|WARREN MACKENZIE, Potter
Warren Mackenzie pottery, gracing the shelves of some of the world's finest museums, is also touched by many in their everyday lives. An artistic expression that is a functional piece fromwhich people eat and drink.
I developed this site in homage to Warren. I am not a potter, just a person who appreciates the struggle between function and form in design. I started this site to share what I believe is Warren's perspective on functional pottery. It is important that a visitor recognize this is only what I can distill from a few books I read, not necessarily Warren's actual philosophy.
It is this 'functional' aspect that first and foremost has become the legacy of Warren. How a bowl or cup will function: graceful, balanced, expressive, the anti-thesis of our throw-away, cookie-cutter, commercialized lives. At a time when it was important for artists to differentiate themselves, regardless of the media, Warren stands as an artist non-ego.
To see a gallery of his work, I recommend visiting www.americanstudiopotters.com
Too much art today is put on the shelf or the wall without interaction, a passive statement by the artist to be interpreted by the viewer. Functional pottery crosses this gap in that it is meant to be touched and used. Not an interpreted statement, but a conversation between the piece and the user.
Warren was not alone in the this discovery. With his classmates at the Art Institute of Chicago they discovered Bernard Leach's "A Potter's book". Though they had been taught the technical aspects of pottery, they lacked the artistic component. The want for expression was greater than the want for functionality. It was decided, perhaps, that a craft does not have to be rooted in a sterile function. That the intersection of function, design, and expression is where a craft can exist. Neither art and craft nor design and function are mutually exclusive.
On his journey was Alix (Alixandra Kolesky), first as a classmate, later as wife. No where was expression more apparent. She was the 'decorator' of the pots. Her nearly whimsical and simple decorations gave the pot life. Somewhere it is written that Bernard thought little of her design. Alas, it is also rumored that he was influenced by her approach, opening up to a more 'loose' design.. Alix passed away in 1962 but left her thumb print in Warren's life.
Warren was also influenced by both Korean and Japanese ware. The 'unknown' potter that created such works did so because it was their function in society. The world must eat and drink. In fact, it is rumored that Warren's "favorite bowl" has been documented as being a simple Hagi (Japan) bowl from the 1700's.
There are a few pieces that are unique in form to Warren and some that are fairly common. Amongst the more rare forms are:
From Bernard Leach also came an emphasis on production volume, a way of sustaining a pottery house. This nearly 'wabi-sabi', or without thought, approach coupled with standardization allows for inexpensive, daily use goods. Warren took this to a new level. Volume yes, but not at the expense of expression.
Influenced by some of the world's greatest potters, Warren has also touched those that he has taught. A legacy left to those to carry forward. In much the way that Bernard Leach and St. Ives has influenced potters throughout the world, Warren has become America's rendition of a legacy. Here are a few artists whom he thought embraced his traditional approaches, including:
A Warren Mackenzie teapot sold on eBay for more than $500. I only mention this for two reasons:
There are some very functional teapots that can be purchased from other potters for $80-$120. Besides teapots, yunomis and plates can also be purchased.
One such functional potter is Guillermo Cuellar. His pottery is just as beautiful and just as functional, and are very affordable. Visit www.guillermopottery.com to see more of his work.
UPDATE: January 2015: Warren's pieces have continued to climb in price. I suspect it is a function of a great potter, really an American treasure, no longer making as many pieces. He is going to turn 91 this year. He is still making pieces, but they are getting very hard to find. Even then, the larger vases and platters go very quickly. Yunomis are going for $120-$190. Teabowls are going for $190-$250. Small platters(14 inches or less) are going for $350, medium platters (15-17 inches) are going for $550-$750, and large platters are going for $900-$1200. Serving bowls are going for $180+. Teapots are going for $250+. Of course, most would say that his prices are justing coming inline with that of other potters, which is pretty accurate.
UPDATE: 2-20-09: Warren has always disliked the fact that people are paying a lot of money for his pots. Not to say they are not worth the amount, but he specifically does not like the fact that someone paid $5 for a bowl in his gallery and would then sell it on ebay for $70+. In an effort to stop the 'pay for the name' concept, he has started re-stamping his work. The thought process being that, as signed pieces usually sell at a premium, if all pieces are marked, then none will sell at a premium. I don't know how successful this will be. Suffice to say that some people who buy some pieces may believe they are buying an older piece only to find out that it is a recent piece.
I am always amazed by studio pottery. To know that someone's hand created a piece that I can connect with is quite a statement. To be able to interact with the piece on a daily basis through usage, whether as a vessel or as a platform, is a testament to the skill of the potter.
Read more about Warren Mackenzie here: