When does an artist say they have had enough?
I hope it doesn’t happen to me.
If I threw clay at a wheel and had to massage it before that and then move pots and such to a kiln and then take it out and store it before carting it to a venue to show and sell, I would be worn out.
I will stick to painting thank you – miniatures.
Potters are special and pottery has an impact.
“Eric Christenson, Potter and English Teacher
Arlington Art Examiner
“It is only in the world of objects that we have time and space and selves.” T. S. Eliot
I sat at his kitchen table today with Eric Christenson and began my interview by blurting a question burning in my mind since his telling me in an email that he was giving up pottery.
Why would you give up your art?
He replied matter of fact that it was his shoulder hurting as he rotated it demonstrating some wincing pain.
Of course, throwing clay at a wheel and doing all that it takes in preparation to get the bubbles out of clay before it can be used is hard physical effort.
He’s retired, though still substitutes teaching as he had just returned from morning class.
His wife Linda stopped by the kitchen and offered tea. She is a filmographer and can be another story as they both worked on a film that aired on Public Broadcasting about the Marshall Plan.
When I asked to meet with Eric and Linda I was reflecting on the fact that these two people who met in college at Colorado State University are intellectuals and community assets.
I asked him when he took up pottery and he said that it was in 1971 in Colorado when he took classes in the subject.
“… As I was getting an MA in English, it occurred to me that my pottery teachers taught by demonstrating. The same was true of my ski instructors—but not true of my English teachers. When I came back to continue teaching high school English, I ran my composition lessons modeled after my pottery classes—workshops. I wrote the assignments with the students, and we all shared.
That process was helpful, I think, to my students and to me. It helped me to shape the lessons and made me a better writer. In the 80s I was published in the English Journal and a few other journals, and then after I retired I wrote a lot—a script for a little documentary about social work, for example, and, with Linda, a permanent exhibit in our Paris Embassy, some speeches, etc.
It began with pottery lessons,” added Eric.
I looked out the window to their patio and there sat a kiln. He said he built that kiln and used it diligently to produce ceramic products. He described his daily routine for years that involved getting up very early morning and working a couple of hours with clay before school started.
He produced hundreds of pieces that he would eventually sell at the Waterford VA art fair. That was his most productive venue.
Now, he can only produce a few pieces a year and that doesn’t warrant firing up the kiln. It costs money to get a kiln sufficiently hot for firing clay.
For the past couple of years he has enjoyed collaborating and working fellow potters at the Lees Arts Center.
We talked about what a community like Arlington County VA can do to help artists. Having mentioned the Waterford Virginia venue, it reminded me that Arlington could host such activity maybe at one of the public parks. We have events now, but perhaps we need more public interaction locally in addition to outreach beyond the community.
He agrees that the quality of the local potters and artists is quite good. Artists can be a rallying point for economic development.
Eric gave to me a tour of his workspace and showed to me some of his work. They will be collector items in the future.
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