Visit to Robbie Lobell's Pottery in Coupeville, Washington

Before we moved to Brooklyn last summer, Lauren and I took a trip up to Seattle with her parents, Pat and Nelson. It was July and we were hoping for fine weather, but the rumours were true; it tipped it down for the first couple of days of our trip. Thankfully the rain didn't last, so we took the ferry over to Whidbey Island to visit Robbie Lobell's pottery. I had wanted to visit her for a couple of years after narrowly missing the chance to work with her at La Meridiana in Tuscany.

Robbie makes flameware for use in the kitchen, which appeals to me as I love to cook. Flameware pots can be used directly on a stove top and endure severe temperature shocks. You can take them directly from the freezer to the oven without worrying about cracking. To do so requires much testing and specificity of materials. Things I was keen to learn!

The drive from Seattle was beautiful, and we felt like we were in the middle of nowhere, almost disbelieving when we arrived at the pottery, tucked away in the woods of Coupeville, down a little rickety road.

A headland on the drive from Seattle
We stopped to admire a stony beach
We were greeted by two friendly pooches called Kozmo and Maestro, then Robbie and her partner Maryon Attwood. We took a tour of the premises, including a sneak peak into their wonderful garden. The plums were plump, ripe and absolutely gorgeous.

Kozmo taking a load off.
The vegetable garden

I was most taken with this pot, and very much want to make one at some point. It is by Louise Harter:

Best watering can ever?
Into the studio...

Neat tools
Robbie by her wheel
Robbie's two teachers and mentors, Karen Karnes and Mikhail Zakin
This picture hangs right above Robbie's wheel. She told us how much she had learned from these two ladies. Mikhail Zakin just passed away in 2012.

Her original kiln, up by the house:

70 cubic feet propane-fueled soda vapor kiln.

Look at the build up on those bricks!
As we walked around, we noticed pots of a different style and found out that Robbie had two apprentices: Clovy Tsuchiya and Jordan Jones. Mary Krochmalny, a summer intern from the Rhode Island School of Design, was also staying and working there.

Bisque pots by Clovy Tsuchiya
Bisque pots by Mary Krochmalny
Animal mugs and poof pots by Jordan Jones
Close up of some of Jordan Jones' pots
Teapot by Clovy Tsuchiya
I love the shape of these teapots; they look like snails!
After we had done the full tour of the studio by their house, Robbie took us down to the "production annex," which is an additional space they rent. Robbie is moving towards a more mechanised process of producing her flameware, using a large hydraulic press. It was very interesting to see her process developing. Here is her new 142 cubic foot car kiln (propane-fueled soda vapor).

It is on rollers which makes it much easier to load.

Kiln shelves

Robbie explaining the press

Molds for the handles

Mold for a casserole dish
They are seriously heavy duty pieces of equipment
This is the hydraulic press which gives 130,000 pounds per square inch!
Bisque ware
Glazed and waiting to be fired

Back to the house and into the showroom! Robbie's pots are beautiful, but also extremely durable and a pleasure to use. Pat and Nelson very kindly bought one for Lauren and I as a marriage present and we have enjoyed many a meal from it; from cassoulet to mac n cheese to coq au vin.

Mugs and oil/vinegar bottles.
Square casserole dishes
This beauty is the one we took home with us.
You can see how pleasing the surface of the clay is here

It was an adventure going to visit Robbie and her team out in Coupeville, and I recommend a visit if you are in the area. It's a truly stunning place. The apprentices seemed to be having a great time, and I would recommend the program to young potters looking to develop their own style and learn the art of soda firing.