Wednesday, November 3, 2010

..And The Times They Are A'Changin'

What a difference a month can make.

In an effort to revive our shop from the common dispair that is being foist upon us, we are moving. We have been at 813 Glades Road for seven years, but are moving to 1360 Esat Parkway. I realize the addresses do not mean much to non Sevier Countians, but it means instead of being a mile and a half from the main road on the Glades trail, we are on the main road at the start of the Crafts Community. To explain it further, we are currently #73 on the map, now we will be #3. Brilliant you say? Time will tell. The move won't come cheap, and desperate times require desperate measures. Hope to be semi-open in two weeks, and fully open after the Christmas Show downtown. More on that show later.

Wood kiln rebuild is coming along. Rebuilt fire box, main floor, and side walls. Arch form built and in place. Thank God for Shane's bricksaw.

Time to paint the new shop walls!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Time Flies....

The fall days are full from start to end when you live the potter's life. Got until Christmas to salt to winter's monies away.

Alison will be taking her kettle and soaps to the Museum of Appalachia for their annual Homecoming. Starts Wednesday and goes through Sunday. If you are a local and never been to the Museum, it is worth one trip and Homecoming is full of things to see (especially if you love or don't know the old ways). Music is nonstop, food, farm activities, antique tractors, you get the picture, and the weather is supposed to be great. Cale will be working with her over the weekend, so stop by.

Two firings last week mean the shop looks better. Will be running the shop while Alison is gone. Cale and I have the front chamber off the wood kiln, and with Shane Mickey's brick saw, hope to get it up again by the middle of the month.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Coming Attractions

Well Alison keeps changing her show line-up, so it will be a day or so before the fall schedule is set. God knows I hope it pays off, because business is slow, very slow, around here.

People seem to want to know these kinds of things, so here is an image of the house and studio.
We live out in the country surrounded by old stone fences from the settlement days. The house was here, but needed some finish work, I built the studio, and the wood kiln is barely visible under the tin roof behind my truck.

The studio in 480 sq. ft. with a 12'x 12' gallery on the road end. Alison has a work/storage area in the back, and there is a 35 cu. ft. gas kiln under roof.

I have a two chamber, cantenary wood kiln, all soft brick front with hardbrick back that I lightly salt. This is an image from the first time it was loaded and buttoned up. Currently doing some maintenance and a redesign of the front. Basically going to enlarge the firebox, although it always reached temperature and fired even, and lower it some. It was 78" high inside and I am lowering it to 60", closer to the back which is 58". Hoping to produce more ash which was light past front rank.

OK, next time maybe a schedule and some images from inside the studio.
Next: "Behind the Red Door"

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Coming Attractions

Just a few quick notes.

First, I have been misspelling Josh Copas name as "Coppas". Don't know how I picked that up, I knew better, so sorry Josh.
Secondly, I will put together a list for those who follow our shop and shows. Mostly Alison at this point, some all sopas, some soaps and pots, but we appreciate your support in all matters.
Third, had a question or two about my stamps and what I refer to as roulettes, so pictures being worth a thousand words, I will take some images of them and my trimming wheel.
Ok,back to the studio. If I just had another 200 pieces made I could take the afternoon off. The start of the fall grind is here.
Next: "Loose Ends"

Saturday, September 4, 2010

To be Thick as a Brick

I started doing this pattern work with roulettes and stamps a few years ago when I made some tool caddies to fire at Shane Mickeys. Kept working it around to vase type forms. Started with a triangular vase, then on to more of a brick shape.
There are variations of shape and scale, but since I was pressed for time, I stayed with the same template. Happy with the way they turned out, only lost one to cracking and it had the worst surface anyway, so win-win.
Let Brad pick one for his house, wrapped them up for home. Ended up with what I feel is some nice work, and I can't thank the Ohio crew enough for inviting me and taking care of my work for me.
OK, so back to the studio. Firing a lot of Cone 10 reduction for the shop. Going to save back a couple of the wood pieces to build a body of work to pitch to galleries. First thing is to finish rebuild on the front arch of the wood kiln. Weather has started to cool, and a fall firing seems to be in order.
Going to post a calender of event for the next months showing where we are going to be this fall.
Next: "Coming Attractions"

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Bricks & Plates

Wow, two posts in two days. I'm a regular Mike Kline.
I took four large plates. They are 25 lbs at the start and thrown about 28" in diameter. Two got in the cantenary I was firing and the others are waiting their time. I thought they turned out well.

Also took eight patterned flower bricks I have been working on the past year, and a few jugs for kicks. Hope to shoot images of the bricks tonight and will post as soon as I have them.

Next: "To be Thick as a Brick"

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Talking In Tongues

Apparently I am bad at this. Need to speed things up.

To finish the Ohio trip. Had a nice dinner with Brad and Cathy at the Bartels. Found out without my language filter on, Rachel and I could talk to each other and the Yankees could not understand us. Good to know when the Second War of Northern Aggression breaks out.

Tom Bartel is the real deal, and a great addition to OU. His hiring is a major strenghtening of the program, and made a solid program even better. I have always been proud of my time in Athens, feel I earned a good degree, and going back, it may be better than ever. They have got a tremendous facility, good grads and undergrads, and just that go-go vibe good places have.

Kilns were finished, mixer was held at the Bartels on Thursday, large party at the Schwiegers on Friday where I was chained to the grill. Got to drop by Tony's for a beer, drove out to the old house in Albany, Lindley and I walked around the Quad and saw the new Baker Center. Perfect trip.
Kilns were unloaded, lots of great pots, bartering and swapping, wrapping and loading. Loaded the truck, and down the highway we went.

Next: " Bricks & Plates"

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

You've Got a What?

So, pull up in the lot outside dear old Seigfred Hall, catch up to Brad, and head to the kiln pad. Now it was nice when I was in school, but it is about three to four times bigger now. Probably seven or eight wood kilns of all types, salt, soda, gas, and a huge sculpture kiln. There is also a large storage and work area in the back complete with their own wood fired pizza oven. Yes, the height of decadence.

Kiln are being bricked up. Schedules are being discussed, and Brad and I get our old 6:00 AM slot. Kindling fires are lit, and a pleasant evening is spent meeting people with a cold Budweiser in hand, nibbling on a series of fresh fired pizzas. Nice start.

Up early and with hot coffee in hand (and all over legs and floorboard because Brad drives like a maniac and Athens has not paved a road since the Civil War), relieve old friend Amy Smith Rupp. I am on the cantenary crew with Bryce, and it fires like a dream. By noon and end of shift basically at fives top and bottom and go for the long soak. A little lunch and a rest and off to Happy Hour at Tony's, my old haunt.

More later.

Question: I have asked a few friends through email, so I will ask here, presuming anybody actually reads this crap. What magazines/periodicals do you read? Which has most info? Which has best articles? Which is best for potters?
I probably know the answers, but answers can be surprising sometimes.

Next: "Talking In Tongues"

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


A little background.

Got a call from Schwieger, said a grad named Bryce Brisco was putting together a wood fire symposium in July. He invited Matt Hyleck, Missy McCormick, Lindsay Oesterritter, and a friend of mine, Josh Coppas. They showed up to make work, do a presentation/talk (which I missed and would have liked to seen) and the plan was to fire three wood kilns, a tube type, a Bourry box low arched chamber type, and a good sized cantenary. My job was to get work to them and show up to help with the firings.

Sent up some big plates, about eight flower bricks, and a few jugs for good measure. Drove up on a Tuesday through beautiful SE Virginia, and Wild, Wonderful West Virginia. had not been back to OU since the NCECA Pre-Conference of 1998, so I was interested to see the old place, our old hang outs ,and our house in Albany.

Tomorrow:"You've got a What?"

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Sorry About That

I said I would not be an "every little thing" blogger, but I did not mean to be away for a month.

But what a month it was with a trip to Athens County for the Wood Symposium. Better than better, gooder than good, Ohio University continued to amaze. I am supposed to receive a wealth of pictures and will pass along the ones decent enough to publish.

More on Ohio tomorrow when I have time to write, also a synopsis of our upcoming fall season shows and fairs.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Fourth of July

Quick hello this morning. Holiday weekends are always busy.

Should have posted sooner, but Alison is doing her soap demo at Museum of Appalachia's Fourth of July Day. Stop by if you are in the area, Megan is with her.

Busy on all things, but since there was a break in the heat the other day Cale and I went to Max Patch for some world class kite flying. More later and thanks for the comments.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010


OK how about something the didn't occur in the last century.

As some know I am a proud MFA graduate from Ohio University Athens, Home of the Bobcats. It was an interesting three years to say the least. Got a call from Schwieger in early May that they were having a wood fire symposium in July with some of these up-and-comers and how about sending a piece for the accompanying show and some bisque ware to fire, and then drive up for a few days to help with the firings. Guess they need an antique to stand around and talk about the good old days. seriously, looking forward to returning to dear old OU, have not been there since 1998 and the NCECA preconference they had (ask me about firing a cantenary with power plant coal sometime). Here is a image of some stamped plates I am sending.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

So to sum this story up, the rest of the class came over, we mixed up a clay/mortar second coat and laid it on. We fired it a couple of time, with mixed results, before Steve and David moved on. Kenny Shipley came back for his MFA the next fall ,and he and I were the ones who really got it going. before we were through we were getting some nice pots out of it. It sat and was revived a couple of times, a lot of people got there first taste of firing with it, and I guess Mark Peters and Shane Mickey were among the last to give it a go. UT decided to shut it all down, pushed it all down, house and all, and made a green space out of it.

I do not intend to publish a running history of every breakfast or cold beer I have had for the past thirty years, but I do get two things out of the experience.

First, it was a gutsy move at the time to jump on a project like it was. There wasn't no internet, no blogs, no advice, few books even if we had them, and outside of the Arrowmont kiln I do not know where the next wood kiln would have been. Wood firing wasn't "the thing" like it is now, but we were young and full of piss and wanted one, so we built it.

Secondly, isn't it funny how little simple decisions shape your life. Taking some art classes, meeting Paul, meeting Ted, failing in with a good group of clay people, the right place, the materials at hand, and boom I have spent twenty-eight years dropping cones with wooden sticks. As with any person's journey, what a long, strange trip it has been.

Next Time: "Yeah, Well, Now What?"

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Chapter IV: Brick? What Brick?

In response from a question from Mike Kline, best reasonable guess is winter quarter 1982. That seems to fit everything. I started art seriously in summer '80, and by the time I got through basics and some intros, that would be about right.

We used the trench we had dug as the flue, marked down to where the firebox arch would be and just cut the side wall shape with shovels. Leveled back from box, leaving steps as we went. We had all kinds of old fire brick, so used them for wall base, laying them radially to catch inner brick and topcoat. I used pairs of bats for arch forms, and I remember the firebox arch had a 24" span because that was as big a bat we had.

Now, when we moved to A&A, Dr. Darrow had done a real good job getting materials. I mean we had pallets and pallets, hard, soft, shapes, mortar, just a mountain of stuff. At this point, Steve Frazier (grad) had gotten involved, and we would drive over and just pack a truck full of brick boxes. The good stuff, the old two part APGreen boxes of softbrick you don't see anymore. And we just laid to it, no forms just eyeballing, shaping, mudding and laying, and propping them up with sticks. Two pair of side stoke holes, arches both ends, good flue with chimney, we did a good job, it looked good and it was built right. Ready for the clay topcoat.

If you remember from the start, Dr. Darrow thought it was a trench kiln, and we had not told him any different. He finally got curious about what we were up to and paid us a visit. When he walked out the back door he got an amazing look on his face, all seven emotions in order, shock, disbelief, anger, wonder, and acceptance, all in about ten seconds. But at the end of it all, he told us we had done a good job, and we had.

Next: "Fire In The Hole"

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Chapter III: Anagama

At the time the art department at UT was scattered everywhere while the A&A Building was being built. Ceramics was in a fifties style flat roof contemporary style house. handbuilding in the front room, wheels in the back, glazing in the kitchen, mixing on the patio, and a couple grads in the bedrooms. But it did have a nice sloping back yard with huge, mature pines over top of the kilns. All in all a very compact but busy place.

Finally A&A was ready and the whole undergrad operation moved two blocks away. Melrose became Ted and the grads studios with the salt kiln in the back. Now just before I got involved in the program Shiro Otani had been a visiting artist at school before he built the Big Valley anagama at Arrowmont during the summer, so when it came time to take a kilnbuilding class, David Kaufman and I wanted to build something wood fueled. Dr. Darrow had been to Europe for a symposium that summer, and suggested a trench kiln, dirt channel with kiln shelve top.

Well OK, so we strung it out and started digging, which did not take long, and we shaped it up nice and clean. We stood back took a good look, looked at each other, decided it was way too cheesy, now what? Next thing we know, ran the string farther down the slope and started outlining a baby anagama with old brick on the grass.

Next: "Back Up The Truck!"

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Happy Fathers Day, and History Chapter II

Happy Fathers Day to everyone, and if your father is still with you today, call him, call him NOW! My Dad died from pulmonary fibrosis and was suffering greatly at the end and I am glad he is past that, but I think of him everyday.

In that spirit, Cale and I went to Maggie Valley yesterday to visit the "Wheels Thru Time" museum. Very nice collection of vintage motorcycles with some nice old cars. If you are a gearhead like me, well worth the visit and Cale enjoyed it as well.
To return to the History part, Paul Sasso recommended Ted Saupe for intro ceramics. UT at that time had a faculty of three, Ted was the new boy from Wisconsin and a Reitz student, Dr. James Darrow was department head and an Illinois State grad, and Sandy Blain, another Wisconsin product. Ted was a good teacher for the being the young guy and was responsible for the UGA connection we developed. Sandy was Director at Arrowmont and in Gatlinburg half the year, did not have a lot to do with her then, but later she was big for me. Jim was one of those people you do not see much any more, someone who is completely qualified to run a ceramics department. He ran a good program, had technical knowledge, had aesthetic sense, and was there every day doing his job. There have been a lot of good folks come out of the Tennessee program and these three people are the reason.
Next time:"Do I Smell Smoke?"

Friday, June 18, 2010

Slow Start and A Brief History, Chapter One

Trying to get this thing figured out without asking one of my resident tech specialists (the girls) to help. Alison says we can link to Facebook and all kind of wonderful things, so hope to have that done over the wekend. Also want to post some pictures of work I am doing for a symposium at Ohio U.

Some reading this know me well (maybe too well), but most obviously don't, so here is a little of my background.

Grew up small town west Tennessee, lots of farmers around the court square on Saturday mornings. No art classes at school, took the math and science route. Enrolled at the University of Tennessee in engineering, doing OK but a little lost, decided to work a bit, returned for summer art classes. Much better. Drifted to
3D /sculpture work. Had class with Paul Sasso, who was a grad sculture student, and I think was at Murray State for a long time (still could be). Did well and he suggested trying ceramics with Ted Saupe. And then....

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Welcome to My World (and Good Luck)

Hard to know how to start, so I will just start writing.

Been following some fellow potter's blogs for the past few months and enjoy seeing what they are up to, so I figure I will start my own. Being a studio potter is somewhat of a hermit's life for me, so I am looking forward to the socializing, even if it is by electricity.

We get a lot of customers in the shop asking about a Blog and Facebook, so since Alison has Facebook up and running, I will manage the Blog. Lot to learn since I am a semi-Luddite, but I hope to have some images up in the next few days, also links and all that other mess. As time goes by, let me know how I am doing and again Welcome to My World.