SEAGROVE, N.C. -- This comprehensive exhibition of one of North Carolina's most renowned family of potters opens today with 100 pieces of pottery from six generations of the Owen/Owens family.
The exhibition runs through April 3, 2009.
The exhibition also features family photos and bios telling the story of potters whose ware transformed from everyday kitchen use to large-scale decorative pieces displayed in the lobbies of major hotels including one in Tokyo, Japan.
The center hosted an artists' reception January 17th from 2 to 4 p.m. The reception was free and open to the public.
Owen and Owens family members brought their instruments and played bluegrass and old time Appalachian music.
The exhibitions starts with two brothers—James J. Owen and Joseph Owen—farmers that supplemented their income in the 1800's by selling jugs, churns and other wares to sell or trade in the local community.
They are credited with starting the family business by creating functional items mainly used for food preparation and preservation and to serve food.
The items in the show range from a preserve jar made by James J. Owen, born in 1830 and several pieces from recent college graduate Travis Owens, the first Owens potter to actually be born and raised in Jugtown.
"Families of artists are a particularly exotic and appealing phenomena. The Owen/Owens family of Seagrove, North Carolina is such a family," says Charlotte Vestal Brown, the show's curator and the author of "The Remarkable Potters of Seagrove." Brown is also the director of Gregg Museum of Art & Design at N.C. State University in Raleigh.
"Beginning with Joseph Owen (1823-1905) this extended family has crafted pottery for at least six generations," Brown says. "Other Seagrove area families share a similar history. Aumans, Coles, Teagues. Lucks and Chriscoes also produced utilitarian earthenware and stoneware. Their collective presence forms a larger sample of potters whose practice continued over several generations, and suggests that pottery making was the result of circumstances—nurture—as well as human nature."
"It's a very scholarly exhibition," Brown says. "There is so much we don't know and so much to know. It starts to fill in the missing pieces. It touches on all of the Owens who made pottery, the circumstances they lived and made work."
Ben Owen III says this exhibition really helps to show how generations were influenced. His ancestors made pots out of necessity—those pieces evolved into more decorative pieces because of outside influences and other cultures including those of China, Japan and Korea. "You see bits and pieces of these influences from the past in the intricate details from the way a handle is applied to how a lid is made."
"From decade to decade the Owen/Owens family has created an enduring legacy of art and craft by absorbing change and using it, by finding the energy of new hybrids along with the power of persistent, internal consistency," Brown says. "They have lived through good economic times and bad times too...Joseph's descendants have succeeded in the face of radical social, cultural and demographic change at both the local and regional levels. The Owen(s) family has endured like no other."
In fact, several of the family members are recognized as world-class potters including Vernon Owens, Pamela Owens, Ben Owens I, Ben Owens III and Billy Ray Hussey.
Owen says what distinguishes an Owen pot from others potters is the form and shape. That's the hallmark of their family's pottery. Owen quotes his grandfather saying, "It's easy in life to make things complicated but it's a challenge to keep things simple."
Admission and Tours
The price of the exhibition is $2 for adults, $1 for 9th to 12th grade students, and free for children from kindergarten to 8th grade. Free for members. The center's hours are Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The NCPC is located at 250 East Ave., in Seagrove. The center's telephone number is 336-873-8430 or check them out on the web at www.ncpotterycenter.com.
For a sneak preview of the NCPC and this exhibition, watch the Museums In A Minute spotlight on the NCPC. The Web based promotion includes a one-minute video tour of the center's permanent collection with potter Pam Owens serving as the narrator.
Related Web Sites
Seagrove Area Potters Associationwww.discoverseagrove.com
Randolph Arts Guildwww.randolphartsguild.com
Museum of NC Traditional Pottery www.seagrovepotteryheritage.com/index.html
An electionic press kit for the exhibition is available at www.ncarts.org/potteryexhibition.
The N.C. Arts Council is a division of the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources, a state agency dedicated to the promotion and protection of North Carolina's arts, history and culture. www.ncculture.com