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
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.
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.