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Internationally renowned ceramic artist and teacher Paul Soldner passed away of natural causes on Monday, January 3, after a long interval of failing health. He was 89 years old. His free spirit and open-mindedness made him a well-respected and admired individual by many in the artistic community, and he will be deeply missed.
Soldner, who began college as a pre-med student, developed an interest in the arts after returning from his service in World War II. After receiving degrees in art education and arts administration, he taught art in public schools for eight years before deciding to become a potter.
Soldner earned an master’s of fine arts degree from the Los Angeles County Art Institute in 1956, and he went on to spend the next 38 years of his life as a professor of ceramics in California. As an artist, Soldner truly tested the boundaries of modern ceramics. In fact, he is considered by many to be the principal developer of the American raku pottery technique. This distinctive style involves hand-molding a piece of clay, firing it at lower-than-normal temperatures, and immediately quenching it in a combustible material (such as paper or sawdust) once it is removed from the kiln. Because the object is rapidly cooled in a solid material (rather than water), its exterior acquires a unique sheen or finish that cannot be predicted in advance.
Beyond his personal creations, Soldner made other significant contributions to the ceramic industry as well. He built and patented his own potter's wheels and mixing tubs (which are still available for purchase from suppliers), and he helped to create the Anderson Ranch Arts Center in Snowmass Village, Colo., in 1968. The center continues to function in 2011 as a community space in which students and artists can collaborate in a variety of classes and workshops.
To learn more about Paul Soldner and his creative perspectives, visit www.paulsoldner.com. An observance of his memory will be held at the upcoming 2011 NCECA Conference, and Anderson Ranch Arts Center will be holding a commemoration to honor Soldner's life in June. For more information about these events, visit www.nceca.net or www.andersonranch.org.