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Local pottery teacher has passion for working with clay

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Guttenberg Creativity Center pottery teacher Steve Solomon assists home school student Tate Armstrong with his clay piece. (Photo submitted)

By Caroline Rosacker

Local potter Steve Solomon enrolled in his first pottery class as a college student at Bemidji State University in Bemidji, Minn. 

"I needed to take an elective to fill out my class schedule my senior year," Steve told The Press. "A pottery class piqued my interest and I thought why not."

Back at the wheel

Thirty-three years later following his career as a social worker, Solomon eventually utilized the skills he learned in college at the Guttenberg Gallery and Creativity Center. "When I retired, this non-profit became viable," he said.

After School Program

Solomon dusted off his skills and became reacquainted with handling clay under the tutelage of a master potter in Dubuque. "The six-week class was very enlightening," said Solomon. "We applied for a grant to buy six portable electric wheels and I began teaching young kids how to work with clay and throw a pot through the Creativity Center's After School Program."

Home school Art Program

As a social worker with years of experience working with youth,  Solomon especially enjoyed working with the after-school children. This program ran successfully for ten years, providing area kids with access to learn about and participate in the fine arts at no cost to the community, schools or families served by this program.

Children, families and adults 

The Creativity Center opened in 2009 after grant writing and many hours cleaning and setting up the space to provide the community with studio and gallery space for children, families and adults. 

Word spread quickly that Solomon, who donates all the clay to keep costs down, was willing and able to teach pottery classes. His portable wheels have enabled him to teach classes and provide demonstrations at the Left Bank, and Art in the Park in Elkader and Art by the River in Guttenberg, which was organized and sponsored by The Guttenberg Gallery and Creativity Center. 

Working with clay and teaching classes is both rewarding and relaxing, and has kept Solomon busy. During our interview he shared this heartwarming story.  

"During one of my outdoor sessions I had several kids seated at wheels with their aprons on, but had one more space to fill. There was a very shy young girl standing by looking on at the group. I motioned her over and got her set up and couldn't believe the smile on her face when she started working with the clay," he said with emotion. "She did such a great job. I was approached by her mother at the end of the class and she told me she was severely autistic, and this was such a wonderful experience. She had never seen her smile like that before." 

Solomon would see the young girl and her sister again a number of times in the Creativity Center's indoor studio. 

Through the years, Solomon has experienced issues with glazing and firing but has sharpened his skills through trial and error. "I am always reading up on how to improve the process," he commented. 

Solomon and Creativity Center Director Cindy Olsen, who works primarily with jewelry and glass, are grateful for their dedicated volunteers, community members who support the gallery and studio, and visitors to the area who enjoy the Creativity Center's offerings while vacationing. 

Solomon's classes include eight hours of structured class for two hours a night for a month. He opens the studio for students who would like to practice on Saturday from 10 a.m. - noon. 

"Once in a while I see a kid from the after school program and they mention the pottery class they took," he said with a smile. "I get a lot of satisfaction working with these kids."

Solomon also takes special orders for pottery such as tableware, urns, and specialty items. "If a customer wants something more specific I am always willing to give it a whirl," he concluded.

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