Posts Tagged ‘pottery’


Arts Learning Grant Recipient

April 9, 2018

Bangor High School

Potter and MALI Teaching Artist Tim Christensen

“Sharks, tarpan migration, stingrays. Canoeing in deeper water while a dolphin gave birth under the boat. No tolerance for being bored. I had something to say. Being a potter let’s me capture information and communicate it in a durable way. In 500 years what do you want someone to know about you, what your life is like in 2018”?

These are some of the stories that teaching artist Tim Christensen shares when he visits classrooms – stories of how he got where he is and how he is living in Maine and working as an artist. He shares why he does what he does and how it came to be. He started out selling text books after majoring in writing in college. But at age 28 after losing his job he took time to consider what he really wanted to do.

Earlier this month I visited Bangor High School while they had Tim working with their students from all three of their art teachers students. The school received a Maine Arts Commission (MAC) Arts Learning grant to provide this opportunity.

Tim makes clay bowls by throwing them on a potter’s wheel and uses the sgraffito process to decorate the pottery. Sgraffito is made by scratching through a surface to reveal the lower layer of contrasting color.

I’ve visited Tim in action in other classrooms and its always interesting to see where he is in his development as an artist and as a teacher. The Maine Arts Leadership Initiative (MALI) is pleased to have Tim as a Teaching Artist Leader and on the Maine Arts Commission Teaching Artist roster. It is clear from the teacher and student responses that Tim did a fabulous job and impacted students and teachers during during his four days at the school.


Tim Christensen was such a refreshing presence in our classroom. His knowledge, skills, talent, creativity and energy inspired our students to create truly unique artwork. I learned so much from him in just a few days and I am hoping to get him to come back and work with my classes again.

He is a great story teller and he really took an interest in the students’ artwork. They really responded to him personally.

Working with a professional artist is such a valuable experience to give to our youth. It helps them to see fine art as a viable career and exposes them to a whole new way of working and caliber of work. Often high school teachers, like myself, become a sort of jack of all trades because of the amount of time we spend teaching and preparing different lessons. A professional artist has the luxury to focus which raises their production and craftsmanship –  it is wonderful to be able to expose the students to someone who works in this way.


  • I enjoyed working with a professional artist because it’s broadening who we learn from. It was cool working with someone who makes and sells art for a living.
  • I learned that quality is better than quantity. I would love to work with this artist again.
  • I enjoyed that Tim took the time to teach us individually and took interest in our art. I also enjoyed the story he told us about sailing across the Pacific ocean.
  • It makes us realize that there are artists out there that make a living from their art. It broadens our outlook on art and gives us perspective of art in the real world.
  • It was inspiring to hear someone’s personal story of how they became a professional potter.
  • I learned about creating sgraffito that tells a story on pottery. I would love to learn more about throwing with Tim Christensen.
  • I liked hearing about Tim’s life story and how he started art. He had many interesting views on art and how he saw the world because of his art. His art itself was incredible, and I had never heard of the techniques he used.
  • Having a Teaching Artist in the classroom can further your understanding of a subject to have someone that is specialized in that art. They can inspire students with their story and give hands on advice.
  • It helped me to see what it would be like to be a professional artist.
  • I enjoyed it because I got to work with a professional on my favorite subject.
  • I learned that there were more than just the few art styles that I’ve learned about over the years so far.
  • I learned how to do sgraffito and that sometimes you don’t need to work from an immediate drawing, you can just start from nothing and keep going from there.
  • It allows you to explore ideas and techniques you might not normally do.  It allows you to learn from them, and hear their stories and get new ideas.  It dispels the idea that artists are unapproachable. It allows you to see other career options beyond lawyer, doctor, teacher, etc.
  • Working with a professional artist was really nice and eye opening to see what his type of life is like. He was a really good artist that was super different from any work that we’ve done in school but it was really eye opening. He was really nice and helped me personally open my eyes to doing different work that was outside my comfort zone.
  • Tim Christensen taught me to step outside my comfort zone and to realize that when I think I’m done with an art piece, if there is still open space on my work, then I am not done. He helped me make my work better and was overall a good teacher.
  • He was an excellent teacher, and had a thoughtful answer to everything we asked.


Many of our students want to become professional artists, but it is a scary thought for them and even their parents to survive as an artist. It is really nice for them to see a Maine artist that is successful at what he does! Tim was able to introduce new and different techniques to many different classes, and offer opportunity for ceramic works to classes that would never get a chance to experience that. Every opportunity students have can open new doors for them.

Tim’s stories about his travels around the world set it apart from other artists that have spoken to our students. His travels and stories connect to the art that he creates, so the students can hear and see the stories at the same time.

We had teachers from other departments visit while he was presenting and even had the opportunity to create their own work with him. They were as engaged as the students.

Students were so impressed with how incredible his work was they were captured by him at the very beginning. It was nice to be “on the outside” and see the students entire conceptual process with the art and see how they react to someone else. It provides you with insight in how students understand and comprehend what is being taught.


The quality of the contact between Tim and the students was outstanding, and he brought great energy to his visit. Technique sharing is one thing, but interacting with a practicing artist in the way that our students were able to is quite another– and will have a lasting impact on them.


I see my value as a teaching artist to be manifold. I create connective tissue in the arts education field by helping people to network, and by connecting art teachers working on the same ideas. I also can bring specialized knowledge into the classroom, whether it be about natural history, technical clay knowledge, or professional and funding opportunities. For the students, I am a fresh face with no baggage, someone who is working in the field of fine art, and is very comfortable sharing all of my professional knowledge. I also provide a platform from which the students can speak and be heard, by stressing the communicative, content bearing parts of any art project.

I very much enjoy teaching the sgraffito technique as a communication tool that transcends culture and/or time. In a way, sgraffito was the original emoji. I urge the students to think about what they would like to say to someone five hundred years hence, and to create artwork that is capable of doing that. I am successful when I have empowered students to speak using their visual voice and to create from a place that is uniquely theirs, confident that they will be heard and that what they have to say matters in the global conversation about our world.


Watershed Center for Ceramic Arts

June 15, 2013

Newcastle, Maine

A SimpsonEver wonder what they do at the Watershed Center for the Ceramic Arts in Newcastle? This blog post provides you with information on the mid-coast facility. Watershed was established in 1986 with a dual purpose: to provide time and space for clay artists and to promote education and awareness regarding ceramic arts among the general public.

Twenty-six years later, over 1,200 artists from across the nation and abroad have experienced residencies at Watershed. During their 2-week residencies, artists live on our 32-acre facility in rural, mid-coast Maine, with room, board and 24/7 access to studio space provided. Without the distractions of day-to-day living, they are able to focus on their art and allow their creative energies to explore the medium anew.

Traveling clay program

Maine art teachers in Maine may know about Watershed through our “Mudmobile” programs.  The “Mudmobile” is a traveling ceramics resource center in a van that provides engaging experiences working in clay to schools, community centers and senior citizen facilities.  Thousands of young people and adults around the state have experienced clay through Mudmobile programs, including public events such as the Common Ground Fair, for over 15 years!

Mudmobile instructors are professional artists who share their joy of working in clay with students and community members. Watershed instructors partner with the host site to create a lesson plan that ties into the needs of each program.  The focus is on process not just product, with clay lessons that connect to science, math, history or cultural studies.

Our fun and educational ceramic projects are designed to introduce children and adults to historical uses of clay, current art making in clay, Maine’s geology and environmental stewardship. The materials used in Mudmobile classes make use of Maine’s natural resources. Students use glacial marine clay with food-safe, nontoxic glazes.

If you are interested in having the Mudmobile visit your school contact Watershed to reserve a program by contacting Fran Rudoff, Executive Director of Watershed by emailing her at

Community Presentations: Upcoming Events and Opportunities

Crowds w_ food 2Watershed also strives to provide opportunities for Maine residents and visitors to experience and appreciate ceramic art in all its forms.  Resident artists share and demonstrate their work in public venues during the summer and fall months.  Our annual “signature” summer event, Salad Days, gives local residents the chance to enjoy a variety of pottery, incredible local food, lively music, conversations with neighbors and resident artists, and a lot of good fun.

Salad Days: July 13 – Visit Watershed and learn about programs first-hand.  Join us for Salad Days 2013!  Relax to live music while eating lunch under a shady tent at flower-laden tables.  A $35 donation to Watershed (which supports our programming!) entitles you to a handmade salad plate created by ceramic artist Tess Stilwell and the chance to enjoy a buffet of salads (locally grown produce, prepared by Watershed artists and local restaurants). After eating, visit resident artists’ studios and explore Watershed’s thirty-two acres of art-filled meadows, woods, gardens, and the neighboring sheep farm.  Potters and ceramic artists will be on-site performing demos and visitors of all ages may try working with clay.

Concurrent with Salad Days, Watershed will also be hosting our annual Invitational Pottery Sale, along with a Serving Bowl Exhibit. Shop for unusual and lively works of art made by ceramic artists from around the country.

Finally, appraiser Jane Prentiss, of Skinner Auctioneers and Appraisers, will be at Watershed providing appraisals for consignment.  Find out what your antiques, art, and collectables are worth.  For details, visit our appraisal event page.  Please note that advance sign up is necessary.

Artist Presentations: June 19 and July 30 – Watershed is partnering with the Harlow Gallery in Hallowell (and the Kennebec Valley Arts Association) to host public presentations and receptions for ceramic artists who are in residence at Watershed this summer!

June 19 features Patti Warashina, Carol Guthro and Peter Olsen from Seattle, who will be sharing their distinct styles and aesthetic perspectives.

July 30 features Eva Campagne from Montana and Amanda Small from North Carolina.  Their session is entitled, “N.E.W.”  Nature. Eight. Ways.  While at Watershed, they will be investigating repetition and patterns in the natural world and how it inspires, influences and forms the way they work with clay.

Fall Workshop: September 27-29  Join Thaddeus J (TJ) Erdahl for a beautiful weekend at Watershed! You can explore creating figurative sculptures that imply a sense of personal history. The technical focus will be on developing rich surface layers. Demonstrations will deal with the entire surface process from leather-hard slip and engobe application techniques to post bisque water erosion, sanding procedures, and wash application. Pieces will be finished with post firing heat set encaustic and wax procedures. Test tiles and pinched mini test “heads” will be used for further surface experimentation. Participants need to bring a small leather hard sculpture. Work will be fired to 04. All levels are welcome!!

To learn more about registration and details please go to:

Boys at work


Teacher and Students Collaborate

May 29, 2011

Maine Scholar Leader Dinner

This post was written by and photographs taken by Lisa Gilman, art teacher from Winthrop Middle School.

Attending the Maine Association for Middle Level Education (MAMLE) conference every Fall gives me a morale boost about working with middle school students. At one of the conferences I learned about the Maine Scholar Leader Dinner.  The event happens annually each Spring and Maine middle schools are invited to send two students for recognition.  I learned that the two students contend for the one table favor. In a moment of sentiment, I offered to make pottery for each of the 80 students. That was two years ago and 160 pots later.

Seeing all the work has generated interest from students in my own school. They want to know how they can get this coveted recognition. This year, on the next day after the banquet, the students representing my school let me know  how thrilled they were about the recognition. They couldn’t wait to tell me which color pottery they had taken home.

I throw all the pottery and my middle school students glaze them. After the work is glazed I use a glaze pen and write the words, “Laugh, Dream, Create, Imagine” on each piece. I include a card with a poem with the following for each student.

Laugh today

Dream for tomorrow

Create without worry

Imagine your possibilities

%d bloggers like this: