St. Croix River Valley Carries On a Great Pottery Tradition

By James Riemermann

Warren MacKenzie St Croix Pottery - MN Original TPT
Renowned potter Warren MacKenzie, photo courtesy MN Original

World-renowned potter and pottery teacher Warren MacKenzie, whose works are treasured in museums throughout the world, never aimed for museum shelves. After studying in England, he established his pottery in Minnesota’s St. Croix River Valley in 1953 with a much humbler goal. As I gathered from visiting his studio 20-some years ago, he wanted to make beautiful and functional pieces relatively quickly and simply, so they could be sold cheaply enough that buyers could eat from them, drink from them, and put fruit and flowers in them. Today, his pieces are sometimes sold by third parties for far more than he ever intended.

St Croix Pottery Tour
St. Croix Pottery Tour

His example and philosophy is one, but not the only, inspiration behind a thriving community of potters working in the St. Croix River Valley to this day, which has come to be one of the most admired pottery communities in the world. The St. Croix Valley Pottery Tour and Sale, celebrating its 25th anniversary May 12-14, will display a stunning variety of work by more than 50 potters, from 17 states and England, at seven pottery studios along the river, less than an hour east of the Twin Cities. The humbly great Mr. MacKenzie will be among them, at Jeff Oestreich’s studio north of Taylors Falls.

Other potters taking part in the tour are Linda Christianson in Lindstrom; Connee Mayeron and Guillermo Cuelllar in Shafer; Richard Vincent in North Branch; and Will Swanson, Janel Jacobson and Matt Krousey in Harris.

Additional upcoming pottery-related events include Firing it Up in South Como in St. Paul, April 28-30; Lake Minnetonka Studio Tour and Art Sale in Deephaven, May 6-7; Studio Hop in Willmar, June 16-17; Cannon River Clay Tour in Northfield, June 17-18; Anoka Riverfest & Craft Fair, July 8; Minnesota Pottery Festival in Hutchinson, July 29-20; American Indian Pottery Day in Comfrey, June 3; and the Summer Celebration of the Arts in Red Wing, July 8.