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"A Face Only a Mother
Could Love" Face Jug Pottery from the American South
June 19 - August 17, 2008
"A Face Only a Mother Could Love" Face Jug Pottery from the American
South opened in the Walter Anderson Museum of Art's
Jo Love Little Gallery of the Museum on June 19 and continues through August
Face Jugs are a unique pottery found in the American South. The
origin of face jugs is not know for certain but has its roots in the African
American slave community. Some of the earliest examples are credited
to "Dave the Slave", who produced pottery from the 1820's to the
1860's in the Edgefield, SC area. Folk history holds that when someone
in the slave community died, the jugs were modeled with devil faces and
placed on the grave for a year. If the jug broke it was thought to
be a sign that the soul of the deceased was wrestling with the devil. A
second theory is that the scary faces were applied to jugs containing moonshine
to keep children away from the contents.
Face jugs are still a widely collected form of pottery
and are growing in popularity due to influential works by the legendary
Lanier Meaders (White County, GA 1917 - 1998) who was descended from a family
history of potters. Steve Abee of Lenoir, NC belongs to the Catawba
Valley, NC pottery tradition. Contemporary potters such as Abee andJohn
Rezner of Fairhope, AL still use traditional methods such as digging local
clay and firing the work in a groundhog wood fired kilnand once-glazing
their wares with alkaline, or "tobacco spit" glazes made from
the ash of their woodstoves. Examples of their work are included in
the exhibition, along with Jerry Brown, Hamilton, AL; Craig McMillin, Folsom,
LA; Francie Rich and John Hodge, Covington, LA; Josh Boock, Cass Lake, MN;
and Jim McDowell, Pittsburg, PA.
About the artists in the exhibition
- Steven Edward Abee - was born in Burke County in 1968 and is
one of the newest additions to the well-known Catawba Valley potters. After
graduation from high school, he attended Western Piedmont
Community College at night, studying Computer Science. Steven became good
friends with a co-worker, who happened to be a pottery collector as well.
After accompanying his friend to a few of Burlon Craig's kiln openings,
Steven became a serious collector.
- Inspired by the excitement of kiln openings and awed by old-time methods
and wares, Steven produced a makeshift wheel and began making his own pottery.
He had first been introduced to the wheel by Michael Calhoon of Bolick's
Pottery in Blowing Rock, NC.
- Steven and his wife, Rita, live in the Cajah's Mountain Community of
Lenoir, NC. About three or four times a year, the smoke boils from the
Abee kiln, turning out a wide variety of wares. These include face jugs,
snake jugs, centerpieces, wig stands, vases, bowls, bird houses, and wine
decanters with goblets. Also, Steven continues to create other artistic
pieces. All feature his dark slip, alkaline, and clear glass
glazes, and his distinctive multi-colored swirls as well as his recently
perfected deep shade of red, which is rarely found in wood-fired pieces. He
has turned a variety of sizes of wares ranging from the tiniest of miniatures
up to 12+ gallon pieces. Some of his pieces are embellished with seasonal
applications such as dogwood bloom and holly leaves with berries.
- Steven is dedicated to the old-time tradition of wood-firing, digging
and mixing his own clay, and mixing his own glazes. However, he is open
for continuous improvement in creativity and style. (right: Steve
Abee, North Carolina, half gallon swirl face jug)
- A.V. Smith - was born Alvie L. Smith in Sanford, North Carolina
and began turning pottery at the age of 15. He worked at Pinehurst
Pottery in 1978 making dinnerware, lamp bases, candle sticks and other
items the pottery needed.
- A.V. began his own pottery in partnership with acclaimed potter,
Charles Lisk in Pinehurst and Southern Pines, North Carolina. A.V.
and Charles operated Clenny Creek Pottery until 1982 when Charles moved
to Hickory. A.V. and Charles have remained good friends by sharing
their pottery knowledge and experiences.
- A.V. works with many of the traditional shapes that are common to Catawba
Valley Pottery and Seagrove Pottery centers at his pottery in Sanford,
NC in the Lee County countryside. He makes all of his work with an
emphasis on the functional aspect of the work. His work, however, is characterized
by a love of intense color. A.V. uses the traditional alkaline glaze
in addition to many brilliant hues and colors. Dramatic and intense
flow patterns from glass fragments, dark contrasting glaze underneath on
a large jug and lively bright swirlware on his pieces all testify to his
love of color. All of A.V.'s pieces are hand turned and completely handmade
- Josh Boock - began taking ceramic classes with his father as
an elementary school student. He and his dad would create bird
feeders. One of these stump feeders earned him an award from a national
bird feeder competition.
- Boock attended Bemidji State University and enrolled in the art program. He
took many advanced ceramic classes ranging from Raku pottery; Soda/Salt
fired pottery, Cone 10 reduction stoneware, Crystal glazes, low fire lusters,
pit firing, and Porcelain.
- During college, he personally designed & built a SUPER SIZED Raku
kiln and supervised the installation of the class's 9/11 sculpture. He
was also the Founding President of the Bemidji State University Ceramics
- As president he lead two class trips to the NCECA pottery conference
and several other trips to the American Pottery Festival help organize
several national guest artists and held student ceramic fairs in the
student union. The club helped several non-profit organizations, like the
Cass Lake Family Center, The Food Shelf and The Campus Habitat for Humanity,
raise over $25,000.00 through different empty bowl fund raisers.
- Several months before graduation, he and his father built a studio
in Bemidji, MN.
- Burlon Craig (1914 - 2002) - was born April 24, 1914,
a few miles from the small town of Henry, in the Catawba Valley of Lincoln
County, North Carolina.
- At an early age, Craig was exposed to the numerous alkaline-glaze stoneware
potteries in this region along the western Piedmont of North Carolina that
were established in the nineteenth century by early settlers. When Craig
was in first grade, he watched potter Will Bass mold clay. Growing up,
Craig chopped lumber from his father's land for local potter James Lynn,
who used the wood to fire his kiln. Eventually, Craig learned pottery making
from Lynn, watching him burn, make glazes, and prepare clay. He worked
with Lynn for about four years, and under his tutelage, Craig turned his
first successful pot by the time he was 14 years old.
- Later, he worked a mule for another local potter. During the 1930s,
Craig worked with a number of different local potters, including Luther
Seth Ritchie, whom he called Uncle Seth, and Floyd Hilton. During the summer
of 1936, he worked for Enoch and Harvey Reinhardt, two other well-known
- During World War II, Craig served with the Navy in the Pacific. Upon
returning to North Carolina, he bought Harvey Reinhardt's kiln and farmland.
Craig settled there with his wife, Irene Lindsay, and to supplement his
income as a potter and farmer, he worked in the North Hickory furniture
factory machine rooms.
- Until the late 1970s, Craig made primarily utilitarian stoneware for
his neighbors -- churns, pitchers, jars, crocks, candlesticks, and a few
birdhouses and flowerpots. Encouraged by friends to make face jugs, snakes,
and ring jugs, he began to expand his repertoire beyond these functional
pieces to include face jugs ranging in size from miniature to nine gallons,
double face jugs, pitchers, monkey jugs, footed and unfooted ring jugs,
- Over the years, Craig shoveled his clay from the bottomland along the
South Fork of the Catawba River, and then trucked it home to grind it in
a pug mill. Next, he turned his jugs, jars, pitchers, and other forms on
his foot-powered treadle wheel, pulling up the walls of the pots as he
pumped the flywheel with his left foot. His alkaline glazes were made from
local materials - usually crushed glass bottles, wood ashes, iron cinders,
water and clay - and then finely ground in a hand-turned, water-powered
stone mill. Finally, he "burned" his wares in a huge wood-fired
groundhog kiln, a long and arduous task lasting eight to 10 hours. As the
temperature rose far above 2000 degrees, the pots heated up to a white-orange
- In the 1980s, Craig's shop became a mecca for students of the alkaline-glazed
stoneware tradition, because, unlike other local potters, he retained all
the old techniques. There is a purity to Craig's work: His shapes are elegant,
the textures of his glazes rich and earthy. His long experience shows in
the deceptively simple forms he has favored. A generous man, he continued
to share his skills and patience with those who wished to learn from him
until his death in 2002.
- One of the distinctive features of Catawba Valley pottery is a blue
tint that appears in the glaze when the kiln temperature is white-hot.
The blue is thought to be caused by the mineral rutile (titanium dioxide)
that occurs naturally in the bottomland clay near a branch of the Catawba
River. The blue is prevalent in many of Craig's pieces.
- John Hodge - makes decorative pottery, Milagros and ex-votives
in glazed and painted finishes.
- John's formal art training was in painting but his interests quickly
incorporated pottery and he actively pursued both separately for years.
His new work fuses those interests into one statement. The traditional
pottery techniques allow him to design and make the ceramic canvases that
later come to life with glazed and/or painted surfaces of mixed media.
- The pottery is usually wheel thrown with minor hand building techniques
in a series of related concepts involving shape, texture and applied decoration
with some vague idea of how to decorate them with color. This leads to
many accidental discoveries which further the creative process and affects
each successive work. This results in one-of-a-kind expressions in
a conglomeration of all my artistic experiences.
- Every piece of pottery that he makes generates from clay or slip (liquid
clay) that has been mixed in his studio. He has also added the ashes
of ribbon that he found from the trash can in the apartment where John
Lennon and Yoko Ono were living on Bank Street in New York City, when they
were fighting extradition to England in the '70's. Also included
are the ashes of ticker tape from the John Glenn ticker tape parade in
- "I think of my pottery as a reliquary of positive energy",
says John Hodge. This one of a kind work has been designed and hand made
of clay which has been bisque fired and glazed or painted with non-fired
mixed media including pigments with metallic particles which are then washed
with acids to produce the unusual patinas.
- John Hodge received his M.F.A from Rutgers University in New Brunswick,
NJ and his B.F.A. from the University of Southwestern Louisiana in Lafayette,
- SELECTED COLLECTIONS: New Orleans Museum of Art, New Orleans, LA; Ogden
Collection-Museum of the South, New Orleans, LA; Pan American Life Insurance,
New Orleans, LA; Aquarium of the Americas Collection, New Orleans, LA;
University of Southwestern Louisiana Collection, Lafayette, LA; Lauren
Rogers Museum, Laurel, MS; Meridian Museum, Meridian, MS; Mobile Museum
of Art, Mobile, AL; Howard and Ann Barnett, New Orleans, LA; Arthur Roger,
New Orleans, LA; William Fagaly, New Orleans, LA; John
- Bullard, New Orleans, LA; Mrs. Sunny Norman, New Orleans, LA; Dr. Nia
Terezakis, New Orleans, LA; Mignon Faget, New Orleans, LA; Dr. and Mrs.
Louis Nogues, Slidell, LA.
- Jerry Brown - carries forward an unbroken tradition of Southern
stoneware pottery that has been in his family for nine generations. Adolphus
Brown, Jerry's great grandfather, operated a pottery shop in the 1920's
in Cleveland, GA. A brother of his great-grandfather worked for "Daddy
Bill" Dorsey and Cheever Meaders, where they were paid two cents a
gallon for turning ware.
- In the early 1930's his father, Horace "Jug" Brown, moved
to Lamar County, Alabama, a region rich in clay for pottery making and
opened a pottery shop in 1941. Jerry and his brother were put to work in
their father's shop before they were old enough to go to school. Jerry
was 22 when his father turned the shop over to his sons.
- Jerry and wife, Sandra, run a small scale family operation, the ninth
generation. He still uses a mule to power his clay pug mill, which extrudes
the clay. He continues to use the old glazes -- Albany slip, Bristol and
ash plus producing many of the old traditional shapes, including churns,
pitchers and the face jugs that the Brown family has been making since
the turn of the century. There are several other methods handed down
from father to son since the 1700's and used at Jerry Brown Pottery. They
dig their own clay, hand-turn and meticulously hand-decorate every piece
of pottery, fire most of the pottery in a brick kiln and use customized
glazes for the unique look that's been passed down through the years.
- Jerry was awarded the National Heritage Fellowship in 1992, as well
as receiving numerous merit awards. Most recently Jerry has had a
festival named in his honor. The Jerry Brown Arts Festival - also
called the JBAF. The JBAF is a juried event that attracts high-quality
artist working in various mediums.
- Mark Rigsby - was born November 28, 1967 in Laurel, Mississippi
and grew up in Evergreen, Alabama. Rigsby received his BFA from Auburn
University in 1991 where he studied ceramics with Gary Wagoner. At
Auburn, Rigsby received a strong foundation in visual arts and the inspiration
to pursue ceramics as a career.
- In May of 1997 Rigsby received his MFA from The University of Alabama. At
Alabama he studied with ceramics professors Tom Barns and Lowell Baker. During
graduate school his work evolved from primarily wheel thrown works to hand-built
sculptural forms of ceramic and wood construction. He also became
interested in methods of kiln construction and the process of wood-firing. He
built his first "Olsen Fast-fire" wood-kiln in 1995 and designed
and led the construction of a multi-chambered climbing kiln during the
summer of 1997.
- In September of 1997, Rigsby was selected as the resident potter of
Kentuck Art Center in Northport, Alabama. He pursued his passion
for making fine-crafted utilitarian pottery, produced both wheel-thrown
and hand-constructed utilitarian and sculptural stoneware, and taught community
pottery classes to adults and children. While at Kentuck, Rigsby lead
workshops for several visual arts outreach programs: "Kentuck
for Kids" as well as, "Arts for All" and the "SPECTRA"
programs of the Tuscaloosa Arts Council. Over the years, through these
programs, he worked with thousands of children conducting pottery workshops
throughout Tuscaloosa County.
- Mark Rigsby left Kentuck in 2002 and now lives in Hattiesburg, Mississippi
where he and his wife Melanie Eubanks own and operate a rural home studio,
Black Creek Pottery. Rigsby makes fine crafted wood-fired stoneware
pottery. He is an exhibiting member of the Craftsmen's Guild of
Mississippi, exhibits at fine craft festivals throughout the country,
and is represented by numerous fine craft galleries throughout the Southeast.
- Jim Mc Dowell - calls himself "the Black Potter."
He creates face jugs based on both his family traditions and his sacred
ancestral tradition of using face jugs as grave markers. He's been
a studio potter for more than 30 years and has been creating face jugs
for nearly 20.
- Born in Norfolk, Virginia, a great-great-great-great nephew of a woman
named Evangeline, an enslaved village potter in Jamaica; great-grandson
of a tombstone maker from Gaffney, South Carolina; and son of a self-taught
artist, James T. McDowell, Sr.
- A Viet Nam-era veteran stationed in Ansbach, Germany, he was assigned
to operate the craft shop on base. Jim wanted to use the pottery wheel
and kiln he found there but had to learn it first. He heard about
German potters in Nuremberg and went there on leave to find them.
He didn't speak German and they didn't speak English but they let him observe
their work, clean up the shop, and load the wood fired kiln, which he especially
loved. He visited a few times and took what he learned back to Ansbach,
practicing on the wheel until he was good enough to give lessons.
- After eight years in the military, Jim went back to the coal mines
in Kentucky and continued to make pots. With his first big paycheck he
bought a wheel, an electric kiln, a thousand pounds of clay, and set up
shop in his basement, eventually moving to a small studio. After 20 years
in the mines ending up in Johnstown, PA, he left mining for good to produce
pottery full time.
- Although he owns gas and electric kilns Jim prefers to fire his pots
and face jugs in a wood kiln. He is a master at wood firing and has supervised
many firings at other potters' kilns. He is in the process of building
his own wood kiln called a groundhog kiln and plans to eventually fire
everything he makes this way. He'll be able to load the kiln with six or
seven hundred pots at one time so he'll invite other potters to fire as
well. Using this method, the firing takes an average of 16 to 18 hours,
with the fire under constant scrutiny and tending.
- Jim made his first "ugly" face jug in 1983 after seeing one
created by a white potter. Remembering that his ancestor Evangeline
made face jugs, Jim made his with black features. Later he learned about
the literate enslaved potter, Dave from Edgeville, South Carolina, and
to honor him he began inscribing messages on his face jugs like Dave did
on his pots. Jim began to pour all his stored up emotions about slavery,
his share-cropper ancestors, Civil Rights, discrimination he experienced
in the mines and the military, religious beliefs, and more into the face
- His hand printed words are the final touch on each face jug, another
way of keeping a spiritual connection to each jug. Usually on the left
side of the back of the jug, he writes an anti-slavery message, and on
the right side a message for today. Regardless of the glazing and
firing processes yet to come, Jim considers the pot complete once he has
carved his words into the clay. However, when a face jug emerges
from the kiln, Jim gives each a name related to its apparent personality,
message, and characteristics.
- As an older adult, Jim earned an associate degree in art from Mt. Aloysius
College, but it did not include pottery studies. In this area he is almost
completely self-taught. Jim is an Artist-in-Residence with Southern Alleghenies
Museum of the Arts, and through its residency programs teaches pottery
and art in public and private schools, and in hospitals through its Arts
in Healing program.
- His motto quotes American artist, Daniel Rhodes, also a potter: "Earth,
water, firethese are the ingredients of pots and human beings alike, and
each formula contains an element of chance. Do not seek perfection in pots
or people, for your search will be unrewarded, and you will miss knowing
many good pots and good people." (right: Jim McDowell, Son of the
Morning, clay, china; wood fired, 2008, 9 34 inches tall; 20 inches
diameter. Loaned by The Black Potter)
- John Rezner - graduated from Auburn University in 1990, He put
his fine art degree to use making pottery fulltime.
- Rezner works with clay from the area near the Fish River, just south
of his hometown of Fairhope, an area known as "Clay City." Growing
up near there, the potter knows Baldwin County is well-known for its large
deposits of natural stoneware clay. By digging his own medium, Rezner takes
joy not just in his art, but in sharing what he calls "closeness with
nature and tradition on a daily basis."
- For 18 years he has been making pottery on a daily basis. His focus
has been on local clay material and woodash glazes as the starting point.
Rezner has built many kilns and fired with many fuels. He is influenced
the most by southern pottery and the material itself.
- "I feel lucky to be able to make wood fired pottery from the same
clay that has forever served potters in the coastal regions of the south",
states Rezner. "The use of local clay gives me a connection to history,
tradition, and the natural world and feeds my passion to create pottery
that will last a lifetime and beyond."
- Francie Rich - specializes in satirical portraits of dogs, people
and Barbies. She draws her names for her works from obituary nicknames
from the New Orleans Times Picayune newspaper.
- They are a very clever couple! "My exuberance and zest for
life is matched only by my bountiful lethargy, ennui, and abundant capacity
for run-on sentences, says Rich. "I married my father and my husband
married his crazy Aunt Sadie. The four of us are tripping the light fantastic
even though two of us are dead. I am an anxious, insecure person with low
self esteem but I still have the ability to laugh at others.
I teach art history and organize and lead tours with my husband, John Hodge.
John makes pottery and teaches pottery to rich menopausal women whom he
refers to as his patients. Since Hurricane Katrina I've been having Britney
- Rich received a BFA from Minneapolis College of Art and Design (also
studied one year at Rietveld Academie, Amsterdam), and a MFA from California
College of the Arts. (right: Eightball, Thrown, modeled and glazed
by Francie Rich and John Hodge, Louisiana from the Devil Queens of Mardi
Gras and Thug Jug series )
- Artist-in-Residence Fellowship Grant, Roswell Museum and Art Center,
- Services to the Field Grant, National Endowment for the Arts and the
Contemporary Arts Center, New Orleans
- Visual Arts Fellowship, Southern Arts Federation/National Endowment
for the Arts, Southeast Seven-11
- Artist Fellowship, Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art, Winston-Salem,
- Collections include: New Orleans Museum of Art, Ogden Museum of Southern
Art; New Orleans Aquarium of the Americas, New Orleans, LA; Prudential
Life Insurance, Newark, NJ; Ewing Gallery of Art, University of Tennessee,
Knoxville, TN; Laila and Thurston Twigg-Smith, Honolulu, HI; Frederick
R. Weisman, Los Angeles, CA; Ann and Howard Barnett, New Orleans, LA; The
Residency Collection, Gallery 409, Roswell, NM; Sheraton Hotel, New Orleans,
LA; McGlinchey, Stafford, Minz, Cellini and Lang, New Orleans, LA; Ted
Schachter, MGM-UA Telecommunications, Inc., Culver City, CA.
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