Maya Rumsey is partial to tidy bottoms. Overturn her wheel-thrown mug, for example, and you'll see a precise "foot" or ring on the underside that allows the mug to sit level. Whatever motif she's hand-painted on the mug's circumference is echoed in miniature on its bottom. And her tiny but elaborate logo for Melissa Maya Pottery is crystal clear.
More than seven years into her successful production pottery business, tidy bottoms are part of her signature style, says Rumsey, who makes mugs, bowls and other functional ware in the basement studio of her 1940s-era Coeur d'Alene home.
The space is neat and surprisingly bright, with numerous plants, a sink and bulletin boards full of her children's artwork and inspiring images. She also has a pug mill for recycling clay; a slab roller for efficiently making large, flat pieces of clay; and a large table on casters where she hand builds items. That's where Bates, the family dog, likes to hop up and follow her progress.
Bates isn't Rumsey's only fan. Next to a small electric wheel for throwing pieces is a clay-smeared tripod. From there she can easily photograph or video her process, which she shares with her nearly 60,000 Instagram followers.
"It's so they get the idea of how much work goes into [my artwork]," says Rumsey. Sharing her process also helps her build relationships with customers — and potential customers — she says. "You value things more when you feel you know the person."
Rumsey's interest in art dates back to her childhood in Ohio. She became enamored of glass through her grandfather, who was president of Corning Glass, as well as from visits to the nearby Toledo Museum of Art, where she took a glass class in high school. Although she pursued glassworking at Bowling Green University, she also studied ceramics.
Her post-collegiate travels took her to New York City, then to upstate New York where she met her husband and also worked at the Omega Institute for Holistic Studies, a nonprofit educational retreat center Rumsey describes as "hippie camp for adults in the woods."
An interest in yoga took her to Costa Rica for teacher training, then to Colorado, where she revived her ceramics studio practice. In 2013 she took advantage of direct selling on new platforms like Etsy and found her niche. In 2016, the couple moved to Idaho Falls, eventually relocating to Coeur d'Alene a few years ago.
Rumsey's home is a reflection of her passions and exuberance for color. The pulsing yellow in a living room painting her grandfather once had in his Corning office is repeated in the kitchen cabinets of her modest cottage-style home. In the dining room, plants and Rumsey's collection of ceramic vessels — hers, but also works of fellow artists — compete for space on light-colored wood shelves against a deep teal wall. An enormous mirror reflects color and light from the window back into the room.
The aesthetic is an artistic cross between midcentury modern and eclectic, but overall it's just very welcoming. That's a vibe she aspires to with her artwork, noting that mugs and other functional ware can become part of one's everyday rituals and are deeply personal.
"I want to create work that makes people feel cozy, intimate, like an old friend," she says.