Mountain State Artisan Puts New Twist On Old Face Jug Tradition
West Virginia artist, Ed Klimek, Sr. is carrying on an old southern tradition and is doing it in the most amazing way.
Have you ever heard of southern face jugs? These jugs are a ceramic tradition that can be traced as far back as the 1840’s. In some regions, they are called “ugly” or “grotesque jugs.”
Face Jug Legends
Stories about these unique pieces of art are plentiful. Some believe that the first face jugs were created by slaves. It is believed that the slaves would fill the face jugs with water and carry them into the field with them. Another story states that the jugs were created to be grave markers and the faces on the jugs revealed the eternal fate of the deceased. Another legend has it that the scary faced jugs were designed to keep children from sneaking a sip of their dad’s homemade moonshine.
An Old Tradition Gets New Life
Ed Klimek has taken this old tradition and brought it back to life with his exquisitely carved face jugs. Each jug is unique and perfectly crafted. His jugs shine with personality and charm. The uniqueness of his pieces has breathed new life into this old southern tradition.
Ed creates his masterpieces at his home in Shinnston. He began creating jugs after his wife, Mary Jane, suggested he give the old tradition a try. Ed says he wasn’t big on the idea at first, because the jugs he found images of were ugly and had crude features, but one morning he decided that he would give it a try.
What Ed created was a face jug that had cartoonish features with precise attention to every detail. With each jug he designed, his work became more charming. The jugs were bursting with personality, from old men with beards to horned devils, and even owls and pigs.
The Next Chapter Begins
Ed began concentrating on creating the jugs and soon after Jughead Pottery was born.
In 1997, Ed had been making jugs for about four years when he decided to have them juried at Tamarack. Tamarack is a vast cultural center that is the nation’s first retail showcase that displays and sells fine art by West Virginia artisans.
Today Ed’s face jugs are one of Tamarack’s best-selling items. The jugs sell quickly, and Ed has focused on creating them ever since.
With time he began to experiment with the face jugs. He started adding new features like beards, big ears, hairlines, and horns.
Ed’s happy jugs are extremely popular, but there is still a high demand for angry, confused and slightly scary jugs. He says that each day he adds a pile of clay to his pottery wheel he never knows what will come to life.
Ed primarily creates face jugs, but he also creates candle holders, crocks, kitchenware, oil lamps, pitchers, teapots, and vases.
Where to Buy Ed’s Creations
Besides Tamarack you can find Ed’s face jugs for sale at Taylor’s Books in Charleston. You can also find the artist himself selling his wares every Sunday from May until October at the Bridgeport Farmer’s Market.
For more information about Ed Klimek Sr. and his work visit Jughead Pottery’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/ed.klimeksr