Jeff Oestreich was introduced to ceramics by Warren MacKenzie while in college. After receiving his BA he was apprenticed to Bernard Leach at St. Ives in Great Britain for two years and returned to Minnesota in 1971. His geometrically designed functional pottery is primarily salt or soda fired, and he has exhibited extensively throughout the country, included in the collections of the Everson Museum of Art, Syracuse; the Victoria and Albert Museum; the Taipei Fine Arts Museum, Taiwan and the Kansas City Museum, among others.
The subject matter of my work is function. Of concern to me is how my pottery operates in a domestic setting, both physically and aesthetically. Initially all work is thrown on a potter’s wheel, later to be altered using a variety of techniques. These techniques are often traditional ones modified to suit my ideas. My current firing method is soda firing, a contemporary version of a 16th century German process where a sodium compound is introduced into the kiln as it reaches 2300 degrees. The sodium interacts with the glaze and produces a varied surface, which is often unpredictable. It is this element of risk that drives my work.
For several decades my central source of inspiration came from historical pottery of the Far East, England, and Europe. A trip to New Zealand ten years ago reintroduced me to Art Deco architecture with its abundance of geometric and playful detail. This has become a central theme in my work. I have been to Napier, a predominately Art Deco village with over 100 commercial buildings of this style, on several occasions.