Editor's note: The Walter Anderson Museum of Art provided source material to Resource Library for the following article or essay. If you have questions or comments regarding the source material, please contact the Walter Anderson Museum of Art directly through either this phone number or web address:


"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 17, 2008. 

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 pottery.
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 Club.  
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 local potters. 
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, and more.  
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 hue.  
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 New York.
"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, LA.
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 jugs.  
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 Spears' dreams."
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, Roswell, NM
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, NC
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. 

RL readers may also enjoy:


Read more articles and essays concerning this institutional source by visiting the sub-index page for the Walter Anderson Museum of Art in Resource Library.

Search Resource Library for thousands of articles and essays on American art.

Copyright 2008 Traditional Fine Arts Organization, Inc., an Arizona nonprofit corporation. All rights reserved.