Thursday, September 13, 2007

Warren Mackenzie in a nutshell

i just returned from the most amazing workshop with warren mackenzie in red lodge, montana. i'll write more about it later i'm sure. but for now here is a glimpse.

this is an excerpt from a recent interview:

Caller: The last bunch of Mackenzie pots I purchased I bought at Savers which is a second-hand store in Columbia Heights. For a dollar apiece.

Mackenzie: How much did you pay…a dollar apiece? Wonderful, [laughter] wonderful.

Caller: There they are sitting in my cupboard right now, we have cereal out of them. But I thought you’d enjoy that. When people get tired of them they send them to the second-hand store and they get re-circulated.

Mackenzie: That’s very good. I bought a soup bowl of mine once at the Salvation Army once for 25 cents. [laughter]

Interviewer: You bought it back.

Mackenzie: [laughter]

I: That doesn’t bother you to hear that?

Mackenzie: No, no.

I: There are some artists who would think “how dare they devalue my work like that, don‘t they know?” Why not you?

Mackenzie: Well, the pot didn’t mean anything to them anymore, that’s all I can say. And if the pot doesn’t mean anything then they should offer it up to somebody else to whom it might mean something.

I: If you’re comfortable with the idea that you can buy some of your work for 25 cents from the salvation army, how comfortable are you with the idea that some of your work is very valuable? Some of those pieces upstairs [in the exhibition] would cost a lot of money if you wanted to acquire one.

Mackenzie: Well, I don’t know who sets the value. I guess the person who purchases it sets the value. I don’t have access to the internet, but a friend who did sent me a photograph once of a small soup bowl of mine which had apparently just been sold on eBay. This soup bowl in the studio costs $5. On eBay it fetched over $200. Now, I don’t know whether the person knew what they were buying, that they were buying a $5 soup bowl, because there is a problem with scale or everything like that. Or maybe they were buying my name which is of course sad.

I: Why?

Mackenzie: Well, because my name means nothing. It will disappear, the pots will always be there. And no soup bowl is worth $200.[laughter]

I: Well what about some of the plates? Some of the plates are worth several thousand dollars, how about that?

Mackenzie: Well…you say they’re worth that….I don’t know. I’m still making, the biggest platters that I make which are about 20 inches in diameter when finished, they sell out of the studio for $130. Because that’s what I need to live on, and that’s how long they take me to make, how much space the take in the kiln, how much they cost to fire and so on. All those things are taken into account when pricing. And, we live very well on the income from our studio.

I: You could charge more, you choose not to.

Mackenzie: There would be a lot of people who wouldn’t be able to buy them.


MudStuffing Pottery said...

Oh man... that is wonderful! Thank you so much for posting this! Just when I think I have things situated in my head about certain things... it's great to have something make us question it.

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful exchange!

Anonymous said...

This is a great post - thanks for relaying the exchange. I like Warren's philosophy!

I shop my local thrift stores all the time for pottery and when I find something worth buying, I consider it a hidden treasure that I found after serious hunting.

On another note, I've actually driven through Abilene on my way to San Antonio from Denver to visit my inlaws. I think I have a photo of my hubby and myself in front of some kind of permanent train (painted red). I think we spent the night in some motel or maybe we camped. It's been a few years and can't remember clearly.