The influential teacher Val Cushing was born in Rochester, New York on January 28th, 1931. Both his training and his career revolved around Alfred University in Alfred, New York. He received his BFA from its School of Art & Design in the New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University in 1952. He served two years in the Army during the Korean War and returned to Alfred to earn an MFA in 1956 and subsequently began a full-time teaching career at the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana. In a year, Cushing returned to Alfred where he taught courses concerning clays, glazes and related subjects, retiring in 1997 after forty-one years of teaching.
Though his aesthetic evolved, it stayed stable; he remained a classic, traditional studio potter throughout his career. He was a maker of what is known as the “Alfred Pot,” which are sturdy, useful, and immaculately crafted vessels, yet modern, albeit in the context of the 1950s. Once established, his style remained constant, his signature pots being his lidded jars with rolling, almost donut-like forms and, of course, his fluid glazes.
He received honors from Alfred University, New York State, and NCECA for his role as a teacher. He was a Fellow of the American Craft Council and a founding member and past president of NCECA (The National Council on Education in the Ceramic Arts). He received an artist’s grant from the National Endowment of the Arts; a Fulbright grant for teaching and research in Manchester, England; and an artist-in-residence grant at the Archie Bray Foundation at the University of Wolverhampton, England.