Part of having the life I want includes spending time creating. I write, thus the blog, but since 1998, work in clay remains my most skilled but neglected creative outlet. For four years, I refrained from this work, while caring for a small Botanical Garden in Coastal North Carolina. After my return to my family, and to Maine, I sought another “full-time job.” I missed a couple by just a hair, with prolific encouragement to apply for other positions up and coming in two organizations. Then, I took that as a sign. Various people had encouraged me to visit Cobscook Community Learning Center in nearby Edmunds township, just six miles away. When I finally did, my focus changed.
In Downeast Maine, progress is by degrees. Since I moved away from here 19 years ago, little has changed and the population increased from 350 to 487. So when I visited the Center and imagined teaching my creative skill again, well, I enjoyed that dream. Classes have been advertised. As you can imagine, with a population of 487 in my town, and a Washington County population of roughly 33,000, these classes are slow to materialize. And that is okay with me.
When I first visited the studio, there were few signs of life. It was disheveled and lacked fine-tuned organization. I thought it was too small for teaching classes. There were too few wheels and a smaller, older kiln. There were not enough shelves. I created all manner of excuses why this would not work. I visited a few times, cleaned and re-organized, and then sort of gave up when students did not materialize.
Then, Tim Christensen appeared. He had been scheduled to give a pottery intensive workshop at CCLC for some time. Tim is a devoted, highly developed artist with a profound statement regarding our disregard for the natural world, a philosophy I share. The session was expensive for me after not having worked for months, but I received a generous scholarship from the school and decided to attend.
How can I describe what it meant to me? There were only six students present at a time. We varied in age, ability and goals. Tim gleaned our skill levels and backgrounds and he taught us accordingly. For me, two parts were key: learning his sgraffito technique and seeing that pots can thrive without a gas kiln, and hearing how he sells work online. He gave generously of his expertise, and he encouraged everyone. I never heard one negative comment from him the whole weekend about ceramics or life in general. His positivity professional wisdom made for a productive weekend and truly, it inspired me to go into high gear with my creative work.
The next week, I appeared at the studio every day, manifesting a vision of success and productivity. In five short weeks, I created a significant volume of work. I practiced a new, thoroughly enjoyable technique and am beginning to make it my own. I created a website and an online store. I tested glazes and slips and refurbished kiln shelves. Two people have spoken to me about serious interest in classes, and I sense that the more I work and model the opportunity, the more people will materialize. I have prepared the studio and written lesson plans. Five short weeks after the workshop, I am ready to teach. Wow. Thank you Tim Christensen for giving so much of yourself, and for bringing me back to creative life. I am forever grateful to you and to Cobscook Community Learning Center. Mission accomplished for all.