Studio Pottery : Small Business Practices : Artisan Manufacturing

Inquiries please contact Robbie Lobell  :  360.678.1414  :

The Zakin Apprenticeship Program honors the spirit and practice of inquiry and learning, of daily and wholly living a creative life, working and living within a community of makers. Our goal is to give apprentices the time to develop their work, and then the means to go out on their own with the tools in studio practice, pottery design, business practices, and the possibilities of artisan manufacturing.

Cook on Clay Apprenticeships

The ZAKIN APPRENTICESHIP Program is a one- to two-year hands-on apprenticeship providing instruction and mentoring in studio pottery, small business practices, and artisan manufacturing.  

Apprenticeship Commitments

Apprentice participation in the many aspects of operations and hard work at Cook on Clay are core opportunities for training and learning in a safe and supportive environment. Studio work, training, skill building, and task assignments take place in about 40 hours per week including a minimum of 20 hours in your studio actively pursuing a personal body of work. Apprentices may take up to 3 weeks off per year.

Your development as a potter and engagement in studio life is paramount to your experience. You must be committed to developing your work and your visual voice. This is where much of the mentoring and guidance takes place including ongoing conversations, critiques, demonstrations, glaze development, clay testing, various firing methods, and professional development.

Apprentices are introduced to and educated in the production processes of our hydraulic-pressed cookware. In exchange for approximately 20 hours per week of labor we offer the facilities, materials, opportunity, mentoring, and guidance. Tasks, chores, and projects in any given week may include finishing pressed wares, mixing glazes, glazing, grinding and washing kiln shelves and posts, kiln maintenance, sanding and packing pottery, grounds care, inventory management, photographing pots, studio and facilities maintenance, social networking, going to markets, selling in the shop and talking about our cookware.

The apprenticeship is not a 9 to 5 job. The work at Cook on Clay is project-based and we work until the project or task is complete. This is sometimes a matter of hours and sometimes days. During the summer months and winter holiday season, schedules fluctuate requiring the flexibility experienced by all studio artists including the need to periodically work on national holidays.

Zakin Apprentices learn how to initiate a strong studio practice and develop a business plan. Through diligent studio work, training, and skill building, Zakin Apprentices develop a personal visual vocabulary and cohesive body of work.

Apprentices learn to function and thrive within a working pottery business where a sense of ownership and pride of place is an important ingredient to a successful time with us. We look for apprentices who are hard working, thoughtful, open to learning, eager, and respectful. You are a team member who participates in Cook on Clay’s practices and values, and contributes to the training and learning environment with a positive cheerful attitude. You work hard at tasks and chores until they are complete. This sometimes requires long days.

Apprenticeship Compensation

The Zakin Apprentice is provided with studio space, use of studio equipment, facilities, and materials. Most importantly, apprentices have access to Robbie Lobell’s years of clay, design, firing experience, and working knowledge as a professional self-supporting studio potter. Maryon Attwood provides her years of experience as a successful non-profit administrator and grant writer, manages the artisan manufacturing at Cook on Clay, and assists the apprentice in grants opportunities. And when the apprentice is ready, there is an array of sales opportunities in the immediate area including cooperative galleries, farmer’s markets, studio tours, and craft fairs. After a time working with us, we actively encourage apprentices to sell their work in one of these venues and to apply to regional and national shows.

Professional development may include workshops, field trips, NCECA attendance, developing a website or blog, writing a business plan, assisting Cook on Clay at shows and sales, workshops, seminars, presentations, and events. The apprentice provides her own tools, including a wheel (negotiable). Apprentices are welcome to take advantage of any discounts available to the Cook on Clay studios and can re-process scrap clay in the studio pugmill.

The program is a work/trade agreement. The work is project-based and we work until the project or task is complete. Apprentices work on the production of our pressed cookware and studios maintenance. In exchange for 20-25 hours per week of labor, we offer studio facilities, mentoring, and education. After 3 months trial and training period we pay $12/hr for work beyond 12 hours per week. Materials and firings are at our cost. We encourage testing glazes and clay bodies. Tests may be placed around Cook on Clay pots and fired at no cost.

Cook on Clay Studios are located on Whidbey Island in Northwest Washington. The Cook on Clay Production Annex housing the hydraulic press, 140 cu ft propane-fueled soda vapor production kiln, finishing and glazing spaces, and packing and shipping is located in Coupeville. Robbie Lobell Pottery studio is located in Langley. There is a large arts community, small family farms, and unsurpassed natural beauty. Hiking, biking, kayaking, and beach combing are readily accessible in this spectacular corner of the country.

Studio Practice Guidance

Studio Equipment

Business Practices Instruction

Manufacturing/Production Training

The following is a survey of tasks and skills achieved by the apprenticeship team for Cook on Clay. We will teach you how we do what we do and why.

To Apply: send letter of interest, resumé, 5-10 images of current work with descriptions, 3 references with contact info to: If you have questions about this opportunity, please contact us.

SOME QUESTIONS TO ASK YOURSELF (borrowed from Apprenticelines)

Why do I want to do an apprenticeship? Why the Zakin Apprenticeship?

What are my goals for this apprenticeship? Specifically, what am I looking to gain from the apprenticeship experience? Skill development? Technical expertise? Aesthetic development? Professional development? Community engagement?

If I have had academic training in clay, what do I hope to gain from this apprenticeship that my formal education did not provide me?

Do I have an outside source of income? Will I need to work another job during the apprenticeship?

What kind of time commitment can I realistically make to this apprenticeship? Will there be time to make my own work if I do need an outside job?

Am I willing to relocate for at least a year? Do I want to live in the Pacific Northwest?

Am I interested in learning production methods used at Cook on Clay? Can I see myself working on the pressed Cook on Clay pots? What can I learn by working on these pots? How might that influence my work?

Where do I want to be creatively and technically at the end of this apprenticeship? In 5 years?




Apprenticeship is a system of training a new generation of practitioners in a trade or profession with on-the-job training and accompanying studio practice and study. Apprentices or protégés build their careers from apprenticeships. Most of their training is done while working for an employer or Master Artist who helps the apprentice learn their profession in exchange for their labor.

Master Artists are individuals recognized within their communities as exemplary practitioners of traditional art forms. Apprentices - individuals who learn under the guidance of Master Artists - typically have some prior experience in the traditional art form, significant promise, and a serious long-term commitment to practicing the art. Traditional arts apprenticeships is two-fold: it is meant to support Master Artists who seek to pass their artistic and cultural knowledge to qualified apprentices; and to provide apprentices with an opportunity to advance their artistic and cultural knowledge to a higher level so that they may continue to pursue the art form beyond the life of the apprenticeship.