The use of pottery jugs can be traced back beyond the Roman Empire. In a region like ours, where histories are often oral, tracing the origins of our traditions is tricky. Face jugs are one of the traditions that are an amalgam of many cultural influences.
Amongst that rich history is the port of Charleston; the African tradition of using jug pots as headstones was brought to our culture through this port. Highly prized red glaze recipes from China also made their way to our region from the Charleston port. And even from the pubs of England came a long history and influence through their ever-charming Toby mugs.
Face jugs combine the utilitarian influences of early regional pottery with the unique imagination of individual pottery makers. In the mountains of Georgia, and the Catawba Valley, North Carolina, ugly faces, snakes and devils were added to Market Jugs beginning in the late 1800’s. These embellished pots were used to buy & store liquor; the ominous features would scare children so they would not be tempted to try the contents.
MICHAEL Ball lives and works in Western North Carolina, home to rich traditions in the making of pottery. Many potters including Mike, are still hand digging their clay and wood firing in groundhog kilns, just as potters did in the 19th century. Mike learned his trade both from Kim Ellington and Charlie Lisk who in turn learned directly from local master Burlon Craig, the last potter experienced in the earliest traditions of the region.
Mikes face jugs are expressive, each one unique in its facial features and fanciful flair. Following local tradition, he incorporates beautiful glass drips and uses broken plates for teeth. Mike also creates an assortment of utilitarian ware.
MICHEL Bayne was born & raised in Tigersville, SC; Michel was sparked creatively by his mother. He discovered clay just after high school & kept it as a beloved hobby for 25 years. After a workplace injury he switched from being a heating & air conditioning guy, and began pursuing pottery. In 2008 he moved to North Carolina specializes in historically inspired American stoneware. “The forms I create are reminiscent of vessels traditionally made in South Carolina: full & round. But, my interests go beyond South Carolinian to a more worldly inspiration.” Michel makes his own glazes, and fires in a wood-fired kiln. He evolves traditional incising design or colored slips to a complicated level of detail. His merging of tradition and ingenuity is evident, bringing him much recognition and admiration. Michel’s face jugs are very distinct. He uses a traditional technique of adding clay to the outside of the jugs; however, he opens the bottom of his jugs, and manipulates the clay from the inside and out, creating a more sculptural, almost life-like beauty.
MICHAEL Gates is a North Carolina potter, a descendant of a German family synonymous with time honored traditions: The Reinhardt Pottery. He is a sixth generation potter carrying on techniques while adding his inspired voice. He studied ceramics at UNC- Greensboro, abroad in Australia just before the turn of this century, and upon returning to NC he worked with several Catawba Valley traditional potters.
Michael’s pottery is an appealing mix of aboriginal love of texture and dots, and traditional slip decoration. He fires in a wood- fired ground hog kiln and digs his own clay and using alkaline glazes, creating functional ware that honors the old, yet pushes toward the future. He sometimes even uses broken Reinhardt pottery shards for teeth.
STACY Lambert studied graphic design and was intrigued by the graphic works of M.C. Escher and the surrealistic works of Salvador Dali. He studied the art of pottery under the guidance of Seagrove potter, Sid Luck. Like any smart apprentice, he learned the technical aspects of firing and glazing from the master, then as the years went by, he added his own unique talents of painting and graphics to his original creations. His rich color pallet and his three-dimensional interpretations of people and animals are as much fun as a potter ought to have.
Collectors are having nearly as much fun collecting everything he produces as Stacy is producing it. If you see piece of his art that speaks to you, make plans to take it home quickly before it speaks to someone else, because it will. Since the work is all handpainted and sculpted by Stacy the number of pieces he produces is quite low, thus making his work even more desirable to the serious collector of rare pieces.
STEVE Abee is a Burke County, NC native, and one of the younger, talented and popular potters working in the Catawba Valley. He earned his potter’s credentials by building his own underground wood-fired kiln and carrying on traditional southern potter traditions by creating face jugs.
WAYNE Hewell is a 5th generation potter, and farmer in the mountains of Georgia. He is part of the Hewell family of Georgia, potters for more than a hundred years. The patriarch of this family was Eli D Hewell, who established the pottery in 1890. His aunt is Marie Rodgers-the first woman folk potter to independently operate entirely on her own. Waynes lineage has undoubtedly influenced him. He uses wild clay from Georgia, fires in a wood-fired kiln, and uses Tobacco Spit or Alkaline glazes to create the greenish, runny surfaces on the jugs.
Wayne often incorporates humor into the faces by adding grimaces, points to the ears, cigars, etc. Wayne is also known for his swirl ware, a process of combining two different clay bodies which result in an amazing striped effect.