(Photo: Courtesy Robbie Lobell and Maryon Attwood; illustration: Jessica De Jesus)

Keeping Slow Food Alive, One Clay Pot at a Time

Robbie Lobell and Maryon Attwood are being honored by In Her Company, a campaign celebrating the power, creativity, and impact of 30 inspiring women entrepreneurs.
Dec 10, 2014· 2 MIN READ
TakePart Staff

To meet the growing demand for her artisanal clay cookware, Robbie Lobell teamed with Maryon Attwood to create Cook on Clay. Now, across the country you can find their cooking pots at the tables of sustainably-grown food gurus and chefs alike.

Cook on Clay
HQ: Coupeville, Wash.
Industries: Ceramic design and manufacturing, kitchenware
Founded: 2010

Cook on Clay flameproof pottery continues the artistry and tradition of the American craft movement. We bring those traditions to the present in our modern designs as we strive to integrate the values of slow food, slow money, and sustainable community into our business thinking and strategies.

TakePart: How did you come up with the idea for your business? Was there a turning point that convinced you to start your own business?

Robbie Lobell and Maryon Attwood: Robbie has been a studio potter for many years. In 2001, she was given a formula for heat-resistant, flameproof, clay-body cookware by her mentor, Karen Karnes. In the ensuing years, Robbie’s simple but elegant cooking pots received national notice. It was around 2009 that we recognized we had a problem—a good problem but one that needed to be solved: Robbie couldn’t keep up with the demand for her flameproof cookware by making one pot at a time.

In 2010, Cook on Clay was born. Robbie and Maryon joined forces to create a business with a vision larger than the studio. Maryon’s years of experience as a CEO in the arts and environmental nonprofit worlds brought depth and breadth to the possibilities of developing a successful business. Four years later, we have achieved success on many levels, and our clay cookware is in great demand.

TakePart: What excites or inspires you? What do you care about?

Lobell and Attwood: We are both passionate about educating and mentoring younger women in studio arts, artisan-based manufacturing, and sustainable small business practices. We care deeply about local and sustainable food systems, the return of families and neighbors to the table, and a new burgeoning tabletop culture. We love knowing our pots are well used in kitchens and on tables across America.

TakePart: Do you see any common challenges among female business owners and entrepreneurs?

Lobell and Attwood: There are few funding sources for woman-owned businesses in the United States today. As women entrepreneurs, networking with other successful women business owners allows us to be not only viable and sustainable, but also competitive in the larger marketplace. Women working together change the world. We do not need to learn to be tougher. As women we share our experience and knowledge with each other. This is the basis for Cook on Clay’s business model, and we hope to inspire others.

TakePart: What’s been the proudest moment that made you feel like your hard work was worth it?

Lobell and Attwood: We began to really know success when we surpassed our goal in our Kickstarter campaign for a new production kiln (designed and built brick by brick by women). We were proud and humbled by the support we received by more than 300 people from coast to coast. This support from our local and national communities inspired us to put each and every name of our funders on the bricks in the door of our newly built kiln.

TakePart: Who are your customers, and how do you engage and reach them?

Lobell and Attwood: Cook on Clay customers are slow food aficionados, farmers, locavores, lovers of fine food, appreciators of quality kitchen tools, cooks, chefs, and everyone who enjoys the pleasures of cooking and eating. Our customers find us online, through our website, at high-end farmers markets, at selected shops nationwide, at “house parties” (think Tupperware) and cooking demonstrations, and in publications and books.

(Photo: Cook on Clay)

TakePart: What’s one thing you wished someone had told you about your first year in business?

Lobell and Attwood: The work and time commitments will be beyond what you can imagine. Around every corner is an unknown challenge. The best planning only prepares you for what you haven’t planned.

TakePart: What’s the best mistake you ever made?

Lobell and Attwood: Going into business together was the biggest mistake and best thing ever. As life partners and business partners, we share the belief that mistakes are learning opportunities. Allowing mistakes to be our teachers has given us wisdom. As craftswomen, we make mistakes daily, creating opportunities to make our pots more beautiful, more elegant, more finely designed. Mistakes are important, as they demonstrate that creativity is part of the process.

This post is part of the series "In Her Company," created in collaboration with Eileen Fisher and designed to celebrate the power, creativity, and impact of women-owned businesses. Check out more stories at takepart.com/in-her-company.