An Individual in the Age of Conformity

by Paul Soldner

Paul Soldner

Excerpt from an essay by Paul Soldner, written in 1957, when he was assistant professor of ceramics at Scripps College, and prior to the more common use of inclusive language.

There are no magical rules or logic by which ceramic art, or any art, can be explained. Nor is it possible to isolate one set of aesthetic values as being better today than another in the past. Of course, there is change in the appearance of things, but the creative act remains always the same. It is the creative act which is the most important effort a man must make if he is to fulfill himself.

An artist must find himself as an individual, then lose himself in work, dedication, and ideals larger and more enduring than he. This desire to be an individual in an age of conformity is not easily understood by all people, yet the artist-potter has chosen his arduous, simple life because he believes it to be better than that which offers only material comfort and popular approval. He who searches for eternal truths with his hands, humble tools, glass, clay, and fire can but abhor the social pressures which places faith in the latest kitchen gadget, color television, new cars, and Paris creations. He who has the conviction to continue his search for individuality in spite of unpopularity, lack of success, poverty, or perhaps social exile will be content with the satisfaction that comes from mastering his profession and the knowledge that he has created something that is unique and his own. He knows that he has fashioned his tools and built his shop with his own hands. He knows also that he has personally selected the most suitable materials with which to work, and that the product of his wisdom is not subject to faddish change. Above all, he knows that this is good.