Soldner is an American ceramic artist, noted for his experimentation with the 16th-century Japanese technique called raku introducing new methods of firing and post firing, which became known as American Raku. Soldner, who served as an army medic during World War II, began to pursue a career in art upon returning to the United States. He earned degrees in art education and art administration from Bluffton College and the University of Colorado, then turned his attention to ceramics. He focused first on functional pottery. In 1954, Soldner became Peter Voulkos' first student in the nascent ceramics department at the Los Angeles County Art Institute (now the Otis College of Art and Design). As Soldner helped his teacher establish the program, he made several changes to the studio pottery equipment, which lead to him founding Soldner Pottery Equipment Corp. In 1955, to market his inventions, he held seven patents related to pottery equipment. After receiving his MFA in ceramics in 1956, Soldner began teaching at Scripps College. In the 1960s Soldner helped found Anderson Ranch Arts Center in Snowmass Colorado. He was also involved in starting the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts. Soldner developed a type of low-temperature salt firing. Along with Voulkos, Soldner has been credited with creating the "California School" of ceramic arts by combining Western materials and technology with Japanese techniques and aesthetics. While teaching at Scripps College, Soldner organized the Scripps Ceramics Annual - a nationally recognized ceramic exhibition. In addition, as a result of his lifelong friendship with ceramic collectors Fred and Mary Marer, Scripps became the fortunate recipient of the extensive Marer Collection of Contemporary Ceramics. In 1990, Scripps received an NEA Grant to research and organize and exhibition titled, "Paul Soldner:A Retrospective'" that travelled throughout the United States. Soldner retired from Scripps in 1991. Soldner lived and maintained studios in Aspen, Colorado and Claremont, California. He died on January 3, 2011 in Claremont, California.
Famed for his development of American Raku, a style in which the ware is fired surrounded by combustible material so as to smoke it — Soldner created his vessels and earthenware with the position that each is a point in an evolving and multi-faceted practice of expression, and that Raku could be grown (as it now has) from its point of origin to facilitate it. This large vessel shows just how freely expressive those pieces could be, the sculptor submitting fully to the clay’s form, function and limits to allow a pot that seems to fold in upon itself — the character of the hand-built walls and subtle coloration or auto-destruction all derived fully from the process of its creation. Large hand-built raku-fired vessel, USA; Signed and numbered 82-86-5301; 16" x 14" x 11" One flat chip to rim, appears to be in making of