The Brush & The Wheel with Michael Kline

In this installment of the Ceramic Arts Daily Presents video series, Michael Kline shares his contemporary take on the pottery traditions of the southeastern United States. Using locally dug clay and tools and techniques used by early North Carolina potters, Michael demonstrates ...(Scroll for more.)

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Runtime: 1 hour 45 minutes

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…a traditional large water jug thrown in multiple pieces, as well as swirlware cups, a pottery style of the Catawba Valley that combines contrasting clay bodies. He also shares a dinner plate form that is a perfect canvas for his brushwork decoration, plus a number of ways to dress up the rims to frame the designs. In addition he shares his brushwork decorating techniques in the greenware and bisque-fired stages, and explains how these can be combined with other slip-decorating techniques to create interesting surfaces.

A connection to place

Connecting with the pottery traditions of western North Carolina is an important part of Michael Kline’s process and aesthetic, right down to the local clay he uses. Michael begins with some tips on finding local clay and how to make it more plastic by mixing it with a commercial throwing body (also a North Carolina clay). Then it’s off to the wheel.


Michael starts off with two methods for making Swirlware cups, peppering his presentation with historical tidbits about this traditional pottery form. For trimming these cups, which he usually makes in a series, Michael throws a chuck. By throwing a new chuck with each batch, the cups slide nicely on top, and can be centered, trimmed and switched out easily, thus expediting the trimming process. This type of chuck is also perfect for pots with uneven rims!

A blank canvas and a lovely frame

Plates are perfect canvasses for Michael’s brushwork decoration, but the brushwork is not the only type of decoration on these pots. The rims are usually cut in a decorative fashion and Michael shares a number of different ways to approach this (making it look a lot easier than it is!). Then he also shows his slip-combing technique, with tools he modifies to make his own unique mark.

Large forms simplified

If you have had trouble throwing large forms, you won’t want to miss this chapter. Michael tackles a traditional large jug form. Throwing in sections, he shares a great technique for avoiding cracking at the joints. Then he attaches a robust handle to finish it off.

Exuberant surfaces!

Exuberant is the perfect word to describe Michael Kline’s decoration. Inspired by the lush North Carolina landscape outside his studio windows, Michael complements his subdued forms with scrolling flora – sometimes sparse, sometimes abundant, but always right. Sharing design tips and brushstroke techniques along the way, Michael demonstrates several different ways of applying brush decoration. He also shares a great tip for getting warmed up for brush decorating.

Bonus Materials

In addition to glaze recipes, a firing schedule, and an image gallery, this video has two bonus videos: An explanation of the different marks of various brushes, and a tour of Michael’s studio and wood kiln.

About the artist

Michael Kline has been a studio potter since 1990. He studied civil engineering, pottery, painting, and printmaking at the University of Tennessee, where he earned his Bachelors of Fine Arts. Michael also studied under Michael Simon at the Penland School of Crafts in 1989. From 1989-1998 Michael, along with Mark Shapiro and Sam Taylor, produced pots from a cooperative wood kiln in Worthington, Massachusetts, before being awarded a Resident Artist position at Penland in 1998. There he created a body of work in translucent porcelain and large-scale stoneware pottery inspired by the traditional stoneware of the Catawba Valley and Seagrove areas of North Carolina. In 2001 Michael built a large wood burning kiln and studio in Bakersville, North Carolina, where he lives with his wife, goldsmith Stacey Lane, their two daughters, Evelyn and Lillian, their dog Jack, and lots of chickens. To learn more about Michael Kline, visit


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