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C. J. Meaders glazing a face jug
C.J. Meaders glazing a face jug, January 12, 2000. Photo: Aimee Schmidt

Georgia Folk Pottery

Georgia's folk pottery tradition stems back to Creeks, Cherokees, and other Native American tribes who created clay wares. As European immigrants settled in Georgia during the 1700s, they practiced techniques of turning clay on a wheel, using glaze, and a fire kiln. From the 1820s through the 1840s, Georgia experienced a growth of pottery-making centers, called "jugtowns." Most of these were concentrated in the Piedmont Plateau that encompassed much of central and north Georgia. Many craftsmen were yeoman farmers whose pottery provided them with a supplemental income. They considered themselves artisans supplying demand. By the 1920s, Georgia's folk pottery tradition was waning as glass and metal containers became more available and less expensive.

In the Georgia folk tradition, the skills, techniques, and materials that are maintained were passed on to each generation. Methods of preparing the clay and glazes, throwing technique, forms that were used, the architecture of the kiln, and the process of firing are all part of a collective tradition. While few potters signed their work, pieces can be identified by their style, such as the placement of handles, or the weight or bulge of vessels. Since most pottery forms are universally recognized, the distinguishing mark of most ceramics is its glaze. Georgia glazes were typically alkaline, developed around 1810 in South Carolina. Toward the end of the 19th century, most Georgia potters had switched to Albany slip, which typically created a smooth brown finish.

With few exceptions, Georgia pottery was produced for utilitarian use, and any aesthetic appeal was secondary. This does not mean Georgia pottery lacks beauty. It is the integration of form and glaze, and technique and innovation that create a simple aesthetic beauty inherent in generations of folk pottery. The red clay of the north Georgia soil is highly suitable for pottery making, and several families there continue to "turn and burn," preserving a 200-old tradition. Noteworthy names such as Hewell, Meaders, and Ferguson are associated with the Georgia folk pottery tradition. Today the changing consumer market challenges these potters to adapt traditional practices to modern demands.

Documentation includes a 16-page legacy report, including interviews of potters; four slides; 21 photos; brochures; a flyer; and map.

Originally submitted by: Paul Coverdell, Senator.

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The Local Legacies project provides a "snapshot" of American Culture as it was expressed in spring of 2000. Consequently, it is not being updated with new or revised information with the exception of "Related Website" links.

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