Sarah Christensen is a ceramic artist and the creative force behind Sarah Christensen Ceramics located in Denver, Colorado. She is known for her highly decorated wheel thrown functional work and ceramic wall pieces.
Please introduce yourself:
I was always encouraged to be an artist, and I always wanted to be one. While I dabbled in lots of mediums as a kid, I didn’t touch clay until high school. Only then, did I really think it could happen. I went to college to blow glass, but after many burns, found clay to be more conducive to how I translated my ideas with my hands. That was all it took, and I’ve been hooked ever since.
How many years have your been working with clay?
I’ve been working in clay 25 years.
Do you have a formal education in clay/art or how did you acquire your skills?
I have a bfa in ceramics from Alfred University, which gave me a great base of knowledge from which to work. I think I am still processing all the info I absorbed there. Since graduation I have been more interested in finding my voice in my work, and have chosen to limit my exposure to new techniques and influences. I love seeing what others are doing, but I get distracted easily and overwhelmed with new ideas which limits my focus.
As a graduate of Alfred’s ceramic program, one of the most respected clay programs in the nation, can you speak to the rigor of the program and how it has prepared you to pursue clay full time in recent years?
Were you ever interested in pursuing a MFA in ceramics?
How do you work (techniques/glazing/firing methods)?
Working on lots of projects at once keeps my day interesting. I throw for part of the day, then switch to handbuilding or sculpting. It is easier on the body to move around, and I don’t get antsy doing the same thing all day. I throw functional ware in porcelain, handbuild slab pots, make decorative wall hangings, and sometimes make attempts at what I call “real art”, but it’s really just playing in the studio.
All my work is very focused on surface decoration. I like simple forms that give me a canvas to use slip, glaze pencils, glaze and stamps, to layer color and image. Soda firing has always been a part of that process. It adds that extra magic to a surface, and it is always a surprise.
We are both members of the Colorado Potters Guild. What does it mean to you to be a member of the guild?
When I joined the guild, I was desperate to have a place to fire, but otherwise I was fine working in solitude. I didn’t realize at first how enriching it would be to have a group of clay friends to talk shop with. These days I am constantly grateful for all the enthusiasm, problem solving and fun that being in this group brings.
We have been firing the soda kiln at the Colorado Potters Guild together with a few others and you lead our firings. What is your philosophy or end goal for a soda firing as it relates to your work since it’s so highly decorated with color and fine line work?
Technically this makes you teacher or instructor by taking the lead in our firings (and you’re good at it). Have you ever thought about teaching classes to other potters or aspiring potters? Why or why not?
People love your functional work and I think your sculptural wall boxes are under appreciated. Would you like to move more into the sculptural realm, or do you enjoy straddling both functional and sculptural?
Who or what inspires you?
I’m loving Danish midcentury pottery right now. But inspiration is everywhere, all the time.
Where can people find you?