The Work I Need

 

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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.

 

 

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Michelle

I lived the first 30 years of my life in Maine. Then I moved to North Carolina where I lived for 22 years. Always, I have grown and preserved food, practiced yoga and meditation, and have lived a life close to nature, spending as much time outdoors as possible. I am educated, with degrees, but the most important part of my story is that I am trying to live the life I want.

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