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.
A.V. Smith has been making pottery for 30 years. He started turning pots in a friend's basement at the age of 16, and realized soon enough that pottery would be his life’s work. After graduating from Wingate College’s (North Carolina) pottery program, he went straight to work, first at Pinehurst Pottery, then in a studio/shop he shared with Catawba Valley potter Charlie Lisk in Pinehurst.
MIKE 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.
MIKE Ball & TRISTA Hudzik collaborated on several face jugs for this show specially. Trista Hudzik is a tender & passionate painter--her canvas just happens to be clay. Mike is creating the forms, starting on the wheel and adding handle forms and other elements that he thinks will either delight Trista or confound her….! Trista then adds the decorative and color elements, sometimes spending days considering what might honor the form. The combination of Mike’s beautifully thrown forms and Trista’s blooms of color results in a soulful timelessness….
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, a Burke County, NC native, is one of the younger, yet talented and popular potters of the Catawba Valley tradition. As with so many of the Catawba potters, Abee became interested in pottery making after attending a Burlon Craig kiln sale. After first turning a pot with Michael Calhoun in Blowing Rock, he eventually made his own potter's wheel. In 1994 Steven was in full production and ready to have his first sale of pottery fired in an electric kiln, but soon after Abee earned his potter's credentials by building his own underground kiln. He now sticks with the traditional methods of the Catawba potter, digging his own clay, mixing his own glazes, and firing in his wood fired kiln.
WALTER Fleming, a Presbyterian minister by day, has always been interested in rural tasks and early American craftsmanship. In the seventies Walter began making white oak baskets as a hobby. Later he became intrigued with the process of making pottery. After he had created several pieces, he intentionally went to meet Burlon Craig, the well-known potter from the Catawba Valley and asked Craig to critique his work. Burlon later introduced him to another skilled potter by the name of Charlie Lisk. Over the years, Walter found his relationship with these two folk potters to be invaluable.
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.