August 31, 2010


new work
by Liz Zlot Summerfield
at Crimson Laurel Gallery
in Bakersville, NC

A few reasons to run for the hills this weekend. Western North Carolina Hills, that is, mountain streams, potter's studios!
  1. pick up pots that you buy from me online on this Friday and get your shipping/handling refunded! ;-)
  2. Soda Chicks Annual Sale!
  3. See an exhibit at the Crimson Laurel Gallery of brand new work by fellow Bakersville potter Liz Zlot Summerfield. The opening reception for Liz is this Saturday night. The work is completely new and is the first that Liz has done since her recent illness. Bravo Liz!!
Come see us.

Only on Etsy, This Friday!


More shameless promotion of this coming Friday's ETSY sale!! Here are some more exclusive previews for ya! One of these is not like the others! And the others are just in time for the Labor Day weekend...wink, wink, nod, nod! Tune in on Friday morning for the fun! Tell your friends by using one of the "share" buttons after this post!!

August 29, 2010

Labor Day-End-of-Summer- Pottery-Blowout

Announcing the End-of-the-Summer Online Pottery Blowout SALE at the Kline Pottery Etsy Store this Friday morning at 10:30 a.m. EST! Kick off the Labor Day weekend by clearing the shelves here at the pottery! Great end of the summer prices and sweet pots for your home! Here is a sneak peek at some of the pots that will be in that sale.

Bookmark my Etsy storefront page. Sales of the pots happen very quickly and I wouldn't want you to miss out.

The Week: briefly

Crunch Time here with firing XXXVI just around the corner. Deep thoughts abound, but difficult to share with you as it takes time to distill here, but here are a few pictures that are always easier pass on to you.
went to American Folk Art Gallery in Asheville
to pick out mattes and moulding for the framing
of these drawings I've been doing for the
October solo show!

a full corn moon lighted my way back home from
late nights of drawing and potting
oh, there's the tack I was looking for!

fun with my slip comb

August 28, 2010

Penland Ramble: Show & Tell

Busy, busy week! But I managed to get up the hill to see the Show & Tell from session 6 at Penland~(Center-of-the-Universe)~School. The Gorelick Social Hall, aka Northlight, was a-buzz with folks showing off their work from the past two weeks. Here is a sampling of what I saw!

August 27, 2010

A Big Chill

A New York Times/CBS News poll found that 30 percent of people
under 45 said the use of devices like smart phones and personal
computers has made it harder to concentrate.

A big chill came over me after listening to this episode of Fresh Air. I've been a little hesitant to check any of my screens! If you are reading this blog you may want to give a listen to this. Mark Richtel talks with Terry Gross and consolidates a lot of research that's being done concerning our consumption of digital media.

How much time are you spending bouncing around on the internet?


August 26, 2010

Catawba Valley Communiy College

I've been meaning to let you know about Kim Ellington's class being taught at the Catawba Valley Community College's new Potter's Workshop in Hickory NC!

Click here to find out more.

"Clay 'N Blogs: Telling a Story" Online!

The Moore County Arts Council is hosting the on-line show of "Clay 'n Blogs: Telling a Story" and it is officially open! Here is the link.

There will also be a real live show in Pinehurst, NC in October! I'll be sure to let you know all the info you'll need to come to the opening (October 1st) and meet the bloggers!

August 25, 2010

12 x 12

Just barely!

After a sawdust morning of cutting and splitting
firewood and a couple visits,
I managed to squeak these bowls out before noon.
More after lunch!

Source Material

from the other night, full moon through the corn

August 22, 2010

Daily Drawing Book

Let's get back to work!

Enough of this talk!

Well, it's not so easy, is it?

Well, here are some more drawings from the Drawing Book I've been working on for the show. I'm not sure how this will all play out on the pots since I tend to decorate and glaze "en masse". [that's french for en masse] I have several bisque firings under the belt already, so maybe I should take some time each day after some ink drawing to do a few pots!

Some of the stuff that is going through my head, when I stop to think about it, is an attention to the materials and the process. In this case pen, brush, ink, paper, crayon, etc. It seems that I'm most pleased when the drawings come off from pure exploration of these mnaterials, and not from my preconceived notions of what the drawings should be. The above is a good example of a discovery that just touching the wet page with a tiny tipped brush would create these beautiful dots where the ink spread. The colored page on the left is one of that separates "chapters" in the book. Each "chapter has 12 pages. I'm sure my bookmaker friends could tell us what this is called. Essentially each "chapter" is bound this way.

I have some beautiful pots that my friend Sam made. On some of those pots are great little picture framed images that I think he masks out with a paper after he has dipped the pots in slip, then brushes iron or some oxides over the slip then peels the paper off and paints an image that seems to over step its frame in a beautiful way. I'm not sure of the sequence, but I incorporated that technique with these drawings. See below one such example of Sam's design.

mmm, more dots

meow, meow

August 21, 2010

Slippery Slope

This may sound like just a lot of whining, but I'm sort of thinking out loud for a moment. Someone once said that a wise person doesn't say much. But of the risk of my own detriment, may I just weigh in on something that is really concerning me?

Back in the day, I did a lot of wholesale. Probably 75% of my income! I did it to get my work out there to be seen. I mostly sold to shops and some galleries. I discounted my work to these shops off of the retail price because they were displaying it in public, promoted it as "my" work (read Michael Kline, not anonymous potter) and they paid me for the work, upon receipt or net 30.

The Fall was my busiest time to fill orders for holiday sale in shops/galleries.

You know what I'm sayin', right?

Well, for the last several years I've noticed more and more shops having holiday "shows" and inviting a slew of potters to participate. In these shows a guy (or gal) can get lost and the promotional effect on their career is lost as well. Granted there are cards sent out and many people probably come to your shop during these months.

What I am getting here is that I feel that the shops are taking advantage of the multitudes of artists who want to have representation in shops/galleries. These "shows" are are a great way of filling the shelves during this busy time of the year withOUT having to pay the artist up front (as in a wholesale contract) and withOUT really promoting the artist. Because how can one individual really get any promotion by having just a few pieces in a show, whether it's online or in brick and mortar?

If you're still reading this you are probably shaking your head (or scratching it) wondering what the hell is his point, right?

Well, not only does the artist have to make the work and pack it and ship it on their own expense, but nowadays they also print out contracts on their computer, grab an envelope, put a stamp on it , etc. I'm not even going to go into the current wave of self promotion a lot of us do for shows to our FB friends and fans, on our blogs, email newsletters etc. at no additional expense to the gallery!

[still with me?]

Anyway, I've decided that if I'm invited to do a show, and there are more than, say, 5 or 10 people in the group show then I can't give the gallery 50% of the sale. Some possible exceptions would be the use of my pottery image on the show card, or the use of my pottery image in print publications advertising the show, etc.

I often hear from gallery folks that I should raise my prices to make up for shipping costs, etc. But why should the shop profit from my shipping cost, which would then become part of their standard 50%?

I'm not sure how this will be received by the shops/galleries and it's a hard economic time for us all, but there has to be fairness in the market. (and I'm sure I'll hear soon enough from the shop/gallery owners) But please tell me that my thinking is wrong and that I need to put up or shut up and I will gladly listen to any wise suggestions. Let me know what you think!

August 18, 2010

Guest Blogger: Don Pilcher

OK. We’re back by popular demand…and unpopular demand. Chewing
nuts; I must have hit a nerve. I got one proposal of marriage and two
suggestions to drop dead.

The nut I was chewing was the lack of depth in the endless, light-speed
postings on numerous clay sites; lots of text and pictures about how many
this and gee wiz that. No doubt digital technology is perfectly suited for “up
to the minute” communication. But I fear that too much Twitter could turn
us into twits, crowding out more reflective and nuanced discussions. So this
is my plea for some deep, personal story telling, stories that go beyond your
new log splitter. I’d love to read about life’s interior matters – the things
we can’t necessarily see from outside; the potter’s private insights which
eventually result in personal, and occasionally, great pots. I suspect that
some of the best of these private inspirations linger out of sight and remain
there because most of the best potters write little, if at all. (Pricked by my
own pen.)

A peek into private inspiration is a precious and surprising thing. I’m
talking about those self-critical conversations that we have with ourselves in
the shower where it’s safe to ask, “What is the weakest part of my work?”
(Public inspiration by contrast is that collective yippee we get when we fire
and unload a kiln together. It’s fine enough but not usually corrective to the
core.) I have a friend who is a big-time soloist at the Metropolitan Opera;
in fact, he sings all over the world. Of course his voice and musicianship
are wonderful. But what’s really interesting and instructive is to hear
him discuss how he weaves the story, the music and his character so as
to increase the artistic yield and still be a member of the ensemble. Not
many potters discuss their work in this way. I’d love to read what Donna
Polseno or Tom Spleth have to say about corralling an idea, nurturing and
perfecting it and then making something of that process that sustains their
artistic output for another five years. Like the doing, such writing is hard
work and it takes time. But what a gift to our collective conversation. (As I
write, I’m too proud to tell you how many drafts this blog will see, however,
I’m sure it will be at least one too few. Regrets are just part of the activity.)

Spleth doesn’t need me defending his work; he is one smart and talented
guy. (Just to be clear, we’ve met a few times but we have no established
friendship.) However, having mentioned him by name and reading some
of your remarks about his work, I feel I owe him some cover. This is why I
like his work. Where others appropriate forms, surfaces, bodies and decals/
finishes, he does it all from scratch. Does it matter? Yes, IF your perspective
requires that all art exhibit some element of love’s labor. And if, as Redd
Fox used to say, “Unique is what you seek,” then Tom’s scat pieces (pun
intended) immediately separate themselves. Not a small thing and, forgive
the professorial analysis, his letter fonts often cleverly mimic his word
choice in image, placement, color and gesture. In my view, that’s hugely
more satisfying than ad agency marks from an expensive Japanese brush,
loaded with oxides and dragged across a virgin surface. Call me a snob.

And add heretic. Another thing that dilutes our much too rapid
conversations is that we venerate and anoint some mediocre people –
just like Congress, big business and most other collective bodies. Those
mediocre models may point in the right direction but they fail to elevate our
sensibilities. One respondent to my earlier iteration said I was fortunate not
to have called Leach a hack and Hamada a poser for, if I had, I wouldn’t be
safe in the southeast. Well Leach was not a hack, but his grandson’s work
exhibits unmistakable regression to the mean. Too critical? Give me a break.
I’m entitled to an opinion and while I don’t intend to overhaul contemporary
ceramics, I can certainly take part in a frank discussion about the merits of
our efforts and whose work we salute.

Ours is a small business and most people are reluctant to speak candidly
for fear of reprisal. That’s not hard to understand. Folks have long memories
about criticism. Robert Altman described critics as people who come down
from the mountain top, walk onto the battlefield after the fighting has
stopped… and shoot the survivors. Who wouldn’t be pissed off by that?
But like you, I don’t reside on a mountain top. I’m one of the people on the
battlefield and I have an interest in the outcome. Ultimately we don’t dignify
our efforts or clarify our goals by “talking around” important matters. One
of my most valued possessions is a three page letter I received from Val
Cushing after he rejected all of my entries to an exhibition. His willingness
to explain his decisions, in detail, was most inspiring. Not because I then
changed what I was making, I didn’t. But he demonstrated that some people
in our group look closely and actually care about what they see. That’s a
group I want to be a part of.

I’m not alone in a search for serious thought. I see the next issue of Studio
Potter will be about the uses of failure. Mary Barringer has chosen exactly
the kind of subject that shows us at our best. Almost anybody can buy a
good porcelain, mix a batch of Rob’s Green, soften cone 11 with 3 cords of
split pine and get beautiful, complicated, nuanced, seductive pottery. But
practically, professionally and emotionally, it’s more valuable to learn how
to dispose of a weakness for Rob’s Green in order to make room for your
own formula. (Take a look at the new glazes Tom Turner has produced. Talk
about love’s labor!)

I’ll close with my own account of the shower conversation from just
this morning. What is the weakest part of my work? I’ve concluded it’s
an attitude, an attitude shown by vases that don’t need to hold anything
and bowls that are already full when they come from the kiln. My work
doesn’t serve in the usual sense. It postures, makes jokes, presumes to be
instructive and so on. I’ve never been clear on whether that’s asking more
of a pot than we should ask, or, if that kind of idea should be attempted
only by people with huge talent. I keep hoping I haven’t yet cracked the
shell of my talent and that the nut is still there, but I can’t be certain.

Don Pilcher lives in Champaign Illinois where he taught for many years at the University of Illinois. A gifted potter, thinker,and provocateur, Don shares his unique views on the field of contemporary ceramics. Visit Don's web site where you can read more of Don's stories. He can be also reached at

August 17, 2010

Explanation from the Editor

A week has passed since I published an op/ed from Don Pilcher that proceeded to upset a lot of folks to the point that I pulled the plug on the post to avoid a riot that seemed to be forming in the comment section. I thought I would explain my thoughts and reactions to that event as well as say a few things about my decision to host guest bloggers in the first place.

I began this blog in 2008 as a way to convey the day to day events in my studio practice as well as some thoughts about this process. This process is a solitary one for me and for many of the potters I know. So I thought that this blogging format was perfect for the conversation I could have with readers and also for the record of my work that I could reference myself, from time to time.

Since I began this blog, many potters have taken up the discipline of writing frequently and candidly about their work. I've gotten to know many of the potters that I read daily and weekly and a wonderful community has formed. This new flow of information has changed from families passing the knowledge on to sons and daughters, apprentices learning from masters, and going to a college and earning a degree in art or going to workshops at places like Penland and Haystack, to the high speed sharing of how-to YouTube videos and pottery-bloggery abundance.

My evolution from potter to potter/blogger has been pretty exciting! I've written about it for Studio Potter Magazine and discuss the process when giving workshops. I've even given blogging workshops. The blog is being read by more people than I had ever dreamed it would! So I guess you could say that I'm in this pretty deep! But it's a good thing.

But the next logical step in this evolution, at least in my opinion, was to bring other perspectives into the conversation within this blog. I am fortunate to know some pretty amazing people in my field and thought it would be interesting to ask some of them to contribute to the conversation with their own opinions and expertise. I really value the diversity that guest bloggers bring to the blog.

The blog continues to be mostly my story, but it may slowly become the story of many. After all, how many times does anyone want to see the dishes in my cupboard or or read about the potter's panic that leads up to a firing? So, how does this change my role?

I'm not only potter and blogger, but now I am "editor". Thankfully, I have worked with Mary Barringer on a couple articles that I've written for Studio Potter, and understand the writer's process better from that experience.

But all of this is just background information in order to explain the circumstances of Don's post last week. The post was rather spontaneous and was taken from an email conversation that Don and I were having about pottery and blogging. In it's original context the material Don was discussing was really intriguing to me. It was provocative and pointed. Unfortunately, taken out of their original context, the words came off as harshly critical and offered no real answers to readers.

My naiveté led me to publish the excerpt of our email conversation without thinking that, taken out of context, it might have a different voice and confusing logic. In hindsight, it would have made more sense to publish all of our emails and would have avoided any misunderstandings.

Well, this post has gone on much longer than the mere explanation and apology I intended. I wanted to say these things so that I could preface Don's revised thoughts, which I will publish on Wednesday morning.

I hope this makes sense of of my botched editorial moment and reopens the doors to many constructive and thoughtful discussions that we've yet to have.

As always, I value your readership, it inspires me to reach deeper in my abilities as a potter and a blogger!


Ha, I'm still here, still hungry after two tomato sammies! I've moved on to another favorite, crackers, cheese, and pickles. Anyhow, I forgot to post a picture of the chuck I used to cut the feet on the spheres. The little recess in the bottom allowed me to cut the ones with the necks.

Round Revisited

As I eat my tomato sandwich (and write this) I am scratching my head about this investigation of "round" As a potter I am partial to the bottom set, but as someone who wants to follow through with an idea, I favor the top two. So I am at odds with this project. I don't know why I was surprised at one point to realize that to make these as perfect spheres, a lathe may have been a better tool, or for that matter, why not make a mold of a ball? But I guess that since I am a potter using wheels, this is how I approach the making. And it's the pottery-ness in these that I find most interesting, the reference to sphere, the neck/foot relationships, etc. To make a perfect sphere, it would be a lot easier to get a bowling ball and paint it, wouldn't it? So I will keep going with more.

I really appreciate you all stepping up to give me your impressions and even your own experience with similar projects. Don't be shy.


[Sandwich done, blog post done, back to work.]

Foggy Garden Morning

Somewhere in that building on the hill the clay sits, the platters wait the cutting of the trimming tool. But all the while the garden grows. The weeds grow too! And for the early morning after Stacey left for school with the girls, I made my way through the wet grass, past crickets, past the chickens to the garden.
I look at all of this with my potter's eyes, the artist's filter, looking for pattern, texture, smells, and color!
I liked the holes left by bugs on the leaves.
Potato blossoms just before opening actually have potato shapes!
Watermelons got thumped. But we can possibly eat all of them! Maybe a watermelon party!

Now up the hill to the shop for, hopefully, a productive day!