Ben Owen-Jugtown Ware “Accidental” Earthenware Dogwood White “Egg Vase”
Benjamin Wade Owen (1905-1983) – An Overview
I personally met Ben Owen just after I joined the design faculty at the University of North Carolina. Jean Crawford, an educational colleague, who wrote a wonderful book on Jugtown, and the Owen legacy, introduced me to him. So the pieces being sold came from my personal connection with the potter when I acquired them between 1963-1968.
Ben Owen was a “functional potter” and was the principal craftsman at Jugtown from 1923 until it was sold in 1959. He shared that title with Charles Teague for the first decade of Jugtown’s existence. Just 18 he had been introduced to the ceramic traditions of other cultures by Jugtown owner Jacques Busbee, along with his wife Lucille, a teacher. He opened The Old Plank Road Pottery, next to his home in nearby Westmoore. Ben’s prolific productions remain models of inspiration and artistry, for which a documentary about him was made around 1995 by the Japanese, who considered Ben Owen “A Living Treasure”. University of North Carolina at Wilmington designated him a “North Carolina Living Treasure” earlier. His pieces are in museums around the world (Museum of Modern Art, Mint Museum of Craft and Design, the Ackland Art Museum), and in the White House collection. His grandson, Ben Owen III, was born in 1968, the same year I acquired these pieces. He continues the lead in authentic and creative pottery productions of Jugtown. Note: Jugtown Ware stamp was used from early 1920’s up to 1959 – Ben Owen used both this stamp and one that read “Pottery by Ben Owen”. The Master Potter stamp used by Ben Owen Sr. was used from 1960-1972.
Details of this piece: Occasionally, when lead-glazed wares were fired in the wood kiln, the glaze became mottled with spots of a moss colored green. This specific piece was one of several traditions of oriental forms developed in 1950 by Jacques Busbee and Ben Owen. Julia Busbee loved this effect, dubbing it an “accidental” glaze. A piece like this vase is in the Collection of the Gallery of Art and Design, North Carolina State University, transferred from the North Carolina Museum of Art. Stamped: Jugtown Ware (which dates: 1920-1959). This particular piece was made around 1930. Dimensions: 5-0”dia. x 7-0”h.