In the 1820s and 1830s, around the same time that the salt-glaze tradition was taking hold in Eastern NC, Catawba Valley potters began decorating their stoneware with ash glaze.Read More
One of the earliest masters of this technique was Daniel Seagle (1805–1867). In his shop near Vale, Seagle initially produced earthenware but soon turned to stoneware. He was a landowner and farmer but ran a sizable pottery, employing three men. Seagle excelled at throwing thinly walled pots with a good sense of volume.
As in the Eastern Piedmont, Catawba Valley potters often created family dynasties in which ceramic traditions associated with the area were passed down from generation to generation. Among the families of potters were the Reinhardts, Hiltons, and Propsts.
Certainly one of the most common names one associates with Catawba Valley is Burlon Craig (1914-2002). Craig began learning his craft when he was 14 from Jim Lynn, a seasoned potter. Craig made a full range of items, both utilitarian and decorative. He was especially known for his face jugs, which he began producing in the 1970s in response to demand from his customers, and for sharing his knowledge so readily with younger potters.
Potters in many different cultures have made vessels adorned with human facial features for almost as long as they have been molding clay. Many of these vessels had functions related to funerals and rituals, while others served as portraits of ruling-class owners.
In North Carolina, very few face jugs were made until the second quarter of the twentieth century, when they slowly attracted the attention of tourists looking for novelty gifts to bring home. Their height of popularity did not begin until the 1970s, however, when Catawba Valley potter Burlon Craig re-popularized the form in response to a renewed interest among his customers. Soon other North Carolina potters began making face jugs as well, so that today they come in all shapes and sizes, and with a wide variety of facial features and expressions.