Jeff Oestreich

This exhibition features a selection of works by Jeff Oestreich from the museum’s permanent collection.

Born 1947 in Saint Paul, Minnesota, Jeff Oestreich studied with Warren MacKenzie at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, from 1967 to 1968 and attended Bemidji State University, Minnesota, where he received his B.A. in 1969. From 1969 to 1971 he was one of the last potters to apprentice with Bernard Leach at Saint Ives, England. The experience of working at the Leach Pottery left an indelible mark on Oestreich’s vocabulary as a potter and set boundaries on his art.  But Oestreich finds these boundaries to be “liberating, not confining,” providing him with the sense of being part of a pottery “family.” He has the unique ability to follow a tradition while at the same time expanding its boundaries. Despite their clearly inherited style, Oestreich’s works have also achieved a contemporary statement and presence. Indeed, Oestreich has achieved a remarkable balance between contemporary and personal style and the continuation of the Leach tradition. He still employs all the formal elements, and even techniques, for which Leach was known. His limited palette of eight glazes is also mainly from Leach.

In his early works, Oestreich employed a Hamada-style brushwork on his pots; he has found his interest is primarily in form and now decorates only occasionally. Rhythm and repetition are crucial to Oestreich, who calls this discipline “the strongest element a potter has to work with.” Oestreich’s functional pots (vases, teapots, platters, bowls) are among the most classical and elegant vessels being made in the United States today. In common with the work of fellow “Mingeisota” potters, including Mark Pharis, Randy Johnson, and others, that of Oestreich is evidence of the growing vitality and strength of the “functionalists” in contemporary pottery. Oestreich now works from a pottery he established on a small farm near Taylor’s Falls, Minnesota.

— Garth Clark, independent author/curator, Santa Fe, New Mexico