Museum of International Folk Art

Pottery of the U.S. South: A Living Tradition

January 02, 2015


Pottery traditions from the South come alive in museum exhibition

Pottery was crucial to agrarian life in the U.S. South, with useful forms such as pitchers, storage jars, jugs, and churns being most in demand for the day-to-day activities of a household and farm. Today, a century after that lifeway began to change, potters in the South continue to make vital wares that are distinctively Southern. The Museum of International Folk Art will celebrate this “living tradition” of American regional culture with the exhibition Pottery of the U.S. South: A Living Tradition, which opens on Friday, October 24, with a free public reception from 5:30 to 7:30pm hosted by the Women’s Board of the Museum of New Mexico. The two-man folk orchestra Round Mountain will perform Southern-inspired music, including original compositions, at the opening reception.

The exhibition closes on November 15, 2015.

The exhibition presents traditional stoneware from North Carolina and north Georgia, current works characterized by earthy local clays, salt and ash glazes, and surprising effects of wood firing.

“These are plain-spoken pots with a quiet beauty,” states guest curator Karen Duffy, a folklorist. “They have subtle ornamentation and an emphasis on form. The focus of the exhibition will be the potters themselves, above all their creativity and commitment to tradition.”

The South’s ceramic tradition has roots in England and Germany, and has long been enriched by ideas drawn from Asia and Africa. Accordingly, Southern pottery is shown to be a vibrant art through which potters engage with their region and the world. Mark Hewitt, a British-born potter who established his pottery enterprise in North Carolina in 1983, was attracted to the area by the Southern pottery tradition. In a 2012 interview with Ceramic Review, he stated: “I consider the existence of the older traditions liberating, not confining. If treated with imagination, they belong in our world now, living alongside the avant garde. The past and present complement each other; one does not cancel the other out, both can be made new.”

The exhibition presents several of the pottery families that regularly renew this tradition in clay, transmitting knowledge to novice potters along lines of kinship. The Owen/Owens family, associated with the renowned Jugtown Pottery in Seagrove, NC, is one such family that is presented. Also featured are pottery-making operations, such as Hewitt’s, in which learning occurs through apprenticeship to skilled masters.

While the exhibition focuses on living artists, including a younger generation of potters inspired by Southern tradition, it also includes some nineteenth-century practitioners whose work attests to the time-depth of the regional style. More than forty artists are represented in the exhibition, including Vernon Owens, Ben Owen III, and Sid Luck in the Seagrove area; Burlon Craig and Kim Ellington in North Carolina’s Catawba Valley; and members of the Meaders, Hewell, and Ferguson families in north Georgia (see artist list, attached).

High resolution images may be downloaded from the Museum of New Mexico Media Center here.

Public Contact Number: 505-476-1200 or visit the museum website http:///

Media Contacts:

Steve Cantrell, Public Relations Manager Museum of New Mexico (505) 476-1144

Laura Addison, Curator of North American and European Folk Art Museum of International Folk Art (505) 476-1224


The Museum of International Folk Art is a division of the New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs.

Museum exhibitions and programs supported by donors to the Museum of New Mexico Foundation and its Director’s Leadership Fund, Exhibitions Development Fund, and Fund for Museum Education.


Related Photos

Installation Shot for Southern Pottery 2
Installation Shot for Southern Pottery 3
Installation Shot for Southern Pottery 4
John Burrison.
Mike Craven demonstrates turning a jug
Burlon Craig, Face jug, 1982
Lanier Meaders, Face jug, early 1970s
Wayne Hewell, Face jug (detail),
Vernon Owens, Jug (detail), 2010
Vernon Owens, Jug, 2010,
Chad Brown, Pitcher, 2012
Matthew Hewell, One-gallon pitcher, 2011
Michael Crocker, Five-gallon syrup jug, 2012
Wood-fired, alkaline-glazed jars

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