By Gina Malone
American Folk Art & Framing (AFAF) will open its 9th Annual Face Jug Show online Tuesday, April 6, at 11 a.m., with sales beginning that day at noon by calling the gallery. The show opens in the gallery on Thursday, April 8, at 11 a.m. and continues through Tuesday, April 20.
Face jugs have been a part of Appalachian culture since the early 1800s. “The tradition of clay wares created for household use was common and our North Carolina soils contain all of the elements needed to make hardy stoneware clays,” says AFAF owner Betsey-Rose Weiss. “Our woods provide all of the fuel needed to fire the kilns. North Carolinians have always provided the essentials for themselves, and functional pottery was found in every home.”
Today, pottery in general and face jugs in particular are created by North Carolina’s many pottery makers and are avidly sought by collectors. The AFAF collection contains a wide selection of face jugs by potters like Ben J. North.
North began playing with clay as a child after seeing Native American pots in a museum. His studies and apprenticeships took him from New York to New Mexico, where he apprenticed with Apache potter Felipe Ortega, and to other sites around the country before he landed in NC’s Burke County.
North began making formal face jugs while in high school. “Face jugs do make up a significant portion of my work,” he says, “but I make all sorts of things from plain crocks, jugs, jars, foot warmers, flasks, vases, snake jugs, incised and carved pots, coffee and beer mugs, to clay beads as well as occasional bronze pieces.”
He sees jugs, because of their shape, as a natural canvas for faces. “I think people just love faces,” he says in explanation of the popularity of face jugs. “The human face is one of the first things most people see when they come into the world, and through the phenomenon of pareidolia we even see faces where there are none: in the shapes of clouds, in wood-grain patterns, the famed illusion of the face on Mars and, of course, the Man in the Moon.”
American Folk Art & Framing is located at 64 Biltmore Avenue in Asheville. Hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week, with appointments available. For more information, visit AmeriFolk.com or call 828.281.2134.