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Folk Pottery for Sale

Marty Steiner | June 1st, 2013


Combining an early Daniel Seagle salt-glaze pot with incised historical reference to an event took this Lincoln County, North Carolina, pot to $17,050. It is quite possibly a presentation piece.


The Meaders name is synonymous with face jugs because of Lanier’s fame with this form. Lanier’s brother Edwin also produced face jugs as Lanier ceased production. This scarce, early alkaline example closed at $10,725.


Described as the “first offered or known” two-color clay monkey jug, it utilized white clay to form the handle, spout, and facial features. Simply signed “B,” this Craig pot reached $3850, far in excess of the $1500 high estimate.


Although most North Carolina salt-glaze pots are simple forms with straight forward glaze, occasionally the ash activity during firing creates highly attractive finishes. This Elijah K. Moffitt one-handle jug is an example of this phenomenon. With dramatic drips and mottled upper surfaces, it reached $6325.


Everything one could want—early Edgefield, great form, dramatic glaze drippings, and in excellent condition. Attributed to the Pottersville Stoneware Manufactory in South Carolina and from the early 1800’s, this slave-made bulbous one-handled jug brought a winning bid of $10,725.


Among the wide range of pottery by B. B. Craig was a variety of swirlware forms. Rare, this olive and cream clay wig stand finished with a crushed clear glass glaze was a winner at $3960.

Southern Folk Pottery Collectors Society, Bennett, North Carolina

Photos courtesy Southern Folk Pottery Collectors Society

The 39th auction by the Southern Folk Pottery Collectors Society had just over 400 lots; all but 58 were pottery. There was a wide range of material in the sale, which closed on June 1. Prices realized ranged from $5.50 to $17,050 (includes buyer’s premium); 38 lots received no bids. There were no reserves, but every lot did have an auctioneer-established minimum bid listed.

It should be noted that unlike many commercial auction houses, the society also has an educational function. The sale catalogs draw heavily from the society library in describing each lot and provide a wealth of information to the potential bidder. Other differences lie in the breadth of material offered. This sale included recent low-fired Native American items, obscure and seldom-seen makers, and many scarce and early examples.

With this span of material, the careful organization of the catalog enables most bidders to home in on their particular interests. Works are listed by state of origin, with some states further defined by geographic area or time frame. An extensive bibliography of 157 references also was included.

Among the rare examples was an 1837 dated Catawba Valley “JCM” two-handle commemorative jug. A two-lug-handle storage jar by Daniel Seagle (signed “DS 2”) featured blue rutile runs, an uncommon glaze for Seagle. At $11,000, it was a star performer.

Almost every society sale has a “Dave the Slave” (Dave Drake) pot or two. Two were offered in this sale. The first, a two-lug-handled storage jar with “LM” and six piercings and a double slash, had early rim restoration but still reached $3520. The other, a bulbous one-handle jug with script “LM” and two slashes deeply inscribed, reached $7150.

Three Lanier Meaders face jugs were listed. A relatively early ovoid jug with a distorted comic face and no rock teeth drew a $2970 winning bid. One with an expressive face with pointed ears brought $1650, and one with a jowly, serene face brought only $715. All three prices were disappointing.

The only Meaders pot to do well was an advertising jug that, although unsigned, is documented to have been made by Cheever in the 1950’s. It reached $880. A rooster planter/bowl attributed to Arie was the Meaders family star at $3850.

Fifteen lots of Crawford County, Georgia, pots were offered. With readily identifiable forms, these pots are becoming more widely sought after. An unsigned alkaline-glaze table jug with distinctive Crawford rim, shoulder banding, handle, and glaze sold for $825. A number of Crawford’s trademark “beehive” jugs with painted rock or alkaline glaze were sold.

There were 36 lots by North Carolina’s Burlon B. Craig. Examples offered included three early works (1940-50’s), eight lots of snake-applied pots, 13 face pieces, four swirlware pots (other forms included swirlware), four traditional forms, and three miniatures.

Although Craig did some potting prior to his military service during World War Two, the earliest pieces in this sale were from his time at the Reinhardt site in North Carolina in the late 1940’s. While historically interesting, they did poorly. An unusual rundlet (a small barrel or cask of about 15-gallon capacity) with typical alkaline glaze brought $1045.

Craig’s snake pots drew much interest. A unique 1970’s effort, a signed monkey jug with feldspathic glaze topped with an Albany slip-glazed snake slithered to a strong $770. A somewhat later swirlware jug with a snake through the handle and across the shoulder sold for $467.50.

An early (1977-78) production face jug with rutile blue drips nearly doubled expectations at $2420. In addition to the one-handled jugs and monkey jugs, other face forms included two wig stands. One with a crushed Coca-Cola glass glaze on a pointed head with goatee brought $2530, and a swirlware example brought $3960, which shows the popularity of this form.

Other Craig face forms included a cuspidor that brought $467.50 and two double-handled examples, an unusually large jug that made $4730 and a slightly smaller example that got a somewhat disappointing $1650.

Although generally considered a different collecting focus, commercial whiskey jugs with distiller or distributor stenciling are occasionally found in the society sales. Two marked “Atlantic Coast Distilling Co. Jacksonville, Fla.,” a one-gallon with bail handle #8 and a miniature “Sampler” #9, were sold for $121 and $66 respectively.

Among the non-pottery lots were eight baskets, 15 bricks and related items, 25 book lots, and even a few paintings and fabric items.

Allen H. Eaton, in his classic 1937 work Handicrafts of the Southern Highlands, links pottery and basketry as the most ancient of crafts. “Baskets have always been an important part of the home equipment of the people.” Previous sales have shown mixed results for baskets, and this sale was even more extreme. Most of the eight basket lots were from North Carolina and made of split oak. Forms included a somewhat squat buttocks gathering basket that brought $88, two miniature baskets including a 3½" long 19th-century buttocks at $1045, and a mid-20th-century version with an unusual handle wrapped with a patterned weave that only met the minimum bid of $33. Two baskets with nominal condition problems failed to get minimum bids.

Book offerings included academic journals such as the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts’ Journal of Early Southern Decorative Arts, auction catalogs from Sotheby’s and Brunk Auctions, and various museum publications. Notable works about South Carolina’s African-American slave potters included three works by Jill Beute Koverman, who was the curator at the McKissick Museum in Columbia, South Carolina. (She died in July.) Her The Ceramic Works of David Drake, aka, Dave the Potter or Dave the Slave of Edgefield, South Carolina brought $192.50, more than double estimates. Face Jugs: African-American Art and Ritual in 19th Century South Carolina, the exhibit catalog by Claudia Mooney, tripled estimates, bringing $126.50. Many of the book lots sold for the minimum bids, suggesting that these sales are a great way to build one’s library.

For more information, check the Web site (www.southernfolkpotterysociety.com) or call (336) 581-4246.


Originally published in the October 2013 issue of Maine Antique Digest. © 2013 Maine Antique Digest

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