Sunday, June 28, 2009

Great article in the Pioneer Press about Warren MacKenzie...

Warren is a wonderful man. His concern that all of us be able to afford a little non-plastic in our lives is quite remarkable. The Pioneer Press is to be congratulated for this excellent article and also the accompanying outstanding video. It is heartening to know that the good guys can also live long and prosper...

From the article:

Warren MacKenzie doesn't want you to collect his pottery. He wants you to like it, buy it ... and use it, without fear of breaking it.

MacKenzie began teaching ceramics at the University of Minnesota in 1953. The next year, he and Alix had their first exhibition of pottery from their new studio, at Walker Art Center.

The couple had two children. Alix died of cancer in 1962. In 1984, MacKenzie married Nancy Stevens, a fiber artist whom he had worked with at the U. He retired from teaching in 1990.

"I enjoyed the interaction with students ... but I was always thinking about making pots," he said.

The MacKenzies spend their days working in their respective studios; Nancy works out of the third floor of the couple's house.

Together, the MacKenzies recently attended the opening of "Warren MacKenzie: Legacy of an American Potter" at the Museum of Craft and Folk Art in San Francisco. In April, MacKenzie was named a "Master of the Medium" in ceramics by the James Renwick Alliance in Washington, D.C.

His pots can be found in museums around the world, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York; the Smithsonian Institution in Washington; the National Folk Art Museum in Tokyo; and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

"Making a pot — that's the most fun for me," he said. "There are kiln people. There are glaze people. There are decorating people. There are mud people. I'm a mud person. That's where I get my greatest pleasure. I like to make pots."

He makes pots seven days a week, six hours a day.

MacKenzie hopes his pottery will enrich those who buy it.

"You can live in today's society without ever touching anything that is handmade, but I think you'll have a much less rich life," he said.

"I make a very good living selling pots inexpensively, because I make a lot of pots," MacKenzie said. "I can earn as much money by selling a lot of pots very inexpensively as another person can selling a few pots for a very high price. The question is, what do you need to live?"

Nancy MacKenzie attributes her husband's pricing strategy to his heritage. "It's so basic to him. He's a Scot, for one thing," she said. "He's opposed to all pretense."

Joan Mondale, a fellow potter, works with MacKenzie in his studio on Wednesday mornings. She said MacKenzie makes pottery — like her favorite cereal bowl — to "give people the good feeling of holding something that has been made by hand."

"We do have an awful lot of machine-made things — a lot of plastic — and I don't find those pots terribly satisfying," she said. "Warren's are satisfying."

He has no plans to retire. "You have to love to make pots. You really have to live your whole life for making pots," he said. "I hope that when I can't control the clay anymore, I'll know enough to quit. Because then it would just be putting in time. No good."

A fundraiser featuring some of Warren MacKenzie's older signed pieces will be held from 3 to 7 p.m. July 20 at the Northern Clay Center in Minneapolis. An anonymous donor gave the pieces to the Clay Center with the restriction that the proceeds be used to help potters rent studio space. The pots will be available for viewing July 17 at the center and at The event is free and open to the public.

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