Lincolnton artist Kathy Richards uses jugs to create art; starting March 9 sheâ€™ll be sharing her unique jug creations and paintings with the community through an exhibit at the Lincoln Cultural Center.
Richards hands have been sculpting pottery for more than three decades without formal art training. She also paints.
“I learned to make pottery by reading books and trial and error,” she said. “I had no help; it was all on my own.”
The Catawba County native, who moved to Lincoln County more than 40 years ago, remembers “pugging” the clay by hand, using a kick wheel at her own speed and firing her pottery in an electric kiln.
“I made what I wanted to make,” Richards said. “I never had a production schedule.”
Her two specialties include “vinegar hags” and “jughead” paintings â€” both pieces centered on jugs.
Richards modeled her “vinegar hags” off of what she calls “over-worked farm women tired of raising cotton and young-ins and cane.”
“These were women of the South who worked the farms in the hot sun,” she said. “They always wore their hair in a ball on the back of their head and were not allowed to bob their hair â€¦ By the time they were 35, they were worn down to look 70.”
Richards additionally noted that since dentists were a rare sort back then, her hags usually display just one tooth.
Hags are comprised of two attached jugs, representing the female body, and a hand-molded head, which can detach from the jugs, Richards said. In addition, the faces possess a “sour vinegar” expression since the jugs are used to hold vinegar.
During her early days of pottery making, Richards, a mill worker, only sold her items to fellow employees.
“The owner of the mill helped me to setup a table in the mill,” she said.
As the years passed, people all over the U.S. began to purchase her artwork. “Everyone loves them (pots),” she said.
Since 2010, Richards has also been selling her paintings, a majority of which are rural in theme and feature her “jugheads,” a name she attached to people who collect jugs or facejugs and who often go to the extreme to search for them.
“They will have an addiction to all aspects of Southern folk art face jugs,” she said.
Richards noted that she began to paint two years ago after she grew tired of making pots and gardening. Instead, she decided to try her hand at a new art form â€” watercolor.
“I found out right quick I knew nothing, so I practiced,” she said.
Richards painted 100 roosters before deciding that her painting was good enough to share with the world. “It was enough to start selling,” she said.
Richards has additional experience both working with ceramics and painting plaster figurines and dolls.
She noted that her favorite part of art is reaching her goals and “accomplishing what I set out to do,” she said, even if that means receiving negative commentary and critique.
“I do it my way,” Richards said.
Throughout her career, sheâ€™s won a variety of awards including her very first blue ribbon at a craft fair in Maiden in 1983 followed by a second ribbon a year later at the Lincoln County Apple Festival.
“I describe my artwork as humble and primitive,” Richards said, “and I never take it real serious. Itâ€™s just a ball of mud orâ€¦paper and colorâ€¦It might not never be a masterpiece, but I donâ€™t get bored. I do like colorâ€¦who wants a drab old thing hanging around?”
Richards describes herself as “an unpretentious person trying to be original” and create simple art.
“What you see is what you get,” she said.
“Jugheads to Vinegar Hags: The Color of Kathy Richards” will be on display Friday through April 29 at the Lincoln Cultural Center. For more information, call (704) 732-9055.