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Minnesota Artists

Warren MacKenzie: Beauty in Everyday Life
Warren MacKenzie<br>American, born 1924<br><i>Double-lipped bowl</i>, 1998<br>Stoneware with shino glaze<br>Minneapolis Institute of Arts<br>Anonymous gift
zoom Warren MacKenzie
American, born 1924
Double-lipped bowl, 1998
Stoneware with shino glaze
Minneapolis Institute of Arts
Anonymous gift


Creating pottery for people to use every day in their homes is what Minnesota’s foremost potter, Warren MacKenzie, enjoys doing. As a student at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, MacKenzie became interested in traditional folk pottery from around the world, especially Japanese mingei pottery. An apprenticeship with the potter Bernard Leach in England sharpened that interest and gave MacKenzie enough experience to set up his own studio. In the mid-1950s he and his wife, Alix, returned to the United States and settled in Minnesota. They started a pottery studio in the town of Stillwater, where MacKenzie continues his work as a local craftsman today. He is internationally known, and his work is much admired in Japan.

MacKenzie wants his ceramic wares to be functional: platters and bowls to hold food; teapots, mugs, and cups to hold drinks; covered jars and boxes to store things; and vases to display flowers. But he also crafts them to be pleasing to look at and to touch. First he shapes the clay into basic forms on a potter’s wheel. Then he may add decoration like the clasps that pinch the lips of this bowl together, or embellish the pot by carving and smoothing the clay, or attach a sturdy handle or a graceful spout. Often he applies glazes of various colors. Each step in creating the pottery affects how it appears to the eye, feels in the hand, and functions in the home.

MacKenzie has inspired generations of potters through teaching ceramics at the University of Minnesota. Many of his students carry on the tradition of making pottery that is both beautiful and functional. In this way, Warren MacKenzie continues to add beauty to the everyday life of people in Minnesota, the Midwest, and the world.

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1. This storage jar has side handles that complement its simple form and provide a good grip.
Warren MacKenzie, Lidded jar 1970s, glazed stoneware, Minneapolis Institute of Arts, gift of Rev. Richard L. Hillstrom
2. MacKenzie uses various glazes for different effects, such as the bright splashes of color on this simple platter.
Warren MacKenzie, Large plate, 1997, glazed stoneware, Minneapolis Institute of Arts, The Ethel Morrison Van Derlip Fund
3. By cutting vertical strips of clay from this vase, MacKenzie created linear decoration.
Warren MacKenzie, Vase, 1960-70, stoneware, Minneapolis Institute of Arts


March 2009