael Kline

frumpy swirl yunomi
It's been a busy week and not much blogging has occurred here. I knew it was bad when Stacey pointed out that I hadn't posted in over a week! Yikes, crack that whip! So where is that horse I'm supposed to get back on, anyway? I guess, at the moment,  I'm staring into my headlights (read: computer monitor) and don't know quite which way to post. The stories seem too numerous, so this will be my kick in the pants post and hopefully I will gather thoughts to share my visit to the cousins in Seagrove this week and some of the fun stuff we did, (we shot lots of video with Evelyn's HD Flip video camera, which cost me 5 bucks to rent, btw), an uplifting quarterly board meeting at the NC Pottery Center, and of course there is the continuing and uplifting saga of my porcelain experiment to update you all on.

I have a lot of announcements to make, too [which I will dole out a little at a time so I don't come off sounding like one of those annoying arts calendar PSA's that start to sound like Charlie Brown's teacher after about 15 seconds].

In the meantime, while I dream of future-soon-to-be blog posts, can you guess which came first in the swirl cups above? In other words, are these red-dirt-clay with porcelain swirls? or, porcelain-clay with red dirt swirls?

The secret will be revealed to you on Saturday.

Friday is The New Monday: No Rest For the Weary

Michael Kline

After the Veteran's Day Holiday and no school yesterday, it feels like Monday. But who am I foolin'? I don't really have weekends this time of the year, anyway! I guess it's been a long week, feels more like ye olde fortnight!

Still gawking at the beautifully clear skies we've had over the last few days and finding that the only time I can really be productive is when the curtains fall on all of that glaring daylight. Last night was another late night, but productive. After getting the handles on these really big tankards and retrofitting the lids on a dozen jars, I tore into making some yunomi(i) for the AKAR Yunomi show in the spring.

I know what you're saying, "spring??" Yes, April, I believe. Working back from the online opening, there's the deadline that the gallery needs the pots in January to begin photography of the gazillion cups Then there's rarity of a wood firing in December, here, and you get making them in November! This pottery doesn't happen overnight, ya know!?

[yes it does]
[huh?]
[overnight, that is]
[oh, I get it]
[ ;---) ]

What? All of that and no pictures???

[imagine image of a board full of roundish cups with
dramatic early morning lighting highlighting surface
details of wooden ribs and fullness of form]

What kind of blog is this anyway?

OK, back to some sort of sanity... Here are some ornaments Stacey and the girls worked on yesterday! in porcelain!! We're lining things up for this years BIG Toe River Studio Tour. Folks come from all over the Southeast to this 2 county 3 day weekend Crafts Mecca event! [If you're on my mailing list we'll be sending out our annual hand painted card to your mailbox very soon, announcing the time and dates. And it's not to late to sign up. See mailing list sign up button on the right. It's instant and it's free]

OK, I'd better put my auto-magical blogging pen down and start punching out items on my little chalkboard. I can't let all of this early morning genius time go to waste!

[it's actually just coffee energy]

Later.

View From the Crunch

Michael Kline



The return of the swirl. These tankards (steins) are made with 2.25# of clay! I'll be taking one these to the Pizza Shop for a fill-up of some of their fine brew! Still potting here as crunch week continues. Last wet day is the 12th but it might have to be moved to the 14th with recent schedule changes with the family. Empty bowls at Penland tomorrow night. More later or in the a.m.

Weekend Wrap

Michael Kline




Here are a few things that I have been working on over the weekend. The firing is coming up next weekend and I'd better get to painting the accumulated bisque ware really soon, like Pronto! That's an Americanism from the mid 19th century for "stop throwing those pots and get to painting!"

Anyway I took advantage of the dry breezy weather to continue to get stuff dried out for bisqing and did some drawing, aka scratchin', on some jars. I usually do this on the pots that I'm planning to coat with the crackle slip. It "pushes back" the drawings so that they're subtle amongst the graphic vine pattern. It's a somewhat fun activity, the scratchin', but I'm still a little timid and not as confident as I am with the brush.


Also I made a few wall pockets, some with swirl. I just sent my last out the door and on the way up to Madison, WI. I have never seen these made by anyone, but I have a nice one by Alex Matisse that hangs by our front door. It is one of those shapes I don't make often, but should since they always are the first to sell. Go figure...


I returned to a form I haven't made in a few years. Probably since my first show at AKAR about 7 years ago, the bottle. (I guess the handles make these flasks, or flagons. I wasn't so happy about the handles, and with each pot tried something a little different, and left one without handles which I liked. It's a hard call, with just a few to work with. I lost a few in the process of making. One of the redeeming benefits from making a series is that they reflect a process of seeing and updating with each try. A natural rhythm can be established and the pots go beyond the initial idea/sketch stage and become one's own, hopefully. But one must have faith in the process and stick to it.

Tomorrow I hope to wrap up the throwing and set up the deco stage. I have a few bisque firings to do still and hopefully will have time for everything I've made in the last few days.

Feet

Michael Kline

Here are a few of the cups that I've been working on the last couple of days drying by the woodstove, in hopes that they will be ready and there will be space in Courtney's kiln by weeks end. It's been great to make pots in the shop with wood heat. It's been a long time since I've had the pleasure of being absolutely cold waiting for the fire to get going in the morning and on the other end realizing that it was so hot that I needed to open a door! Ahhhh. I'm not complaining.

the tea bowl chuck
'apres' Stonepool
Link
I also wanted to share with you the "chuck" I am using to cut the feet on my swirl/twirl cups/yunomi. I got this idea from Mark Shapiro, who has probably made a gazillion teabowls over the years. I remember the hundreds we would load into every kiln load at Stonepool.

The center dosen't really support the cup, but, instead, keeps it from flying of the wheel if it comes loose from it's clay moorings. Ideally the clay pad is soft enough and the rim size of the cups are relatively the same size and a little trench emerges as you use it. Unfortunately it also dries a little bit as you go on. I just go back and re-wet it from time to time. Since all of the cups were of varying sizes I had to make my chuck to fit the average size.



Like many of these pottery processes, cutting the feet, getting good balance, visual and otherwise, is hard to get without repeating the cycle a few times. Just as in throwing each new pot gets you closer to an ideal, cutting these feet was a little disappointing, and I wish I had thrown a few, then trimmed a few to get all the notes right the next time around. I threw all of these cups before i had trimmed a single one. Doing the swirl added a complication. Since the swirl is essentially inlay, trimming away the feet cut most of the inlay away. I tried leaving the outside untoached in some cases, but I wasn't exactly happy with the weight, etc. So decisions had to be made, heads did roll, or something like that. Anyway, to the drying unit and hopefully bisquing and glazing in the days to come.

3 Way Color

Michael Kline


Here are a few cups I made last night with three different clays. The gray is a stoneware, then there is my red dirt stoneware, and the white is a white stoneware. Looks fine now, but we'll have to see how contrasting the clays are when they're fired. The clays have to be the same hardness/softness or I get smearing, like in the two cups at the right. The red dirt was real soft.

I really can't express how great it is to be making pots. The kick wheel, the table and the floor to wedge on are all I need for now.

Michael Kline


Although the studio is not quite set up with tables, wedging or otherwise, I rushed in to make cups for the AKAR Yunomi Show. I thought I would just grab some clay and go to it. Ha!
It wasn't exactly a square wheel of momentum, but maybe a hexagon. I managed to get some clay processed, kneaded, and ready to go. I moved some wood working tools to the side, and hunted down my favorite ribs and my "special" sponge, and off I went. I threw a couple of boards of warm ups and culled half of them. Then last night I got to a point where I was ready to 'twirl'. I want to make sort of a NC meets Japan cup. Not exactly a new idea, but innovative pottery making isn't always about inventing a new technique or finding a new material. Mostly it's a just a matter of carrying the ball a little further down the field, keeping an idea alive. Just as humankind has eaten food of one sort or another since the beginning of time potters have made pots and some things just work. Getting the size and shape right is infinite in its possibilities, but some pots have a certain vibrancy, life.
So the quest is on! Here are a few of the swirl cups I've made on Saturday. It was all about the twirl and how it came around the pots and remembering how to do it. The process of making these pots is time consuming and hopefully worth it. Part of what took so long was the MeTube crew that kept getting in the way and slowing things down. [I wonder if anybody is working a clay proof camera?] If I am so lucky I will have time to edit the hours of footage down to a reasonable video.
During all of the click clacking on the treadle wheel I was thinking that I've really neglected it, using it almost exclusively for cutting feet. There is a nice feel and torque on the clay and it was just right for the twirl ware.

I also reminisced about working in Mark's (Shapiro) new studio, the fall of the Berlin Wall, and making pots in MA in 1989. I thought about the Kloppenstein(?) wheel I used in college and the first potter I saw make a cup, Steve Frazier, a grad student at TN in 1985. Many things go through my mind as I work, thoughts, of course, about what I am doing with my hands. But also memories of pots, people, and places. I was thinking that "here I am, making pots and not wearing a tool belt full of nails and screws!"

With that I bid you all a fair and peaceful Sunday.