The use of pottery jugs can be traced back beyond the Roman Empire. In a region like ours, where histories are often oral, tracing the origins of our traditions is tricky. Face jugs are one of the traditions that are an amalgam of many cultural influences. Amongst that rich history is the port of Charleston; the African tradition of using jug pots as headstones was brought to our culture through this port. Highly prized red glaze recipes from China also made their way to our region from the Charleston port. And even from the pubs of England came a long history and influence through their ever-charming Toby mugs.
Face jugs combine the utilitarian influences of early regional pottery with the unique imagination of individual pottery makers. In the mountains of Georgia, and the Catawba Valley, North Carolina, ugly faces, snakes and devils were added to Market Jugs beginning in the late 1800's. These embellished pots were used to buy & store liquor; the ominous features would scare children so they would not be tempted to try the contents.
Potter Jim McDowell heard the history of the jugs handed down through generations. According to family lore, ugly jugs were used by slaves as grave markers, made ugly to scare the devil away. McDowell's face jugs include messages, like this one that says "Don't judge the color of my skin; judge me by the content of my character."