When Robbi Portela bakes a chicken casserole, she serves it in a stoneware casserole dish decorated with quirky red chickens. Drinking coffee or tea requires a mug with rabbits, skunks or crows on it.

Portela is a potter who lives on a 50-acre farm and B&B in Windsor, and her work is inspired by the animals she’s befriended there over the years. Portela and her husband Bill raised two children on the farm along with a menagerie of pigs, sheep, cows, chicken and horses. Now that the children have flown the coop, the couple shares the land with just two horses and a flock of Araucana chickens. They also see their fair share of wildlife – both animals that wander through their woods, pasture or orchards, and the woodland creatures that Bill Portela occasionally cares for as a wildlife rehabilitator.

Take, for example, the abandoned baby raccoons that some “church ladies” brought to the farm one day.

“They needed to be bottle-fed every four hours,” Robbi Portela recalled. “They just ended up being so fun. They were a lot of work, but they were amazing creatures with their little hands.”

The raccoons ended up on, among other things, Portela’s stoneware bowls. A visiting skunk they named Violet became the star of a mug. “She wasn’t as friendly as the raccoons,” Portela said, “but she was a sweet little skunk.”

Portela works in a studio in the ell of her 1800s-era home, and she maintains a gallery in the big barn. In addition to her dishware, Portela makes small, freestanding figurines of the same farm animals and wildlife that adorn her plates, bowls and mugs. She began making those one Christmas shortly after they moved to the farm, when they were in debt and didn’t have much money for Christmas presents. Portela made an entire set of farm animals for her husband that year.

Today, she uses those pieces to “fill in” empty spaces in the kiln, and sometimes she combines them with her pottery. Her deviled egg plate is decorated with her red chickens, but a few 3-D chicken figurines also stand around on the plate.


Portela sells her work at Portland Pottery and the Maine Potters Market in Portland, where her skunk mugs have proven particularly popular.

“I can’t believe how many people love skunks, or they have a skunk story,” Portela said.

Mugs cost $30 apiece. Square dipping bowls range from $14 to $18, and the chicken casserole sells for $52.

Her Maple Lane Pottery can also be found at her Etsy.com shop, Lisa-Marie’s Made in Maine in Bath, and an annual pop-up Holiday Pottery Shop in Hallowell held from mid-November through Christmas Eve. Portela will hold an annual holiday show from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Nov. 25-26 at Maple Lane Pottery, 36 Greeley Road, Windsor.

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