Thursday, December 30, 2010

It is with great sadness that I am writing to tell you that Paul died this morning at home in Claremont. After spending a wonderful Christmas week together, with my husband, our two children and Pam, Paul started sleeping more and more over the past week and after celebrating making it to 2011, slipped away peacefully two days later.

I will be posting plans for celebrating Pauls life in the next several days. In the meantime please feel free to call friends and share the following.


Paul Soldner, artist and innovator in the field of ceramic art, passed away at the age of 89, at his winter home in Claremont, California, on January 3rd, 2011. His life was one of vision, inspiration and teaching. As a professor at Scripps College and Claremont Graduate University, and through workshops he conducted around the world, he influenced generations of ceramic art students who found in Soldner an artist who was both internationally acclaimed and personally accessible, a teacher who taught not by rule, but by example.

There are those artists who are born into a solid, well-ordered artistic tradition, and create entirely within it. Others deny tradition and work as idiosyncratically as they please. A few, the giants, go on to dominate the tradition they helped bring into being. Paul Soldner was one of these.

Accepted as a major force in the evolution of contemporary ceramic art, Soldner’s career was punctuated by important innovations since the mid 1950s. He is best known as the father of “American Raku” and for his innovation of “low-temperature salt fuming.”

It was Soldner’s openness to the creative accident that led him to the “discovery” of American Raku. “He was invited to demonstrate at a crafts fair in 1960. Using Bernard Leach’s A Potter’s Book, as a guide for traditional Raku, a Japanese technique developed in the 16th century, he set up a simple kiln and improvised a few lead-based glazes. The initial results were disappointing but his fascination with Raku persisted, and Soldner continued to experiment [originating post-fire smoking artwork, now known as American Raku]. He gradually discovered he was more interested in Raku as an aesthetic than as a tradition. This attitude resulted in a much more playful approach to form, scale, function, and material.” (Garth Clark)

As Paul often said, “In the spirit of Raku, there is the necessity to embrace the element of surprise. There can be no fear of losing what was once planned and there must be an urge to grow along with the discovery of the unknown. Make no demands, expect nothing, follow no absolute plan, be secure in change, learn to accept another solution and, finally, prefer to gamble on your own intuition.”

Born in Summerfield, Illinois on April 24, 1921, Soldner hadn’t planned to be an artist: he started out as a pre-med student, then enlisted into the Army Medical Corps as a conscientious objector, serving with Patton’s 3rd Army at the Battle of the Bulge. His unit was one of the first to encounter concentration camp survivors fleeing the infamous Mauthausen Concentration Camp in Austria as the camp was liberated. Confronting the horror of the Holocaust face-to-face eventually ignited in Soldner a passion to create beauty through art. He started with an interest in photography, but at the age of 33, Soldner decided to become a potter. He headed for the Los Angeles County Art Institute, and became Peter Voulkos’s first student, earning an MFA in 1956.

At Otis, Soldner explored creating monumental “floor pots,” or sculptures, which stood up to eight feet in height, often with expressionistically painted areas on the forms. It was also at Otis that he designed and ultimately began the manufacture of the Soldner potters wheels and clay mixers that became Soldner Pottery Equipment Inc.

In 1957, Soldner began teaching at Scripps College and the Claremont Graduate University, in addition to curating the now famous Scripps Ceramic Annual exhibition for 37 years.

Throughout his career, Soldner’s artwork often mirrored contemporary issues and ideas expressed by using culturally familiar shapes impressed on three-dimensional sculptures or on two-dimensional wallpieces. Soldner’s artwork has been collected by major museums worldwide and exhibited in the United States, Europe, Canada, Latvia, Japan, Taiwan, Korea, and Australia.

In 1957, Soldner and his wife, Ginny, began building their home and studio by hand in Aspen, Colorado. The principle that architecture should improve with age directed his designs. To that end, he used rocks and wood native to the area. The Soldner compound was one of the first in the area to acknowledge environmental concerns by using the sun’s energy with solar power for heating. In the 1960s, while living in Aspen, he co-founded Anderson Ranch Arts Center in Snowmass Village, Colorado.

Paul had a passion for life and enjoyed the pleasures of living, including making his own wine and jewelry, growing bonsai, and designing hot tubs for himself and friends.

He wrote numerous articles and two books, Nothing to Hide, and Kilns and Their Construction. Soldner has been the subject of three documentary films and is listed in Marquis Who’s Who in America, American Art, and the World.

Paul Soldner leaves behind his daughter Stephanie Soldner Sullivan, his son-in-law Garrett Sullivan, grandchildren Colin and Madelyn Sullivan; and his sister Louise Farling.

In lieu of flowers, please consider contributing to:

The Paul Soldner Endowment at Scripps College
1030 Columbia Avenue
Claremont, CA 91711
Paul and Ginny Soldner Scholarship Fund at Anderson Ranch Art Center
PO Box 5598
Snowmass, CO 81615

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Happy Solstice everyone!

The day after tomorrow is the shortest day of the year...

Paul has had a wonderful fall. After returning from Aspen he regained some strength and enthusiasm for living. He enjoyed visitors, watching the birds outside his window and basking in the mellowing sun in our backyard from time to time. Now the days have shortened, portending winter and a need to hibernate and Paul is feeling it too. He has returned to sleeping more and more and tires easily. As always he is not in pain and seems content.

We feel so fortunate that Paul has been able to remain at home surrounded by people who know and love him. We continue to enjoy and appreciate each day together.

My family, Garrett, Colin, Madelyn and I are in Claremont for the holidays with Paul and Pam. We are staying close to home, baking, watching movies, playing Paul's favorite music and hanging out.

On December 21st the sun begins a rebirth, returning to the Northern Hemisphere and lighting up our lives again. We hope you are also able to savor time with loved ones and welcome the lengthening days!


Stephanie and all

Friday, October 15, 2010

Greetings all,

I thought it was time to check in and let everyone know Paul seems to be doing fine in Claremont. He remains bedridden, sleeping a lot, and content. Kathy was in Claremont with Dad for two weeks in September/October which they both enjoyed.

We've put up several bird feeders and a bird bath outside of his window which he really enjoys watching - even the local squirrels have gotten into the act as they try every conceivable tactic to get to the feeders....

All is well,

Steph and Pam

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Well, today, Saturday Sept 18th we are back in Claremont. Paul's trip to Aspen is in the rear-view and it feels a little incredible that we pulled it off; and a little sad that it is over.

While in Aspen Dad really seemed to enjoy gazing at the beautiful fall colors and soaking up the warm mellow sunshine through the open orange doors a few feet from his bed, with Zorro keeping him company curled up between his legs. Paul slept most of Monday and Tuesday recovering from the party on Sunday, and unfortunately, he began to feel the effects of the high altitude. It was a good thing we were not staying any longer than one week. Wednesday evening, the night before leaving, was really special when Sandy and Mary Lynn Munro and Garrett (my husband) played guitar, upright base and autoharp for Paul. He would watch for awhile, then close his eyes and drift off for a bit, then contentedly watch again before dozing off once more...a very sweet send off!

Paul is very tired and sleeping a lot now, but hopefully fulfilled....

Steph and Pam

Sunday, September 12, 2010


We are in Aspen! A couple of weeks ago I realized Dad was continuing to "pine" for our home in Aspen. Paul was not able to go home for the summer because of the high altitude and the lack of good hospice care; there are only a few caregivers who serve 600 square miles!

So after talking with Pam and a close friend Gregory, we decided that between the three of us, we could take Paul to Aspen for 1 week. We began making plans to take Paul Home. I rented an RV from Cruise America, we got all of Paul's medical ducks in a row and Pam in her amazing way, organized Paul's daily routine for travel. Gregory is a professional driver and has been helping to get Paul out of bed, so he would be our driver while Pam and I would tend to Paul. With the help of Kirk, T and John in Claremont, we managed to depart August 9th at 7:30 PM with Paul in a reclining bed that Gregory ingeniously devised using a blow up mattress and pump to raise and lower the head of the bed in the RV. It worked beautifully, making it easy for Paul to lie back and sleep, or sit up to drink his smoothies. We drove through the desert during the evening and arrived in Mesquite around 1:30AM, slept til 9:00AM and were on the road by noon after dealing with a blown fuse in the RV. We arrived in Aspen around 11:00 PM. Another good friend, Sam helped us get Paul out of the RV and into bed. Paul was HOME.

Saturday was spent resting, with Zorro his cat by his side much of the time. By Sunday afternoon Paul was surrounded by a gathering of his close Aspen friends, laughing, eating, drinking, sharing stories, making connections...he smiled happily, dozed off from time to time and had a lovely day.

Today he is resting comfortably and sleeping a lot. We hope to get him out of bed and into his wheelchair later so he can enjoy the rest of our home.

We will see what Tuesday and Wednesday bring, Thursday we leave to drive back to Claremont arriving by Friday afternoon.

So far this trip has been everything we could have hoped for.

Steph, Pam and Gregory

Monday, August 30, 2010

Greetings All,

I realize it has been weeks since I have updated Paul's blog, and not much has changed. He continues to hang in there, in good spirits and sleeping quite a bit. We are able to get Dad out of bed from time to time, and wheel him to the backyard where he really enjoys some sunshine and looking at his bonsai while chatting with his nurses or a close friend who may have come by for a brief visit...thanks for your thoughts and energy.

Stephanie and Pam

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Hi everyone,

Wanted to let you know that Paul is still hanging in there. Kathy left July 3rd after a good visit with Paul.

Right now he has good days and bad days. We never know how each day will go, which is why I have written so seldom. Just when we think there is a pattern we can rely on, something changes...and so it goes.

Steph and Pam

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Hey there everyone,

Just wanted to let you all know Paul is basically unchanged from a couple of weeks ago. When he is awake he has been watching Wimbledon tennis with Kathy and listening to the nurses that care for him discuss the World Cup teams, otherwise CNN still fills the remainder of the day. We are usually able to get him out of bed once a week for a short time, but it wears him out. Paul's spirit is still good and he is peaceful. All the best to you,

Steph, Kathy and Pam

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Hello all,

It has been quite awhile since I have written because Paul remains basically unchanged. He is still sleeping a lot (around 22 hours a day) because his heart is weak, but is awake for around a 1/2 hour several times a day. When he is awake he conversant, coherent and still has a sense of humor from time to time. His diet has expanded to include chocolate or fresh strawberry milkshakes. The best news is that Kathy Koop is here for several weeks. Paul is definitely being well cared for!

Love, Steph, Pam and Kathy

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Hi there everyone,

Today was a big day. Paul continues to rest a lot and his pneumonia seems to be minimal. So two male nurses came and lifted Paul out of bed and into his wheelchair. We wheeled him into the kitchen where he sipped some broth and a little beer for around a half hour. That was clearly enough; as soon as he was back in bed he was sleeping soundly. We have wonderful caregivers who are professional, kind and good humored.

Love, Steph and Pam

Friday, May 14, 2010

Greetings everyone,

I have not written for awhile because Paul remains unchanged. He seems to have beaten back the pneumonia but his heart is weak and he does not have any stamina. He is sleeping a lot and is not in any pain.

He is in good spirits most of the time when he is awake. That's when he may enjoy a little butter pecan ice cream (without the pecans), some broth, flat beer or o.j. with gin from time to time...then off to sleep again...

Take care,


Friday, May 7, 2010

Good morning all,

It has been a few days so I thought an update would be nice.

Paul remains mostly unchanged. The good news is he seems to have gotten over a cough that had developed last week. He sleeps a lot, is comfortable and still enjoys a little fun. Yesterday morning Pam peaked into his room and saw that Paul was awake with the covers pushed down to expose his stomach. She said, "good morning hon!" then went to his bedside and gave him a "razberry" which elicited a smile and chuckle....Life right now is calm, gentle and good.

Your thoughts and comments are appreciated.


Monday, May 3, 2010

To Paul's friends

Over the past several weeks, many of you have been thinking of & asking about Paul.

In the interest of clarity here is an update from Stephanie, Paul's daughter:

"As you probably know Paul has pneumonia & turned 89 on April 24th. He is bedridden & tires very easily. At one point recently I thought he might be able to accept a few visitors. I was mistaken. Although he rallies while visitors are with him, it is at a huge cost to him later. Therefore I have decided it is time to stop accepting any visitors. I appreciate all of your good thoughts. The most loving thing you can do now is give him a peaceful time at home with me, Pam & our hospice nurses".

Because it is impossible to respond to each of you individually, we will keep you all updated from time to time. Please spread the word amongst mutual friends.

Thank you for understanding.

Love, Stephanie