Friday Interview: Christian Tonsgard! July 29, 2011 16:19

Happy Friday, everyone! This week I'd like to introduce you to local artist, Christian Tonsgard. Christian is a ceramic artist, whose beautiful pieces have found their way into many homes around Rhode Island. Read on to learn more about Christian and what it's like to work with clay. Have a great weekend, everyone!  

Please introduce yourself and tell us about your handmade business?
My name is Christian Tonsgard, I received my BFA from RISD in 2005 and my Masters of Fine Arts from Arizona State University in 2009 I currently teach ceramics at the Community College of Rhode Island. I consider myself a studio artist/designer. The slash is actually a very important part to me, in my work I strive to walk the line between craft and design. I make my work in the hopes that at first glance you think it is mass-produced but with further inspection you realize that it is hand made and one of a kind.

Describe your studio for us.
My studio is my sanctuary. I seldom invite customers in. It is my laboratory, a safe place where I can make as many bad pots as I want and no one will ever know. It is a place where I have total control. Plus it usually is really messy and if I have people coming over then I have to clean.

As someone who also teaches ceramics, what's your favorite part about teaching your art?
I think it is the “Aha” moment. When the student breaks through the frustration of not being able to work with the material and gets it for a moment. It is at that moment that they see hope and potential within themselves and the medium. It becomes very addictive at that point, that is how I got into working with clay.

What do you love about working in ceramics?
There are many things, but what sticks out the most is the fact that I am creating objects that people relate with on multiple levels. There is the first initial attraction and there is the long-term relationship that people form with pots. People are very particular about the type of pots they use and it is very flattering to me when they choose to develop a relationship with mine.

What do you like to do when you need a shot of inspiration?
I remind myself of the path I have taken to get here. I have been working with clay for 14 years and there have been many high points and some low points. I think about what I did to rise out of the low points and how incredibly amazing it felt. If that does not work, turn up the music and lock the doors.

What does handmade mean to you?
Attention to detail. There are many beautiful mass-produced objects out there, but what separates them from us (aside from volume) are the little details that get sacrificed in bulk orders. Handmade is about a direct relationship between maker and customer.

How did you first become involved with Craftland?
I have known about Craftland for a long time, but did not really know who or how to get involved. I was doing the RISD alumni sale one year and was talking to the woman next to me. I think the conversation went something like this:
Me: Hey do you know anything about Craftland?
Woman: Actually yes my name is Devienna, I work at Craftland, it is a great place, would you be interested in putting work there?
Me: Definitely!
It has been a match made in heaven ever since.

Guilty pleasure.
Food, I am a foodie and not afraid to say it. My other form of inspiration is food. When I am working on a project and hit a wall, I like to go out and partake in a good meal, sometimes fancy sometimes down and dirty. That is how I view my work, it can be for elegant occasions or for everyday use.