Tim Christensen lives and works in Roque Bluffs, Maine. He is a ceramic artist working primarily in sgraffito, an author, educator, and environmentalist, and has been working in porcelain since 2004. Many of his iconic black and white etchings depict the intricate relationships found in the natural places of the world.
What Maine Craft Means to Me
by Tim Christensen, Ceramic Artist and MCA Member
with video thanks to Hero Media Arts
Craft allows us to reach across vast distances of time, space, culture, and language to communicate to those who use the objects we make.
Sgraffito, my discipline, predates written language and was developed at a time when the world needed to record information, needed to adapt to the seemingly limitless concept of culture. We need craft, now more than ever, to maintain our physical connection to the earth, to wood, to fiber, to paper, and to the craftspeople who craft objects from them. We need craft now to bridge cultural, language, geographical, and technological divides. We figured this out millennia ago.
It’s a great honor to create work for the most intimate, mundane, foundational experiences of eating, drinking, wearing, handling, and adorning. Within this, there is an opportunity, and for me, a responsibility, to judge my work not only on craftsmanship, but also on content. Porcelain, on which I etch, lasts as long as quartz, and the information I scribe into it will persist until it is ground under a glacier or melted in a volcano. I am responsible for what I say with my sgraffito for its lifetime.
Craft has given me a voice. Using nothing but a stick, a nail, and mud, I’m able to speak over millennia to anyone or anything with an eyeball and the ability to think abstractly. This is perhaps true in no other profession. It is our oldest way of communicating over time, and still our longest lasting. I can say everything I need to say using my craft.
Teaching craft is my pleasure and duty. Until this very moment in time, my craft was largely open concept and word of mouth, yet vibrant and alive as a living historical record for the last 30,000 years. I’m able to speak about my world because every potter before me took the time to teach someone what they knew, what they had learned. It is fundamentally important to me that craft means teaching and learning, means apprenticeship and mentorship, means recognizing that I really don’t own anything that I know, and therefore it’s worthless unless I give it away freely.
Craft means freedom. A life of craft means a life of creation, means the ability to create a life I love, in all its textures, from nothing but mud, rocks, fire, and time. I have been so fortunate in this life, and am so thankful for all of the craftspeople who helped me, saw me, mentored me, listened to me, bought from me, sought me out, and believed in me.
What Maine Craft Means to Me Essay Series invites you to explore the many intersections and layers of craft, people and time in Maine through the words of those with deep connections to our state and our field.
The Maine Crafts Association is a 501(c)(3) non-profit arts organization supporting craft artists by providing educational, marketing and retail opportunities. Our ability to accomplish our mission and help artists thrive is reliant on individual contributions.