Archive for June 22nd, 2009

Face Jugs

Face JugYears ago I sold a painting to a lady who was working in Corning.  I can’t remember what she was doing at the time exactly but she had a thick German accent so I asked where she was from and what brought her to this part of the world.  It turns out she was from Austria and had originally came here as an anthropologist studying Appalachia.

It kind of surprised me because I never really thought of our area as Appalachia, especially in the stereotypical terms the word conjures up.  But as we talked I saw the thread that tied us to the mountain culture.  Our area has a rural feel and driving through the hills you get the feeling that you could be driving in the Tennessee or Kentucky hills, not New York.Face Jug

Unfortunately, we don’t have some of the better traditions of the Appalachian culture.  For instance, the pottery face jugs like the one shown.  Face jugs evolved through the slave culture of the south as a means to deter evil spirits from the graves of the dead so that they might get to heaven.  They also served as a sort of gravestone for the living as the graves were not generally marked.  

The tradition of making face jugs has continued in Appalachia and there are families that are in the fourth and fifth generation of jug making.   Like any other art form, there is a wide spectrum of face jugs.  Some maintain the roughness of the early slave jugs while others have become more polished, with a contemporary feel that definitely takes a new course from the early pieces.  There are some that walk the line between the originals and the work of highly skilled potters.  These jugs are usually done by potters who are self taught or learned the craft from a family member and usually have a certain individual style.Wayne Hewell Face Jug  Kind of like this one from Wayne Hewell, who is part of a multi-generational jug making family in North Carolina, that is done with a swirl of lighter clay running through the jug.  I have one of the brothers to this particular jug and he sits on the fireplace of my studio.  I call him Clem and so far he’s done a pretty good job keeping the evil spirits away. Devil Face Jug

But if I think he’s slacking off I might have to get a Devil Face Jug just to remind him what he’s trying to keep out of the studio.

I’m watching you, Clem…


Face jugs 1850

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