In 2008, fourteen years ago, Robbie Lobell wrote “A Flameware Journey” for Studio Potter, narrating the previous six-year evolution of forms and process working with the clay body she inherited from Karen Karnes. The article ends with a vision of a future business model that would become the company Cook on Clay. It was a dream to impact not only her own practice, but to leave the field of utilitarian pottery better for the endeavor.
I have been pondering and exploring whether to "manufacture" - yes, mass produce - in limited editions for the high-end gourmet food and kitchen tools market. So far, I have found out that the flameware can be ram-pressed and that there is a market out there. I am still investigating how to approach that larger market and how to go about getting my pots ram-pressed outside my studio, because I do not want to remain the manufacturer. Nor do I want to send the project overseas, for a variety of reasons including the need to see the process through from the pressing to the firing, anticipating some hands-on participation (especially at the outset) and preferring to work within my own community. One dream is to create a small manufacturing facility in my hometown. Wouldn't it be amazing if a somewhat-poor studio potter could really support herself with a series of pots that took years to develop, and still be a full-time studio potter, but perhaps not so poor?
Visioning. Forecasting. Predicting. Whatever the name given, a plan is only a list of bullet points made with the best information at hand at the time of formulation. From the vantage point in 2008, already six years into the journey, Lobell stood on a bluff looking at the river below, gauging the route that would take Cook on Clay to the envisioned destination. Joining Lobell on the journey was her partner Maryon Attwood, a trained painter and arts administrator. Collectively they had decades of experience to inform the journey that lay ahead.
Once travelers set out, leaving known land behind, they will find some of the estimations made from higher ground play out exactly as expected. Inevitably, other scenarios arise. Then, all the collective experience and combined intuition become invaluable. Decisions are still made deliberately, but they are made in the moment when new information, unseeable from above, becomes a concrete barrier to overcome or go around by paddling harder or portaging....