Take a Chance

Take a Chance

Published on Friday, March 30, 2018. This article appears in the February/March 2018 issue of American Craft Magazine.
Mediums Clay
Author Staff
Tim Christensen Alien Abduction

Tim Christensen, Alien Abduction, 2016, wood-fired porcelain, slip, 14 x 4 x 4 in.

Emily Shaffer

Tim Christensen makes his pottery in a cabin in Roque Bluffs, Maine, which he appreciates for its remote and quiet location. Much of his work is adorned with natural images: owls, kingfishers, fish, wildflowers. Alien Abduction (2017) is an exception. On a 14-inch tall porcelain vessel, images of extraterrestrial beings hover over a metropolis, rendered in Christensen’s usual black and white. Under a sky of dark clouds dotted with stars, flying saucers scan with searchlights, lighting up sectors of a dense city. The gray scale and etched forms recall woodblock printing; the subject, a Hollywood apocalypse flick.

Christensen says Alien Abduction got him “thinking about our definition of what it means to be human. How would that definition stand if we weren’t the smartest, most technologically advanced culture anymore?” This line of thought follows his general view of his craft: clay as a kind of document. “Lately, I’ve been fascinated by the idea of clay objects as functional – not in how they hold liquid or whatever, but in how they hold history.”

Christensen, 49, came to making by a circuitous route. Living in a tent in the Florida Keys after he was laid off from his job selling textbooks, he met some neighbors using clay as ballast in their truck. They gave him some, and, he says, “I started learning to make pinch pots the next day.” Almost 20 years later, Christensen supports himself selling his wares, and he also works as an educator and arts advocate, drawing on his own experience. His first recommendation to students? “Don’t try to plan it all out.”