Residents and visitors of Lincoln County will soon see some odd faces in downtown Lincolnton.
Pots on Parade, an exhibit showcasing 10 “life-sized” face jugs crafted by local potters and a few others from various parts of the state, will be available for public viewing this week.
Local officials hope will help boost awareness of the arts and foot-traffic through the area.
The display comes in response to similar predecessor events, such as Chicago’s Cows on Parade and a pig display in Cincinnati — two public art projects that focused on bringing works of art to life. Locally, face-jug pottery is considered to be one of the area’s “indigenous art forms” that are part of the Catawba Valley pottery scene; one of the types of work for which the county is known, Guth explained.
Having clay pieces that stand more than four feet tall will draw more tourism to the area and better inform the public about the pieces that are being crafted right under their noses, local artists and the Downtown Development Association (DDA) hope.
Currently, various platforms are disbursed up and down East Main Street with ceramic eggs resting on them — until the face jugs take over and are on display on the bases later.
“Hopefully this will draw attention to the pottery tradition here,” Guth said. “When people come to visit, that tradition isn’t self-evident.”
The DDA has been working with the Historical Association and Catawba Valley potters to redevelop the Eureka Manufacturing Company Cotton Mill building in Lincolnton in hopes of opening the Catawba Valley Pottery Center there. The center was planned to open for the first time in 2002, but during the early stages of the process, the owner of the property died and the land was sold. The plan is for traditional and contemporary Catawba Valley pottery to be on display, and to have classes available that are taught by local potters in the new facility.
Up until a few years ago, no grants or funding was received to go toward the effort. Local potter Luke Heafner filled out the paperwork and put in the leg work to work with the county Arts Council’s Grassroots Arts Program to help put the wheels in motion for grants that led to two community displays of the popular jugs — the first installment.
After much positive feedback from the community, seed dollars from the city of Lincolnton and Guth’s development department were granted to budget eight more projects. After getting the OK and with the funding available, a call was put out for local artists to create faces for jugs that are to be displayed this fall.
A few local potters have been busy recently, sculpting faces on the clay-molds and deciding what personality their “face” will express, with one look on each side of the jug.
Lincolnton resident Kathy Richards has been working on this type of art for about 30 years, she estimates, but prior to this showcase hadn’t made any pieces in about a year. Richards collects antiques, and grew up in an artistic household, watching her father create pottery work.
“I always have had the idea that if someone else can do it then I can, too,” Richards said.
A fan of miniature faces, Richards decided to stay with what she likes and make a smaller face with a prominent, larger nose. Overall, she guesses it took her about two hours to complete her contribution to the reveal on Thursday.
Across the county in Denver, Wendy Edwards has been making face jugs and other artwork for the last eight years. The jugs started out as a self-test of, “Wonder if I can do that,” she said.
Going into the project with no preconceived notions, or ideas of what the face will look like later, is one of the best parts of creating a face jug, Edwards said. For this event, she crafted two opposite looks — a “wise, old man” sporting a long beard and a goofy-faced look on the other side of the jug.
“The face aspect is the embellishment you do later where you personalize it; they just kind of evolve,” Edwards said. “You put a nose on, add eyes and eventually a personality comes through. You’re making something with personality, not just a stagnant piece; giving life to an inanimate object, and somewhere along the line your personal history starts to show up in them.”
Seeing the pieces during daily activities, she thinks, will help bring art to the public — a “constant reminder” of the tradition that lies within the county.
The jugs will be on display around downtown Lincolnton for about a year and then will be auctioned off, Guth said. This week’s event marks the second phase of the project, which the DDA hopes will lead to a third, larger installment of art down the road.
Guth is confident that having the artwork available to patrons who are traveling on East Main will help boost support for local art and to open the center in the future.
Pots on Parade will run from 6 to 9 p.m., Thursday, at the Citizen’s Center. Call (704) 736-8915 for more information.