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Warren MacKenzie


circa 2012

6 x 4.75 x 4.75 in. (15.24 x 12.065 x 12.065 cm)
Gift of Peter and Jodie Gerdes

This untitled wheel-thrown and lidded jar is wood-fired stoneware, heavily influenced by the aesthetic of Shōji Hamada (see his c. 1950s Bottle) and Korean ceramics. MacKenzie’s goal throughout his career was the making of everyday pots; however, this jar is quite sophisticated. The lid is nearly as tall as the bottom piece, giving it the air of an object to be admired, rather than simply a utilitarian container.

From 1943-1946 MacKenzie was a silkscreen technician working on training charts and maps. At the Art Institute of Chicago, he first trained as a painter, then as a potter (BFA 1947). With his classmates they discovered Bernard Leach's "A Potter's book.” MacKenzie and his first wife, Alix were the first American apprentices at the Bernard Leach (see circa 1960 Jar) pottery at St. Ives in London from 1949 to 1952. Alix, decorated Warren’s pots until her death in 1962.

The MacKenzies brought Leach and Hamada for a workshop tour of the United States in 1952. This tour had a far-reaching impact on the American studio pottery movement. He was a professor at the University of Minnesota from 1953 to 1990, and in 1981 was honored by Ceramics Monthly magazine as “one of the world’s twelve best potters.” One of his primary students was Barbara Diduk (see 1985 Ewer Teapot and cups). As an inspiring teacher, MacKenzie embodied the philosophy, impressing young potters with a dedication to the ideals of simplicity, serviceability and rough beauty. His work is collected by the world’s finest museums. He maintained his pottery studio in Stillwater Minnesota from 1953-2018.

Matthew Limb

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