Warren MacKenzie: Living Wisdom Live

Warren MacKenzie: Living Wisdom Live

Warren Mackenzie at an early pottery sale outside Stillwater studio

Warren Mackenzie at an early pottery sale outside Stillwater studio; precursor of the St. Croix Pottery Tour (1992-today) 

As 2014 draws to a close, the education department of the ACC is wrapping up a year-long project to document the lives of potters living in Minnesota's St. Croix River Valley. Funded through a Minnesota Historical & Cultural Heritage Grant, the project involved conducting oral histories with 10 ceramists living in the region and participating in the annual St. Croix Valley Pottery Tour.

Included in the St. Croix Valley artists is the very first potter-settler, Warren MacKenzie. It was MacKenzie and his late wife Alix, also a potter, who initially settled in the valley in 1953, establishing a home, workshop, and studio from which they sold their wares. After Alix died suddenly in 1962, MacKenzie expanded his home-based sale to include other potters. As he recounts in the interview:

I got to be kind of lonely for contact and talk, so I had the idea, and I got to know a lot of well-known potters around the country, and I would ask them if they would come for a week in the summer. They would all work here and we'd pack the big kiln, fire the pots, then have a giant sale in the yard where everyone's work was out for sale. I think that's the closest I come to a beginning for what eventually became the St. Croix Valley Pottery Tour.

In connection with the recent coverage in American Craft magazine on the influence MacKenzie has had on artists near and far, we've made his our first oral history interview available through the ACC Library Digital Collections. Take a listen to the audio or read the transcript for more on the creative life of this nonagenarian, and look for more oral history interviews with potters including Warren's protégés Linda Christianson, Jeff Oestreich, and Guillermo Cuellar, in the new year.

Throwback Thursday is a weekly series highlighting visuals from the American Craft Council Library's Digital Collections database. Check back on Thursdays for more.   

This project has been financed in part with funds provided by the State of Minnesota from the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund through the Minnesota Historical Society.