“I am a descendant of slaves.”
~Jim McDowell, potter
“My face jugs are ugly because
slavery was ugly.”
~Jim McDowell, potter
“There are times when I sit at the wheel
when I believe ideas come to me
from the ancestors.”
~Jim McDowell, potter
“I’ve been making face jugs for over
35 years, but I am not a folk artist.
I am directly inspired by African
American and Caribbean traditions.”
~Jim McDowell, potter

Events

 

University of Illinois A&D Visiting Artist

University of Illinois
College of Fine & Applied Arts
African American Face Jugs | Jim McDowell
Thursday September 16, 2021
Online / 5:30pm CT
Zoom Link go.illinois.edu/mcdowell
Learn more>

 

The Noyes House

At The Noyes House
Blum & Poe, Mendes Wood DM, and Object & Thing
September 15 – November 28, 2020
New Canaan, CT
object-thing.com
info@object-thing.com

Africans made face jugs for use in spiritual and funerary practice or to ward away evil. There are many myths and stories about these jugs. Sometimes a face jug was buried next to the doorway of a home, in the belief it held a spirit of protection. I’ve heard they are created ugly to scare away the devil. Another story says if the face jug on a grave is found to be broken, the soul of that person went on to heaven. Whatever the reason for their existence, I know face jugs, often called conjure jugs, were made by enslaved and newly freed persons of African descent in this country.

I believe 19th century or early 20th century white potters appropriated the face jug design, now considered southern folk art. I’m taking it back, one jug at a time.