A Sense of Family underneath the Grotesque

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I felt that when reading Catawba Clay: Contemporary Southern Face Jug Makers.  The history and evolution of face jugs and the families who created them brought out this sense of close ties between artists and patrons that I have never felt even when reading about the Italian families of the Renaissance.

Why do I say that?  The book gives Burlon Craig, the man who pioneered the Face jug this air of Patriarch while people such as Charles Lisk, Don Craig, Steven Abee, and others receive the label of rightful descendents to his tradition.  Also, Barry G. Huffman captures all this and more when she wrote the history,  artist profiles, and themes in this book.

I find the face jugs encapsulates a lot of Southern motifs.  For me, they convey innocence, the grotesque (misshapen teeth), danger (snakes), spiritual (devils), elegance, and something fruitful (grapes).  I mention grapes because of North Carolina’s wine history.

Regarding the book itself, it makes for a fun and easy read.  I read it in one night and found it charming and its local flavor gave me a sense of pride.  I write this because the book reveals that this tradition owes a lot to the Moravian demographic that immigrated here and I have roots there.  On the other hand, I did not know what to make of the photographic reproductions.  Throughout the book, I see black and white photos of the jugs, but near the end, they give us full color reproductions.  An odd way of setting things.  Finally, while Huffman acknowledges the gender divide in claymaking, she still only gives the men individual profiles while women receive little mention here and there with them.  Not to mention the African-American tradition has only scant acknowledgement at the end of the book.

However, the jugs themselves delights me with this sense of black humor with their ugly faces and their animals that provide storage for owners.

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