The audio file for this article was produced by the Ceramic Arts Network staff and not read by the author.

1 Large thumbprint canister, 15 in. (38 cm) in height, white stoneware, black slip, salt glazed and wood fired to cone 10, 2022. Photo: John Polak.

Choosing Clay

I slowly transitioned to doing pottery full time over the course of many years. I was a preschool teacher, landscaper, and finally a bookkeeper on the side. I am glad I gave myself the time to make sure pottery is really what I wanted to do full time. I was able to figure out the logistics before I had the stress of it being my only means of making a living. It’s a unique career in that you must serve in a whole host of roles to be successful, and much of that is not making the work itself. I must be content to be a potter, janitor, photographer, social-media manager, wood splitter and stacker, bookkeeper, etc. I like the variation, but you must be happy with hard work and repetition. 

I think I had a fairly realistic perception of what it would be like because I did an apprenticeship before starting my own business. However, I underestimated how much having children would change my practice. I have been more challenged with an ever-changing, unpredictable schedule and lack of sleep than anticipated. I always struggle with the balance between making more production work (repeating shapes and sets of work) and making one-of-a-kind pieces. I think if money were no object, I would spend more time making unique work. 

I live in Ashfield, which is a small town in rural western Massachusetts near where I went to college. It is a quirky, lovely town with a great community feel and beautiful landscapes. One of the main reasons we bought the property where we live is that it had a wonderful, large barn that was in good condition. It was easy to convert part of it into a studio. I chose a rural area because of personal preference, but also because it is much easier to have a wood kiln here. I have a spacious showroom in my studio that I sell out of regularly, not just during open-studio sales. My part-time apprentice, who has been with me for three years, performs a myriad of tasks from the mundane to the more challenging. Among other things, he helps keep the studio clean, processes the reclaim clay, makes and applies glazes, and takes on more and more responsibilities during the wood firings. I have come to rely on this, and it allows me to spend more time making work and less time on other studio jobs. It is especially important for me to have help around a firing. I usually have a crew of 5–6 people who help during the firing in exchange for putting a few pots into the kiln.

2 Comet pitcher, 9 in. (23 cm) in height, white stoneware, black slip, copper glaze, salt glazed and wood fired to cone 10, 2021. Photo: John Polak.

There is a wonderful community of potters around where I live. There are two separate pottery tours, all within about an hour’s radius of Northampton, Massachusetts. The Asparagus Valley Pottery Trail is held in late April, and the Hilltown 6 Pottery Tour (of which I am a member) is held at the end of July every year. Each year, both tours grow and bring in a larger audience. The Hilltown 6 Pottery Tour is celebrating its 17th year. I feel lucky to live near so many examples of talented working potters, and to call most of them friends.

I think one of the hardest decisions has been to become the primary caregiver for my children and to move my pottery business to the back burner. Especially early on, it felt like this meant I was giving it up for my lifetime. Now that they are a bit older, I have the knowledge and perspective that they aren’t young for very long in the arc of my career, and that more and more, I can return to longer stretches of time in the studio. I feel like I did a poor job of pushing my boundaries and making new work when my children were very small. It was as if I didn’t have the emotional energy or focus to think outside the box. Slowly, this is changing and returning, but the mental load that comes with being a parent does seem to cloud my creative drive some. I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that I made the right decision, but that doesn’t mean it was easy.

3 Tunnel vase, white stoneware, black slip, cobalt glaze, salt glazed and wood fired to cone 10. Photo: John Polak. 4 Maya Machin and her daughter unloading a kiln.

A Working Relationship

I woodfire my work, and I think my kiln has influenced what I make almost more than anything else. You learn what size and shape pots work where, what surfaces thrive in different sections of the kiln, and what you can and can’t get away with. It feels like a life-long, evolving relationship. What sells well definitely influences what’s made, but I also continue to make pots that don’t sell as well or should be priced much higher than they are because of how long they take to make, simply because I love to make them.

5 The entrance to Machin’s studio.

A Day in the Life


8:30 Take my daughter to school.

9:00 Respond to email, do paperwork, etc. 

9:30 Trim what is ready from yesterday.

10:30 Put handles on mugs or spouts on teapots that were trimmed yesterday and today.
11:30 Throw new pots. I have a spreadsheet of what I intend to make for each firing, which helps me stay focused and end up with the right balance of different heights and types of work. 


1:00 Record a quick video for social media or post a pre-existing photo. 
2:00 Pick up both of my kids from school, make dinner, etc. 


8:00 Get back in the studio, then do a quick cleanup at the end of the night.
11:00: Sleep! 

I fire my wood kiln 4–5 times a year. Around each firing, my normal schedule goes out the window. There is a mad dash of glazing, wadding, loading, and firing. The firing usually lasts around 17 hours, and we are putting wood in the kiln continuously the entire time. After firing and unloading, we clean all the shelves thoroughly, cut and stack wood for the next firing, and start the cycle again.

Forging Connections

Participating in social media does not come naturally to me, nor does it bring me much joy. However, I recognize that it is important in our current world and have learned to embrace it as best I can. I don’t think that social media is a very good juror. Work is highlighted not so much for its technical merit but more for the personal story behind it, and other work gets downplayed simply because it’s not presented in a way that is considered exciting. That frustrates me, but I try to step away for some perspective and present my work in a way that feels authentic to me and highlights the pots and the process more than my personal story.

6 Maya Machin working at the wheel.

I still rely on craft fairs for selling work, but I have been increasingly successful at getting customers to come to me through open studios and the pottery tour I’m involved in. I also updated my website to make it easier for people to order online, and that has helped increase my sales. I don’t spend as much energy on galleries. I have many outlets and modes of selling that work for me and I adhere to the philosophy of not keeping all my eggs in one basket.

Fortunately, I have had many wonderful mentors in my life, especially early on. I started my pottery journey by doing a senior project in high school with Ikuzi Teraki and Jeanne Bisson of Romulus Craft in Washington, Vermont, and continued to work with/for them for years after. After college, I apprenticed with Mark Shapiro at Stonepool Pottery in Worthington, Massachusetts, for three years. This solidified my love of wood firing and gave me the wide-ranging skills it takes to be a potter, including all those outside of making the work. Mark continues to be a mentor and friend almost 20 years later. I assisted during two different long concentration sessions at Penland School of Craft in North Carolina, and during those times I was lucky to be able to learn from Michael Kline, David Stuempfle, Kim Ellington, Naomi Dalglish, and Michael Hunt. Each one of these important people has affected my work and processes in different ways.

7 Faceted teapot, 8 in. (20 cm) in width, white stoneware, copper glaze, salt glazed and wood fired to cone 10, 2021. Photo: John Polak. 8 Niche teapot with teabowl, 8 in. (20 cm) in width, white stoneware, black slip, cobalt blue glaze, salt glazed and wood fired to cone 10, 2020. Photos: John Polak.

Best Advice

If you are interested in becoming a full-time potter, I would suggest seeking out as many potters as possible who are making a living from their craft and learning their models. Offer to help them in some way in exchange for gaining a small glimpse into their world and systems. Take some of the pressure off yourself and have another part-time job on the side for at least a couple of years, preferably one that doesn’t take too much of your physical or emotional energy and is lucrative. Start small and work your way to a size that seems sustainable. Keep your overhead low. Set yourself up in an area with other potters who can support you, especially as you start out. We’ve all been there!

9 Stacking canister set (four sections), 14 in. (36 cm) in height, white stoneware, black slip, salt glazed and wood fired to cone 10, 2020.

Career Snapshot



BA Hampshire College 
3-year apprenticeship with Mark Shapiro 

Making work (including firing): 75% 
Promotions/Selling: 15% 
Office/Bookkeeping: 10% 

Japanese throwing stick gifted to me by my first mentor, Ikuzi Teraki 

Making large vessels in two thrown sections 

Galleries: 10% 
Craft/Art Fairs: 35% 
Studio/Home Sales: 20% 
Online: 20% 
Hilltown 6 Pottery Tour: 15% 

Instagram: @mayamachinpottery 
Facebook: @mayamachinpottery