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Vernon Owens, Jugtown Pottery

Biography to Display: 

1917Jugtown Pottery founded by Jacques and Juliana Bushbee, Seagrove, Moore County, North Carolina

1918Village Store, New York City, New York opened

1923Ben Owen hired

1960John Mare purchase Jugtown Pottery / Vernon Owens hired

1962-1968Vernon Owens leased Jugtown Pottery

1968Jugtown Pottery purchased by Country Roads, Inc.

1969-1980Apprenticeship Program

1983Vernon Owens purchased Jugtown Pottery from Country Roads, Inc.     

1994North Carolina Folk Heritage Award, Vernon Owens

1996National Heritage Fellowship, National Endowment for the Arts, Vernon Owens

 

Jugtown Pottery in Seagrove, Moore County, North Carolina is in the center of the North Carolina pottery tradition. It was founded in 1917 by Jacques and Juliana Busbee. The Busbees were artists originally from Raleigh, North Carolina. The couple set about creating opportunities for potters to preserve traditional regional skills. It was the traditional orange glazed, salt fired wares of the region that had attracted the Busbees to Seagrove.

In an effort to market the local potter’s work to a larger audience Julianna opened the Village Store in 1918 in New York City. Since the workshop at Jugtown had not yet been built orders for the store went to potters who had their own wheels and kilns. They used locally dug clay that was mixed using mule power. The thrown pieces were fired in wood burning kilns. Henry Chrisco, Rufus Owen, James Owen and J.W. Teague were among the first group.

The first known potter to work with the Busbee's at Jugtown was James H. Owen. Charlie Teague was the second known potter to be hired by the Busbees. Ben Owen was hired as the third known potter for Jugtown Pottery in 1923. The earliest work produced at Jugtown was white or brown slip decorated and was for domestic use. Tiffany in New York was contacted as a possible outlet for work. This connection led to the addition of new shapes, many showing Asian influences as well as a group of new glazes.

John Mare purchased Jugtown in 1960 and hired Vernon Owens to throw pots for Jugtown. Vernon’s brother, Bobby Owens, along with Charles Moore glazed the ware, loaded and fired the kiln. The Owens brothers are the sons of M.L. Owens, who added the s to his surname and the grandsons of James H. Owen. After Mare died suddenly in 1962 Vernon Owens leased the pottery and ran it until 1968 when it was purchased by Country Roads, Inc. a nonprofit corporation dedicated to preserving traditional handcrafts.

 Vernon continued to work at Jugtown with Nancy Sweezy, a potter, who became the director soon after Country Roads purchased the pottery. She changed the earthenware glazes to fritted lead glazes and began the use of upright oil kilns. She developed a completely different line of colors. In an effort to create lead free functional ware Sweezy developed a new line of higher temperature glazes in the early seventies. An apprenticeship study program set up by Sweezy, brought over thirty pottery students to study at Jugtown from 1969 through 1980. Pam Lorette, now Vernon’s wife came in the late 1970's to study at Jugtown.  

In 1983 Country Roads, Inc. sold the pottery to Vernon who continues to make pots, something he has done since he was seven. Together with his wife Pam, son Travis and daughter Bayle, the family continues the traditions of Jugtown while adding new forms and glazes with an eye to the 21st century. The work is fired in a modified groundhog wood burning kiln built in 1996, often with the addition of salt.

The way pots are marked:

1-circular stamp with jug in center and "Jugtown ware" written around jug; Impressed in base of piece year piece was made, stamped on base of piece, signature Vernon Owens incised in base or initials VO stamped on base

2- circular stamp with pitcher in center and Jugtown ware written around pitcher; Impressed in base of piece year piece was made, stamped on base of piecesignature Vernon Owens incised in base or initials VO stamped on base

3-used rarely, a stamp from 1960 -circular stamp with jug (with a round top) in center and Jugtown ware written around jug; Impressed in base of piece year piece was made, stamped on base of piece signature Vernon Owens incised in base or initials VO stamped on base.

Public Collections

Public Collections to Display: 

Gregg Museum of Art and Design, Raleigh, North Carolina

Museum of International Folk Art, Santa Fe, New Mexico

Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C.

Bibliography

Bibliography to Display: 

Eaton, Allen. Handcrafts of the Southern Highlands. 1937. Reprint. New York, NY: Dover Publications, 1973.

Eidelberg, Martin. “Art Pottery.” In The Arts and Craft Movement in America 1876-1916, editor Robert Judson Clark, 119-86. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1972.

Levin, Elaine. The History of American Ceramics 1607 to the present. New York, NY: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1988.

Perry, Barbara, ed. American Ceramics The Collection of Everson Museum of Art. New York, NY: Rizoli, 1989.

 

Artist's Studio: Jugtown Pottery

 

Typical Marks
Used rarely, a stamp from 1960 -circular stamp with jug (with a round top) in center and Jugtown ware written around jug.
Used rarely, a stamp from 1960 -circular stamp with jug (with a round top) in center and Jugtown ware written around jug.
c. 1960
Jug stamp made in 1959 for John Mare, used by Vernon Owens until 1961. This stamp was used again from 1969 to 1972 1959 to 1961, 1969 to 1972
Jug stamp made in 1959 for John Mare, used by Vernon Owens until 1961. This stamp was used again from 1969 to 1972 1959 to 1961, 1969 to 1972
1959-1972
Pitcher stamp made for John Mare in 1959 but not used until 1983 and is in use to the present.
Pitcher stamp made for John Mare in 1959 but not used until 1983 and is in use to the present.
1983-present
Vintage vase bottom, Vernon Owens in script, 1992, JUGTOWN WARE stamp
Vintage vase bottom, Vernon Owens in script, 1992, JUGTOWN WARE stamp
1992
Dogwood Vase
Form: Vase
Materials: Stoneware
Method: Thrown
Surface Technique: Glaze
Photo: Jugtown
Pair of Candlesticks
Form: Candlesticks
Materials: Stoneware
Method: Thrown
Surface Technique: Glaze
Made by Vernon Owens
Photo: Jugtown
Made by Vernon Owens
Jug
Form: Jug
Materials: Stoneware
Method: Thrown
Surface Technique: Glaze
Made by Vernon Owens
Photo: Jugtown
Made by Vernon Owens
Wine Jug
Form: Jug
Materials: Stoneware
Method: Thrown
Surface Technique: Glaze
Photo: Jugtown

Citation: "The Marks Project." Last modified September 24, 2017. http://www.themarksproject.org:443/marks/owens-0