Meet Jim McDowell: Face jugs from the “Black Potter”
Artsville Weekend Sept. 9 + 10: Discussion group and Party
New Exhibit:“A Walk in the Woods” with seven artists
Meet Jim McDowell: Three Ways to See, Listen and Learn about Face Jugs from this Renowned Potter
- See Jim’s Face Jugs at Artsville Collective at Marquee through Oct. 30
- Listen to Jim tell his own story on the Artsville USA podcast at https://artsville.captivate.fm/ or listen on any popular podcast platform
- Enjoy a virtual discussion with Jim on Sept. 9 from 12-1pm. Find out more information and get the Zoom link here.
A Story About Jim McDowell:
Telling the Stories of His Black Ancestors, One Face Jug at a Time
“You can’t just do art for art’s sake. You have to have emotion. You have to have a story behind it. Otherwise, why are you doing it?” Jim McDowell tells Artsville Collective.
Jim, who creates under the name of “the Black Potter” is best known for his impactful face jugs, but he also creates functional pottery. In his Artsville podcast episode released on August 15, Jim reveals the captivating stories that guide his work with a full heart and the energy of a passionate creator.
Face jugs are historically linked to African American enslaved communities in the US. Most of the talented artists’ names are missing, and there is mystery around the purpose of the jugs because of the gaps in recorded history. Jim’s fourth great aunt was a slave potter in Jamaica and through passed-down stories he learned that the jugs were used to carry spirits, ward off evil, and mark graves, as the enslaved weren’t allowed tombstones.
Jim has his ancestors in his ear—and guiding his hands—and has made it his responsibility to tell their stories, keep the tradition alive, and share this piece of Black history that has been erased. Creating the jugs takes about a week—“plus 40 years,” he jokes with a hearty chuckle—and his process is emotionally charged. His ancestors “speak” to him in his dreams, inspiring him in his making and committing him to connecting past stories to today’s history-making events.
Every face jug has a purposeful inscription on the back in honor of an enslaved man named David Drake (“Dave”) from an Edgefield, South Carolina plantation who was able to write on his jugs and even sign his name. “The writing is so significant because it refers to what’s on the front of the jug. It refers to the whole gamut of the emotional content, and also the spiritual content.”
Story written by Jenna Eberhardt
Listen to Jim on the Artsville Podcast
Enjoy a special episode with Jim as he tells his story and shares the history behind his ceramic creations, specifically his face jugs.
Key Points from the Episode
- Jim speaks to the spiritual nature of his work and how his face jugs honor his ancestors
- The significance of the Ghanaian word, ‘sankofa’, and bringing forth knowledge and skills from the past in order to move forward
- Making the distinction between folk potters and Jim’s work as an artist.
- What sparked his passion for throwing clay, which he says he has been drawn to all his life
- Understanding the practical differences between an electric kiln and a wood-fired one
- The wealth of knowledge that our guest has accumulated over his 40 years of experience
- Insight into the history of Black potters like David Drake, who Jim sees as a personal hero
- How he ensures this spiritual tradition is kept alive through storytelling.
- Where he garners inspiration for his face jugs and the words he inscribes on them
- Honoring Jim’s mother and father, who instilled in him a strong work ethic and tenacity
- How he draws inspiration and his entrepreneurial spirit from his grandparents
- Why Jim says that his kiln is a testament not only to his parents but his ancestors too
- A glimpse into what it feels like for our guest to receive recognition for his face jugs
- The community he is building in Weaverville based on the principles of sankofa
- Jim takes us through the process of creating one of his face jugs, from start to finish
- Hear the story of how he came to call himself the Black Potter
- How Jim channels his anger and acts of resistance into his artworks
LISTEN HERE or on any podcast platform.
“A Walk in the Woods” Opens at Artsville Collective in Marquee
Five guest artists join Daryl Slaton and Louise Glickman to reveal the glory of our Carolina woodlands with a variety of mediums and from personal perspectives. Not at all what you would expect, their viewpoints reveal Appalachia through a fresh lens, inspired by fall and full of surprises for all leaf-peepers. See the works of Jim McDowell; ceramic face jugs, Ellen Golden; photography manipulated by light, Mary Farmer; encaustics, Jo Miller; basket illusion woodturning, Bronwen McCormick; watercolors.
Mark Your Calendars: An Artsville Weekend
On Friday, September 9 from 12-1pm: Art a la Carte: Join a VIRTUAL lunchtime discussion with Jim McDowell, "The Black Potter," to learn about the history, culture, and uses of face jugs. These collectibles have a meaningful legacy within the framework of family and community. For more information and to get the Zoom link, click here. This is a free event and all are welcome!
On Saturday, September 10 from 2-5pm- CELEBRATE at Artsville Collective's popular open house at Artsville Collective where we show the works of our five guest artists in our current “Walk in the Woods” exhibit. Get to know our artists, supporters, and community creatives IN PERSON at Marquee in the River Arts District. Food, wine, and friendship are served up with a special presentation at 3:30 pm. For more information, click here. This is a free event and all are welcome!