Saturday, February 27, 2010

Nancy Sweezy, Savior of Jugtown Pottery, Dies at 88

Published: February 25, 2010

In the rolling Piedmont hills of North Carolina, potters were turning out fine work before the American Revolution. But by the 20th century, the tradition had faltered. Two passionate women, a half-century apart, saved it.

Nancy Sweezy, who died at the age of 88 in Cambridge, Mass., on Feb. 6, was the second.

Riding a surge of interest in folk arts in the 1960s and 1970s, Ms. Sweezy revived Jugtown, the famous pottery that the first of the two women, Juliana Royster Busbee, started in 1917.

Ms. Sweezy begged and borrowed $22,500 to buy the financially staggering Jugtown in 1968. She came up with new glazes to replace ones that used lead, and gave them names like Blueridge Blue and Dogwood White.

She recruited talented apprentices; leaned on influential acquaintances, including Rockefellers, for support; developed marketing strategies; and got Jugtown pottery into upscale Northern stores before selling the establishment in 1980. In 2006, the National Endowment for the Arts designated Ms. Sweezy “a national treasure,” saying that her efforts had “helped inspire a revival of the traditional pottery community.” The number of potteries in the area around Seagrove, N.C., rose from seven in 1968 to more than 100.

Mary Farrell, an expert Seagrove potter who apprenticed at Jugtown, said in an interview that “there wouldn’t even be a pottery area here” had Ms. Sweezy not come.

Ms. Sweezy became involved in Jugtown while shopping for traditional crafts in North Carolina to stock a shop she owned in Cambridge.

By contrast, Ms. Busbee fell in love with a striking orange plate she saw at a county fair in North Carolina. She and her husband, Jacques, a mural painter, scouted the area around Seagrove to find descendants of potters from Staffordshire, England, who arrived as early as 1740.

They found a few potters dabbling in the old traditions by making plates and pickle jars to satisfy local demand. The Busbees moved into a log cabin in a settlement they named Jugtown, the generic name for rural potteries that supplied earthen vessels to moonshiners.

In their rustic new home, the Busbees nurtured the resurrection of old ways, sometimes in new styles. They opened a tearoom in Greenwich Village, and later a store on the Upper East Side, to sell Jugtown products.

Eleanor Roosevelt pointed out Jugtown pottery by name as she passed a store window in North Carolina in 1934, according to a report in The New York Times. Tiffany & Company carried the brand.

When Ms. Sweezy and her daughter Lybess came shopping in March 1968, they learned Jugtown was in danger of closing.

“Mother and I looked at the log cabin house and the kilns which were falling apart,” Lybess Sweezy told The Times in 1969. “And we made up our minds to buy it in an hour.”

Nancy Sweezy was born Nancy Thompson on Oct. 14, 1921, in Flushing, Queens. After her parents divorced, she was adopted and became Nancy Adams. She attended the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and later worked in the research branch of the Office of Strategic Services, the spy agency.

She was assigned to Berlin and would later relate an experience she had there: a diplomat interested in courting took her inside Hitler’s bunker.

In the 1960s she was president of the board of Club 47, later known as Club Passim, a coffeehouse that was at the epicenter of the folk music craze in Cambridge. Through folk music and crafts, she met Ralph Rinzler, who did fieldwork for the Newport Folk Festival. He helped Ms. Sweezy get started at Jugtown before leaving to start the Smithsonian Folklife Festival.

It was an adjustment. The arrivals had to carry water in buckets until a new well was drilled.

But Mr. Rinzler said in a 1996 oral history that Ms. Sweezy’s “very gentle way of making suggestions” helped local people not see her “as some Yankee coming in and running the show.”

Ms. Sweezy later helped Asian refugees develop traditional crafts for the American market, wrote and edited books, and organized museum exhibitions devoted to Southern pottery, Armenian crafts and other topics.

Ms. Sweezy’s marriage to Paul Sweezy, the influential leftist economist, ended in divorce, as did a brief earlier marriage to Bill House. She is survived by her son, Sam; her daughters, Lybess and Martha Sweezy; five grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren. She died of congestive heart failure, Lybess Sweezy said.

In 1978, in his syndicated column, James Kilpatrick marveled that eight years earlier Ms. Sweezy had repaid a $2,500 state grant, which she had used to buy new kilns, even though paying back the money had meant putting off buying a truck.

“There are others,” he quoted her as saying, “who need help more than we do.”

Monday, February 22, 2010

Baymore Shino 筱釉

Cone 10 Reduction

28.00 Nepheline Syenite (400m)
25.00 Nepheline Syenite (270m)
12.30 F-4 Feldspar
16.50 Kentucky Ball Clay
12.00 EPK Kaolin
5.00 Soda Ash
1.00 Redart
1.00 Bentonite


Here is a beaver munching on a tree on the Bakersville Creek Walk.

Pilated Wood Pecker

Here are some more cool tracks - Pilated Wood Pecker's lunch spot.


Check out this rare animal track.

Human with show shoes!

John Britt

Sunday, February 21, 2010

New pot

Here's a pot out of the last firing and currently in the MudFire Gallery. This pot was made with Zella Stone, from Highwater Clays. It's covered with a Helmer Kaolin slip. The rim was waxed, and is simply bare clay. The black is comercial underglaze, Amaco LUG-1. The small little leaves are actually painted on commercial bright red underglaze, then outlined with the black. Not so red, but pretty friggin' nice, I think. This pot was raw glazed and single-fired to cone 10ish. Four pounds of salt put into the kiln starting at cone 7. Any questions?

Friday, February 19, 2010

Kiln Share

Looking for some pots to help fill a cone 10 reduction firing to be loaded Wed March 17. Pots must be delivered by Tues March 16.
Email me if you're interested

Photoshop Workshop Date Change & Finalised!

The official date and time for the Photoshop workshop is Sunday March 21 (instead of Tues the 23rd), 4-6pm at Marshall High Studios in the Very Small Business Center.
It's FREE! Bring a snack to share!
Email me your interest to attend and your questions/ topics you'd like Chris to address!

Photo Shop Ins and Outs for the Artist & Craftsperson

Chris McKee, UNCA Design Professor, and my homie, has offered to give a question & answer workshop on using Photoshop for documenting and promoting your work in the best possible light. He'll clarify how to use the program for these applications correctly & efficiently.

This is NOT a basics tutorial of Photoshop. Please email me ASAP (Emily: if you're interested in participating & be sure to include in your email specific questions you'd like Chris to address. Having a few of your key concerns to address will help Chris prepare for the workshop.
We're tentatively scheduling the workshop for Tues evening, March 23 in Marshall. If the date changes I'll post an update.

Chris McKee received his MFA in electronic visualization with an emphasis in three dimensional animation from Mississippi State University and a BFA in visual communication from Auburn University. McKee's current work concentrates on the experimental exploration into the world of non symbolic animation and the linear compositions that control them. Imagery produced is completely digital through the use of particle systems within Maya. His animations have been screened nationally and internationally. McKee teaches animation and print graphics in Multi Media Arts and Sciences at the university of North Carolina-Asheville.

Roan Mountain

If you are in the area of Roan Mountain, State Route 261 at the border of North Carolina and Tennessee, check out the amazing scenery!

The rime is about as amazing as I have ever seen it!

John Britt

Urban Dictionary

For all you AARP members who are trying to navigate the web and Face book, or any parents who want to communicate with your kids. (AKA snoop in their rooms and on their Face book site). You may want to check out the Urban Dictionary when you see WTG, or OMG, or QP, or 4:20.

BE CAREFUL, you may learn more than you want to know!

John Britt

Thursday, February 18, 2010


Also, the deer get really hungry and a plywood sign has just enough wood and glue to keep you alive.

We had about 4 - 5 foot drifts and a couple of feet of snow, can you imagine the Donner Party in the Sierra Nevada Range where you may get 6 feet in one snow fall.

John Britt

Snow Drifts

If you like snow drifts, you will love Roan Mountain. It was really windy yesterday and last night and the drifts are excellent. Unless you want to drive up your road!

John Britt


Some faces I've been working on, that are going to become magnets!!! These are waiting to be glazed! I'm leaving some of them black and white while the others I'm glazing! I'm also going to make some molds of some them, just to speed up production! I have two that are finished and a whole bunch that are not!!! not yet anyways!!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Knee High Converse

Thought you might like the latest hipster doofus item. Can't wait to get mine!

Tea Bowl (coffee cup)

Here is a tea bowl/coffee cup that I had in the firing.

John Britt

Larry Manning is the Boss

Just got back from the Gulf Coast Clay Conference, which was organized by Larry and Robin Zehr. (I am not sure of the details but I think that Robin had the idea to have a Clay Conference and then they worked together? But Larry had organized the Alabama Clay Conference and so had a bit of experience to draw upon.)

They had an anagama firing and unloading which was outstanding.

Here is one of Larry's tea bowls from the firing,(looks like a Florida seascape!)

John Britt

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Shino Tiles from Gulf Coast Clay Conference 2010

Here are some of the 50 or so tests that we ran for the Gulf Coast Clay Conference 2010. It was an outstanding Conference at Penascola Junior College in Flordia. They did it all!

Keep an eye out for this Conference in the next years as it is sure to be one of the best!

They are still looking over the tile results from the anagama firing but one of the most promising is just straight Ohio Slip on the bisque tile.

Now that is a recipe I can remember,

John Britt

Gold Shino

Here were some nice tiles out of the Gulf Coast Clay Conference Anagama firing.

Cone 10 Reduction
40.00 Nepheline Syenite
10.00 NC-4 Feldspar
13.00 Spodumene
13.00 Kentucky Ball Clay
7.00 Redart
10.00 EPK Kaolin
7.00 Soda Ash

John Britt

Tough Winter

You know it is a tough winter when a tree comes out of nowhere and smashes to only statue in sight.

Hunker down folks,

John Britt

Hunting Varmits

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Spring Workshops at Claymakers!

Hey all you NC clay loving folks! Interested in shaking off all this winter snow with an inspiring workshop? Well, Claymakers in Durham, NC is offering some fantastic one day workshops this spring. Instructors Patty Bilboro, Lindsay Rogers (myself), Barbara Mckenzie, Joy Tanner and Will Baker will be covering a wide range of topics in conveniently scheduled one day events! From brushwork to raku and surface treatments to altered pots, the information will be plentiful. Go on, give yourself something to look forward to at the end of this long winter! For more detailed information on all of the workshops offered at Claymakers please visit Thanks!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Darn good meals 1

Black Fair Trade Coffee, hot as hell, purchased from the Montessori school, with Erin's home made bread double toasted, loaded with Krema Crunchy p-nut butter.


Ben Owen and Cynthia Bringle --Feb 19-21,2010 Calabash , Cynthia Bringle 3 day Hands on . March 18-20 ,2010 Asheville . at Odyssey Pass the word ... Thank you .....

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Kiln area

The kiln's goin' strong. I liked the composition of this still life.

Golden Shino

Here is another sparkler!

John Britt


Here is a nice Shino that I got out of the last load. Will be discussing it at the Gulf Coast Clay Conference on Thursday!

John Britt


This month's clay club is canceled due to inclement weather. (Funny , the same thing happened last year...wonder if this is a pattern?)

See announcement below:

Mug Party postponed until March 3

Hey y'all! I've decided to postpone our amazing Penland Auction Mug-Making Party Blow-Out until our March club meeting. There's no telling how icy Penland Road will be tomorrow evening with the gloom and doom forecast bearing down on us. You might find yourself unintentionally at the bottom of the mountain. Let's reschedule for Wednesday, March 3 at 6:00 in the Penland clay studio. There will still be stoneware and pizza. Thanks everyone!

Support the NC Pottery Center & Save Shipping Costs

It's once again time to ask for your generosity on behalf of the NC Pottery Center. As you know, the Center truly needs your support. If you have not received your letter asking for donations of your fabulous work for their April 25th annual fundraising auction, then here's the request.

To save your shipping costs, by Monday night Feb. 15th, or Tuesday noon Feb. 16th, at the latest, please bring a piece to donate to Cynthia Bringle's studio or to Gay Smith's barn. Include with the piece: its title, technique, your name, and retail value.

The Pottery Center is formatting their fundraising more efficiently this year. In addition to a live auction on April 25th, they will be promoting and selling donations via venues throughout the year to maximize the benefits of your donations.

Thank you!

I got all the work #*%+@# I need!

Here is a great Dan Reeder song:

(Can't figure out how to post the thing.)


Animal in the Snow

Cutest dog ever!


Animal Tracks in the Snow 3

Any ideas on this one? Bobcat?


Animal Tracks in the Snow 2

Think this one is a coyote?? But not sure. I also saw bobcat tracks but don't know the scat?


Animal Tracks in the Snow

One of the nicest things about the snow is that you see everything that has tracked across it. Found these tracks and I am no mountain man / tracker but I think it is a rabbit??

John Britt

Monday, February 8, 2010

Gulf Coast Conference

The Gulf Coast Clay Conference is coming up this Thursday, Friday and Saturday!! Feb 11, 12 and 13, 2010.

If you like shino and wood firing this is the place for you, along with a ton of other assorted goodies. They will have lots of demos including throwing, handle making, etc.

I will be showing about 50 shino tests on porcelain, stoneware and dark stoneware which were fired in 4 firings and on Saturday they will be pulled from the Anagama. So you will see shino tests that would take you weeks, months if not years to test yourself. I will also have a bunch of tea bowls with the test glazes repeated.

If you are tired of snow, this may be just the ticket! In Pensacola Florida, really cheap, especially if you are a student, tons of fun for everyone!

Let's get this thing started!

John Britt


You guessed it- another storm coming!

But there are nice things about snow; like when it is melting on your metal roof, it starts to slump and fold.

John Britt