Tim works in porcelain and drypoint (intaglio printing on paper). He has hung his hat at RWS off and on between his travels and home studio Downeast since 2017. His first introduction to Running With Scissors was through Maine Craft Association who had sponsored a series of prints that he would produce on his first expedition halfway around the world on a container ship. He only makes prints when he’s on expedition because he can’t fire on a ship. He is, though, usually carrying 100 pounds of fired clay in his backpack for a show in some far flung location. Now, when he returns to the studios it is usually to work in clay. Tim has worked in black and white sgraffito since 2004. He views his pottery as functional, but not in the way that you’d think. The kitchen items serve a functional purpose for everyday use, but they also serve a greater purpose. Making art is a form of documentation for Tim. He documents his travels, his thoughts, and the natural relationships he observes around him, wherever he may be. “I’m making these not to talk about the fact that there are crows or owls that are alive here, but to say the relationship of crows and owls to each other and start flushing out the network of relationships that make up this world out there.” This is important to Tim because sixty percent of the species we grew up with will be extinct by the time the next generation is grown. Those natural relationships are going to change and this is the last chance to capture them. “That is what art has always served. It’s the language that gives us continuity.” Tim’s work is a record of our time. Documenting the natural world with pottery is not new. The material Tim works in lasts tens of thousands of years, and when the black and white are bonded together the message remains intact, so long as the pottery isn’t broken up or ground down. “Clay is our first written language and all it requires is sight and the ability to think abstractly”, and that’s why he uses it. It’s also the language that most closely resembles the way that Tim thinks. He explains that sgraffito was invented at the time when the world started to discover what we now think of as ‘culture’ or ‘civilization’. At that time our written history was on cave walls because we were cave dwellers, “...then all of a sudden there’s social mobility, intermingling, trade. Something started to tie this all together. But you can’t take the cave with you. These cultures were in danger of losing their entire history and the way their history taught them how to live day to day.” Pots are useful and durable and portable, and they are able to convey these instructions, this history, through images
Tim lives off grid Downeast. When he and his former partner started living in the woods there was no internet available to research how to live this way. “It’s not that no one had done it; there were indigenous cultures that had done it for tens of thousands of years. But we didn’t have access to that information.” It was achievable, but it would have been easier if they had had that knowledge. “We no longer face the same challenges in our everyday life because we had someone to tell us how to do it. If you don’t have it, then you’re back to inventing the wheel.” Tim keeps returning to RWS for the community, “There’s just something about pottery and community that I don’t have when I’m at my place and it’s the reason I can do what I do. For the last thirty-thousand years somebody took the time to tell at least one other person what they knew….There was this verbal and artifact history that went back eons....” We can date and track the progression of pottery back tens of thousands of years because the artifacts still exist. We can track the tradition's linear progression and whether it was coming from a specific studio by the potters’ fingerprints and how they made their pots. “Pottery is our longest unbroken physical history. It predates written language by twenty-three thousand years. It is an artifact language.” Just don’t break it. Tim has a show in July at the George Marshall Store Gallery in York. He’ll be at Watershed’s Salad Days event on July 9th. His work is available at Maine Craft Portland, The Good Supply in Pemaquid Point, Exeter Fine Crafts in Exeter, and the Bowersock Gallery in Provincetown, Massachusetts. The majority of his work can be viewed online at timchristensenporcelain.com and @tim.christensen.77 on Instagram.