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Face It!

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Face It!

April 4 - August 8 , 2009

Mint Museum of Art

Censer with Tlaloc Face - Mexico

Mexico. West Coast - censer - pottery

23.50 x 14.00 in


This exhibition explores the popularity of face jugs in two distinct cultures and time periods. The Bridges Gallery features about thirty examples of North Carolina face jugs from the Museum’s permanent collection including works by such notable potters as Burlon Craig, Charlie Lisk and Joe Reinhardt, while the Levine Gallery highlights the face-jug tradition in the ancient American cultures of Peru, Mexico and Costa Rica.


The creative urge to anthropomorphize--give human form to--pottery vessels is found the world over from ancient to modern times. Some artistic traditions favor a full rendering of the human form whereas others portray only the barest hint of body traits. Similarly, the purpose and meanings of these “humanized” containers vary according to the culture and audience for whom the artworks were made. In the ancient Americas, anthropomorphized pottery vessels were common among many cultures. Some created anthropomorphic vases and bowls whose forms and decoration make reference only to the human face while others also allude to the body. Although appealing to the eye, most vessels are not whimsical artistic creations but instead convey religious or political messages related to the social environment in which they were utilized.


Face Jugs

  • Face Jug Link - From the Mint's Crafting NC site for kids, select the Learn More link at the bottom of the page

  • Essay on a southern face jug exhibit at the Walter Anderson Museum of Art - includes brief biographies of Burlon Craig, Joe Reinhardt and Charlie Lisk, three of the artists in the Mint exhibit

  • Online preview of Roots of a Region: Southern Folk Culture by John A. Burrison - an excerpt on making faces on jugs


Selected Print Resources:

  • Huffman, Barry Gurley. Catawba clay : contemporary southern face jug makers. Hickory, NC : A.W. Huffman, c1997.
  • Thompson, Roy. Face jugs, chickens, and other whimseys : vernacular Southern pottery. Glastonbury, Ct. : Southern Rock Pottery Collectors Society, 1990.
  • North Carolina pottery : the collection of the Mint Museums. Chapel Hill : Published for the Mint Museums by the University of North Carolina Press, c2004.


Prominent NC Face Jug Artists in Exhibition


Burlon Craig


Charlie Lisk

  • Catawba Valley Pottery of North Carolina - biography
  • SouthernPotters.com- brief biography and images of Lisk working (Site is no longer available) 
  • Images and brief description from Maddi's Gallery in Charlotte, NC (Site is no longer available)


Joe Reinhardt


Ancient American Pottery (Peru, Mexico, Costa Rica...)

  • "The Spirit of Ancient Peru" - description of some of the anthropomorphic ceramics held at the Museo Arqueológico Rafael Larco Herrera in Lima, Peru
  • Moche- portrait vessels - a Princeton site with links to more info about theses Peruvian vessels and about the Moche culture (Site is no longer available)
  • Chancay full body vessels from Peru - a brief paragraph about vessels and the Chancay ceramic tradition, examples of which can be seen in this exhibit


Selected Print Resources: 

  • Menzel, Dorothy. Pottery style and society in ancient Peru : art as a mirror of history in the Ica Valley, 1350-1570. Berkeley : University of California Press, c1976.
  • Barber, Edwin Atlee, 1851-1916. The pottery and porcelain of the United States : an historical review of American ceramic art from the earliest times to the present day : to which is appended a chapter on the pottery of Mexico. [s.l.] : Feingold & Lewis, 1976.
  • Bushnell, Geoffrey Hext Sutherland. Ancient American pottery. London : Faber and Faber,1955.


North Carolina Pottery


Print resources in The Mint Museum Library on North Carolina and Ancient American pottery are too numerous to list.

You can search for books through MARCO- The Mint Art Research Catalog OnlineSome of the following search terms may be helpful:

  • face jugs
  • character jugs
  • North Carolina pottery
  • folk art North Carolina
  • folk art southern states
  • pottery Peru
  • pottery Mexico
  • pottery Costa Rica




Created by Rebecca Stockin, volunteer for The Mint Museum Library







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