Jugtown to Mark 90th Anniversary with Celebration
It’s been 90 years since Jugtown first pressed its now-historic stamp into clay turned on a kicked potter’s wheel. The famed pottery center is celebrating that anniversary with a kiln opening on Saturday.
“This year’s opening will feature new pieces by Vernon, Pam and Travis,” Pamela Owens said. “In celebration of the 90th anniversary of the creation of the Jugtown stamp, we will have a number of pots marked with all three Jugtown stamps.”
The museum, in a log cabin next to the shop, opens at 7 a.m. with coffee, tea and refreshments. The shop opens at 8:30, with the celebration running to 5 p.m.
Jugtown Pottery is located up N.C. 705 — designated by the state of North Carolina as “the Pottery Highway” — in a grove of trees and bamboo eight miles south of Seagrove, just past the community of Westmoore.
The museum, kilns, wheels and shop are just off Busbee Road, named for the founders of Jugtown.
Jugtown is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. It began in 1917 when two artists from Raleigh, Jacques and Juliana Busbee, happened on an orange-glazed pie dish and traced it back to Moore County.
They fell in love with the utilitarian salt-glazed and orange earthenware being made by local potters and saw an opportunity to aid in the survival of a nearly vanishing craft. Juliana Busbee opened a shop in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village.
Her first orders for pots went to potters with their own wheels and kilns: Henry Chrisco, Rufus Owen, James Owen and J.W. Teague. Later, the Busbees found that they wanted to go beyond traditional shapes and glazes.
The first potter to work with the Busbees was J.H. Owen. He was born in 1866. By 1917 he was making pots for Jugtown, turning, decorating and firing them at his own workshop. J.H. Owen also made pots at his own shop. Some of these early orange- and salt-glazed with cobalt pieces bear the J.H. Owen stamp. A few that bear the first Jugtown stamp are clearly from his hand.
The Busbees began stamping Jugtown pieces in 1922. Today, Jugtown follows the path set out by the founders. Its present owner, Vernon Owens, a recipient of the N.C. Folk Heritage Award and the NEA National Heritage Fellowship with his wife, Pam, and son Travis, are the main potters; Bobby Owens mixes clay and glazes the pieces.
In the museum, a special exhibition began April 20 to document the history of the three stamps used over the past nine decades. Saturday, they will open their large adapted version of the traditional kiln, called a “groundhog” kiln, that was designed by Vernon and Pam Owens and built in 1996.
More than 70 craftspeople and other artists are represented in the Jugtown sales cabin. Wares include wooden spoons and utensils, pewter work, candles, jewelry, woven rugs and towels, cards, clocks and iron work.
“We work diligently to have an exceptional collection of American-made crafts available for purchase,” Owens said. “If you think it’s only about history, you’re wrong. Jugtown is where tradition merges with innovation.”
The Pottery Highway begins just past West End, where it turns right off N.C. 211 past the Pinehurst Traffic Circle. On either side of the road, as it winds up to and through Robbins and on to Seagrove, are the shops and kilns of area potters. Visitors who make a day of it exploring them often return again and again.
This time of year, from Thanksgiving to Christmas, is high season for these traditional and newly creative artists and artisans. Jugtown could be said to be the place that put them all on the map.
Contact John Chappell at (910) 783-5841 or jfchappell @gmail.com.
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