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Face Jugs and Folk Pots
Face Jugs and Folk Pots is a featured episode from the first season of Folkways, premiering in 1982.
While most of the artists in that first series are no longer with us, this is a chance to visit them again and see some of the very best and authentic folk art practiced in the southern Appalachians.
Although the production tools available then can't match the quality of today's digital video, it's still a fascinating look back at part of our cultural heritage.
Survival pottery was bread and butter business for both the potter and his customers in the days before refrigeration. Food processing took a major amount of attention and depended heavily on the heavy clay and stoneware jugs, churns, pots and pitchers. They were as common as plastic and carboard containers are today.
This program features Burlon Craig, who at the time of production was one of the last folk potters still working in North Carolina.
At his home in Lincoln County, he dug his own clay, made his own alkaline glaze from ground glass and ashes, and fired his pottery in one of the last remaining ground-hog wood-fired kilns.
He became famous for his face jugs, although he routinely made all kinds of pots.
The series visited Burlon again in the 1990's to find him still working pretty much as he always had done. (see Pottery Revival in Catawba Valley) In the interim, pottery making had enjoyed a revival in North Carolina and there are now hundreds of excellent potters in the state. Craig's techniques and style inspired many new potters.
1914-July 6, 2002
Burlon Craig has been called the "godfather" of Catawba Valley potters. His introduction to the craft came at age 14, when he apprenticed with a western North Carolina potter. In 1942, Craig joined the Navy, and when he returned, he began creating pottery in Vale, NC, while working at a furniture store. His style: face jugs. Using clay that he dug from the ground himself and making his own glazes, Burlon revived a style of pottery that had all but died in the Catawba Valley. After he retired from the store, he began full-time farming and pottery making. His face jugs and snake jugs would sell almost more quickly than he could make them, and his work became so widely known that UNC-Chapel Hill author Charles Zug III featured him in his book, Turners and Burners: The Folk Potters of North Carolina . Two years before the book was published, in 1984, Craig received the prestigious National Folk Heritage Award by the National Endowment of the Arts.
His work became so popular in the 90's that he began giving visitors a number to ensure that people who had traveled some distance could peruse his wares without being trampled. For many years he was considered the last potter of Catawba Valley, but in 1981, Charles Lisk moved to the area and worked with Craig for many years. Until his death, Craig still dug his own clay and made his own glazes.
A History of Pottery
This page has a good description of pottery's history, from its roots in China.
Burlon Craig Pottery Festival
Find out more about a festival honoring the guest in this episode.
Catawba Valley Pottery of North Carolina
If you want to find more pottery in the area of the Craigs, this is the place to go.
North Carolina Pottery Center
This is the best resource to find potters and pottery centers in North Carolina