I have recently started researching face jugs.  They were jugs with expressive faces (with abstracted features reminiscent of African art) made by slaves in the antebellum American south.  There is only one name that comes up in that search: Dave the slave potter.  He was a slave who made pottery and was the only slave potter to sign his work.  He wrote poetry on some of the pieces which is truly exceptional because few slaves were literate or could write.  The jugs are amazingly simple and beautiful in and of themselves, the fact that some have a poetry on them makes them more exceptional to me.  An example of one of potter Dave’s couplets:

The forth of July is surely come
to blow the fife = and beat the drum.
4 July 1859

More information on potter Dave at www.davetheslave.org.

I really love figurative sculpture and I really love coil building jars.  Why didn’t I think to combine those before?  My current project, very much inspired by face jugs, is a large coil-built stoneware vessel with a porcelain face of an elderly person coming out of it.  Yes I am concerned about how much porcelain shrinks compared to stoneware, but I am interested to see what that does to the piece.  I also love the allusion the white clay body makes to Roman death masks.  And I thought in an homage to Dave the potter, I thought I would inscribe a few lines of poetry onto the side of the jug.  I chose the last stanza from Billy Collins’ “On Turning Ten:

It seems only yesterday I used to believe
there was nothing under my skin but light.
If you cut me I could shine.
But now when I fall upon the sidewalks of life,
I skin my knees. I bleed.

This one is my favorite of Dave’s couplets because it alludes to my power color/animal:

I saw a leopard & a lions face
than I felt the need of – grace
3 November 1858

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