This weekend’s 27th annual St. Croix Valley Pottery Tour will have a solemn vibe to it following the death this winter of internationally famed potter Warren MacKenzie, who’s responsible for the thriving St. Croix pottery community.
A public memorial will be held at 6:30 p.m. Monday at the University of Minnesota’s Ted Mann Concert Hall for MacKenzie, who died Dec. 31 at age 94.
“We wanted it to be open to the public,” his daughter, Tamsyn MacKenzie, said by phone. “Everybody is welcome because that honors my dad’s character and personality.”
The memorial will include music by the Minnesota Horn Quartet and remarks by his daughter and four other people dear to MacKenzie: local potters Mark Pharis and Randy Johnston, both former students of MacKenzie and now professors in their own right; Emily Galusha, former director of the Northern Clay Center, and Kyoko Utsumi Mimura, former international programs director for the Japan Folk Crafts Museum in Tokyo.
Mimura is in town for both the St. Croix pottery tour and the memorial. MacKenzie was a legendary figure in Japan for bringing that country’s Mingei folk pottery tradition — a 20th century movement that means “art of the people” — to the United States and beyond with his dedication to functional, beautiful but affordable ceramics.
“My dad was really about having fun — it’s a celebration,” said Tamsyn MacKenzie. “Just to have that chance to be together and with other friends who knew him, and with people who didn’t.
“He was really about honoring everybody. Anyone who came through the doors [of his studio] and wanted to look at pots, if they were genuinely interested and serious, he made time for them and would answer their questions.”
This weekend’s pottery tour carries forward that spirit. From Friday through Sunday, people can visit seven pottery studios in the St. Croix Valley, just northeast of the Twin Cities, where more than 60 artists will show their goods.
MacKenzie’s own studio in rural Stillwater was once part of the tour. Destinations this year include a former farmstead rebuilt by potter Jeff Oestreich and a log home reclaimed by Linda Christianson in the woods near Lindstrom.