CROSSROADS follows the evolution of American craft in its drive toward experimentation and innovation; a move toward new forms and creative solutions. Through the work of Tanya Aguiñiga, Lia Cook, Clary Illian, Warren MacKenzie, and Jeff Oestreich, we explore their trailblazing attempts to cross-pollinate culture, aesthetics and technologies, moving forward the development of American craft.

Tanya Aguiñiga designs objects and environments in which people experience the beauty of the handcrafted. Raised in Tijuana, Mexico and San Diego, California, her work expresses her bi-cultural experience to create a vital, unique personal expression. Having learned her trade from vastly different sources, from a native backstrap weaver in Chiapas, Mexico to the prestigious Rhode Island School of Design, her fiber art and furniture designs challenge our assumptions by re-purposing and re-designing existing icons and experiences.

Tanya Aguiñiga, Embrace Lounge, Todd Beattie photograph

Tanya Aguiñiga, Embrace Lounge, Todd Beattie photograph

Lia Cook has been at the forefront of the intersection of craft and art. She has recently melded techniques of 18th c. Jacquard weaving with an inquiry into brain functioning, combining the most basic manual technology with contemporary technology and scientific practice. Using notions of imaging, memory and emotion, Lia measures the physical human response, and incorporates all this information into her weavings. Her unusual mix of old and new has garnered her international recognition.

L: Lia Cook, Dark Traces

Lia Cook, Presence/Absence: Gather

The Hamada-Leach ceramic tradition is centered in a community of potters in the Midwest, whose work is based on creating traditional wares for everyday use, known in Japan as “Mingei". The Mingei Philosophy, as taught by Shoji Hamada, was brought to England by Bernard Leach in the 1920s. Imported to America in the 1960s, this aesthetic widely influenced the emerging counter-culture and as a result, modern design. Potters from all over the world apprenticed at the Leach Pottery and carried their newly-acquired aesthetics back home. In the US, Warren MacKenzie, Jeff Oestreich and Clary Illian were central to this aesthetic cross pollination – the concept that everyday handmade objects are honest, inexpensive and functional, and by this virtue, fill one’s life with beauty.

Warren MacKenzie, Drop Rim Bowl, Doug Hill photograph

Warren MacKenzie, Drop Rim Bowl, Doug Hill photograph

Warren MacKenzie is one of America’s greatest living potters and an inspiration to younger generations. Having apprenticed at the Leach Pottery, MacKenzie brought the Mingei aesthetic to the St. Croix Valley where it took root and spread. An inspired teacher, MacKenzie embodied the philosophy, impressing young potters with a dedication to the ideals of simplicity, serviceability and rough beauty.

Jeff Oestreich, Centerpiece

Jeff Oestreich, Centerpiece

Jeff Oestreich was trained in the austere simplicity of traditional Asian pottery while serving as apprentice to Bernard Leach in England in the 1960s. Driven to achieve a personal style, he overlaid this foundation with a passion for Art Deco design and a ceaseless exploration of altering and decoration techniques. His signature beaked pitcher is the refinement of a personal challenge to combine form and function elegantly.

Clary Illian, Tea Bowls, Collection of Sanjay and Jigna Jani and Collection of Todd Thelen & Eric Dean

Clary Illian, Pitchers. Courtesy of the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art, Tanya Schulte/Akar Gallery photograph

Clary Illian’s apprenticeship at Leach Pottery in 1964 was intense and focused. Hewing to the Leach philosophy, her subsequent work concentrated on the purity of the pot’s form and the potter’s life – one lived with strong convictions and a pure heart. She continues to produce useful daily pottery for local customers at a reasonable price.

Providing support for

Learn More

Watch a preview of the CROSSROADS episode.
Tanya Aguiñiga talks about her childhood crafting
Tanya Aguiñiga on the community of Maclovio Rojas in Mexico.
Tanya Aguiñiga on the inspiration and the connection she got through visiting Chicano Park
Fiber artist Lia Cook talks about her doll series and the unexpected response it received.
Fiber artist Lia Cook on how the English Jacquard loom and punch cards work together
Potter Jeff Oestreich describes his work.
Potter Jeff Oestreich decorates bisque ware.
Potters Jeff Oestreich, Clary Illian, and Jason Trebs on the St. Croix Pottery Tour.

Related Content


Craft In America Educational Materials look further at CROSSROADS as a concept in craft. Visit the EDUCATION section to see what's available and download a Lesson Guide HERE >


Learn more about the artists in the CROSSROADS episode HERE >