Search This Blog

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

New face jugs and Dave the slave...

Occassionally I make some face jugs. Most potters at one time or another, are tempted to put a face on a pot. What better background? Pots are round and begging to be tampered with. These are some of my face jugs from last year...

In my travels to South Carolina State Fair, I met lots of folks who knew about Dave the Slave who did pottery one hundreds years ago in their area.

The most interesting thing I think is that Dave signed many of his pots. He also inscribed verses into his pots. So many early potters made a pot and sold it as a common useful item and today we are left wondering who made these wonderful images and the stories behind them.

All crafts are expressions of something the person has inside and has to get out in one form or another. Over the years we refine our style and designs. My new face jugs have smaller features and simplified details. The jug with the bloody nose was a result of being on the same table when I glazed my red birds. I didn't notice it till I opened the kiln and lifted him out, (they take on personalities). My first impression was "Oh no!" But the more I have him around the more I like him and want to keep him.   If I try to recreate some bloody noses, will they come out the same or is this accident a one-of-a-kind creations?

Dave – A Literate Slave

Dave goes by many names including "Dave the Potter," "Dave the Slave," Dave Drake, and simply Dave. There is considerable mystery surrounding this Edgefield artist, but thanks to the former slave's unique ability to read and write, we've been left with an amazing autobiography, scrawled on the shoulders and sides of his remaining jugs and vessels.

Dave was born around 1801, presumably to South Carolina plantation-owner Harry Drake. Drake is thought to have been staunchly religious and may have taught several of his slaves to read and write in order that they might continue to benefit from the teachings in the Bible. Helping a slave learn to read was heavily frowned upon, as common thought concluded that it would lead to free will and possible revolt. A series of laws were passed prohibiting owners from educating slaves, and in 1740 it became illegal to teach a slave to write, although reading was not specifically outlawed.

Dave may have had as many as five owners throughout his life as a slave. Following the death of Harry Drake in 1832, Dave became the property of Dr. Abner Landrum. Dave's literacy by way of Drake was not the only thing that made him unique. Evidence suggests that Dave may have lost a leg as a young man – the result of a train accident. This made him unfit for field labor but well suited to a type of work that required sitting.

Dr. Landrum owned a small pottery yard inhabited by about 15 slave-families. Known in early years as Landrumsville, and in later years as Pottersville, the stoneware produced there was of great quality and beauty. For use in plantation homes, it outshone its predecessor – earthenware pottery – as it was impervious to water and much stronger overall.

And, Daves verses...

Stories are behind the pots we make.

No comments: