Tag Archive | glaze

The Black Potter

Another featured artist. Pottery is one of my passions! I studied pottery in college for 4 years, and every now and then I enroll in pottery studio at our local fine arts center.

Jim McDowell is my cousin. He’s a professional potter. He creates Face Jugs, and functional pottery. His work is beautiful, and it has a history. Jim lives in Weaverville, NC now. Please visit www.blackpotter.com for more history.

He calls himself the Black Potter…
“The pot is the man: his virtues and his vices are shown therein—no  disguise is possible.”
                                                                                 Bernard Leach, potter

Jim McDowell, who calls himself “the Black Potter,” believes himself to be the only black potter who creates face jugs based on both his family traditions and his sacred ancestral tradition of using face jugs as grave markers.  He’s been a studio potter for over 30 years and has been creating face jugs for nearly 25.

Born in Norfolk, Virginia, Jim is a great-great-great-great nephew of a woman named Evangeline, a village slave potter in Jamaica; a great-grandson of a tombstone maker from Gaffney, South Carolina; and a son of a self-taught artist, James T. McDowell, Sr., Jim came of age in Washington, D.C, during the struggles for Civil Rights. A severe hearing loss gave him trouble in school so he left to join the Job Corps and later began working in the coal mines of Kentucky.  A Viet Nam Era-vet stationed in Ansbach, Germany. Jim began to pray during difficult times and deepened his spiritual relationship with God. He changed his thoughts about killing and when he told this to his commanding officers, they assigned him to operate the craft shop on base.

Jim wanted to use the pottery wheel and kiln he found there and teach others to do the same, but he had to learn it himself first.  He heard about German potters in Nuremberg and went there on leave to find them.  He didn’t speak German and they didn’t speak English but he indicated he wanted to learn how to make potter. One potter bluntly handed him a broom. JIm swallowed his pride and swept the floor. Over time, they let him observe their work, clean up the shop, and load the wood fired kiln, which he especially loved.  He visited a few times and took what he learned back to Ansbach, practicing on the wheel until he was good enough to give lessons.