A native of South Africa, Jill Solomon has been affiliated with the Ceramics Program at the Office for the Arts at Harvard University for over 25 years. She began her career in 1974, as a graduate of the Croydon College of Art and Design in England. Jill is a recipient of a Massachusetts Artists Foundation award, has been honored with an award from the National League of American Pen Women, and has been granted membership in the Licentiateship Society of Designer Craftsmen in England. In Solomon’s iconic saggar fired forms one sees a history of her travels. Her strong yet tender figures and their serene presence are a tribute to the African women of her childhood. Her formal art training in England can be seen in the influence of Brancusi, Giacometti and Modigliani in her use of pure lines and strong geometry. Finally, from the rugged Nova Scotian coast, she has captured the shapes and surface of the sea-worn stones and rock formations.
I was born in South Africa and my roots in that county run deep. In my early childhood, I was surrounded by African women who had a profound effect on me. I was always amazed by their capacity to transcend their own personal and political suffering to offer compassion to me and to the children of other privileged white families for whom they cared. I have also been influenced by the smooth rocks and larger geological formations on the beaches in northern Nova Scotia on the coast of Cape Breton Island. Over the past thirty years, I have spent many summers in the serenity of this remote wilderness area. The forms of these sea-tumbled rocks and stones, like the graceful simplicity of the African women, have significantly influenced my aesthetic.All my work is hand-built with white earthenware clay. In the initial stages of making a piece, my focus is on achieving clarity of line and form. I then impose patterns on the form by applying various materials to the clay’s surface. I use the technique of saggar firing. In this process, terra sigillata (a fine-particled liquid clay) is applied to the surface of each piece. The piece is then placed in the kiln in a closed container (the saggar) and surrounded with combustible materials such as seaweed and sawdust. During the firing, these organic materials fume onto the clay. This process provides a richness of design and color which enhances the simplicity of the basic forms.