Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Internationally renowned potter visits Perpich

Warren Mackenzie, renowned Minnesota potter whose works are in art museums around the world, visited the pottery class at Perpich on May 4 to teach a master class.

He threw a bowl, vase and teapot to the delight  and amazement of the students, who couldn’t believe how quickly the artist worked on the wheel—each piece took shape within seconds under his sure hands.
At 91, Mackenzie no longer runs his own studio in Stillwater, but is still making pieces that are sold in three galleries in the U.S., one of them the Northern Clay Center in Minneapolis. Numerous rules govern how the pieces may be purchased to discourage those who would resell the pieces on eBay or other venues for inflated prices. 
(To see examples of his work, visit here.) 
He demonstrated several different tools to the students, most of them handmade or common kitchen implements—a sponge fixed to a stick, a cheese slicer, a simple stick of bamboo. Other tools were more specialized but still inexpensive. Mackenzie bemoaned the electric potters’ wheel in the Perpich studio (he uses a foot-pedaled type that offers more control) but it didn’t seem to impact his abilities to demonstrate his master skills.
Mackenzie’s work is in prestigious collections and museums, but he still emphasizes usefulness. Working with a couple different tools to smooth the inside of a bowl, he said, “You don’t want any rough spots in the bowl that will interfere when someone is pulling the spoon across” while they are eating.
At one point he threw down a small piece he had been making to demonstrate a particular technique, crumpling it back into formless wet clay, causing a student to groan, sorry to see anything he had touched destroyed. 
“We were so honored that he was willing to visit Perpich and teach a master class,” said Sandra Woodhull, pottery teacher. “It was amazing for us to have him in our classroom. The students were watching every move he made.”

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