May 06, 2015
Ceramics chair described as nurturing and patient but firm
By Karen Sandstrom
Teachers sometimes talk about how they learn from their students. In Judith Salomon’s case, she can tell you exactly how her students made her better.
She cites the two years of foundation studies that CIA students used to get. That deep dive improved their drawing skills, which in turn made them more adventurous than she’d been as an undergrad at the Rochester Institute of Technology.
“They weren’t afraid of anything – to put down marks,” Salomon said.
As someone who had come of age thinking of herself more as a “maker” than an artist, Salomon found her students’ fearlessness contagious. She started experimenting more with own work, especially surface treatments. “My students at the time influenced me, and they have continued to influence me. I learn something new every day, and that’s amazing. “
Salomon, chair of Ceramics, is retiring after 37 at CIA.
After earning her bachelor of fine arts degree at the Rochester Institute of Technology, Salomon earned her master’s at New York State College of Ceramics in Alfred, N.Y. Former CIA president Joseph McCullough saw her work in an exhibition and she was soon hired in Cleveland.
The move was more serendipitous than strategic, and these days she seems as surprised as anyone that it worked out as it did.
“I thought I was interested in teaching, but I didn’t know I was going to stay in one place,” she said. “You could live here reasonably. I really loved the atmosphere and I had great students.”
Her students think she’s pretty great, too. They cite her leadership, along with that of Professor William Brouillard, as a critical part of their professional development.
“The mantra she would always say was ‘more better faster,’ ” said Valerie Grossman ’12, founder of the new Brick Ceramics & Design Studio in Collinwood. “She would describe how one of her teachers would have her make a ton of pots, one after the other, then come along and scrape them into the trash. The point was that you had to have that sort of play until you found the right one. You have to not be precious. That’s probably the biggest thing I learned from her. The first one isn’t always going to be the one, and you just have to make it over and over and over.”
Eleni Dimaio ’10 said Salomon welcomed her into Ceramics after Dimaio changed her focus from biomedical illustration.
“I find her personality very warm and encouraging and nurturing and patient. Beyond patient. So patient. But also so firm,” Dimaio said. “She doesn’t take slacking and she doesn’t take excuses. She always pushed everyone to produce. That’s why she was like everyone’s mom. She got the best out of people.”
Salomon’s work is collected internationally, including by the Cleveland Museum of Art, the George R. Gardiner Museum in Toronto, the Los Angeles County Art Museum in California, and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.
In 1990, she was a winner of the Cleveland Arts Prize, and during an interview explained that even as a child, she “always loved the idea of containment.” She collected boxes. She also grew up in the age of that classic, the macramé wall hanging, and made her share. She simply liked to create things.
Then she sat down at a pottery wheel for the first time, and “It was like, I LOVE THIS,” she said.
Now Salomon is poised to do even more of what she loves.
“I’m going to work in my studio,” she said. “I’m excited to see what I come up with. My priority has been teaching, and my family. And certainly I worked (on my art), but it’s been harder to do big bodies of work.”
That’s not to say that leaving CIA won’t be difficult. “I’m going to miss it terribly,” she said. “I spent a lot more time there than was required for my teaching. It’s been my identity. It’s been my community.”
Karen Sandstrom ’12 is a writer and illustrator. She works in marketing at Cuyahoga Community College.
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