Ben Owen ‘Tobacco Spit’ Glaze Earthenware Tea Pot Set
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.
Pictured here is a Three piece Tea Set and a fine example of early traditional glaze pottery. Ben personally told me that this teapot and his tall candlesticks excited him the most because of their exemplary proportions, and the fact that he firmly believed that ”things should be kept simple”, for which this is a perfect example of that principal. Each piece is stamped Ben Owen Master Potter. This classic Tobacco Spit Glaze Tea Pot is a wonderful large vessel. Its proportions are indeed perfect, and according to the maker, “it was a favorite”. Its dome-lid fits as perfectly as the day it was made. The spout is wonderfully shaped as well as its complementing, well-proportioned handle. A similar piece is in the North Carolina State University collection. No cracks, chips or crazing. Stamped: Ben Owen Master Potter. Dates:1960. Dimensions: 8-0”h x 9-1/2”w x 6-1/2”d
The companion Sugar Pot with its lid is also in “Tobacco Spit’ glaze and measures: 5-12/”h x4-1/2”w x 4-1/2”d. Again, in perfect condition, no cracks, chips or crazing. Ben Owen Master Potter (which dates: 1960).
The companion Creamer, also from the same batch of “Tobacco Spit” glaze, has a wonderful open and pinched top. Again, in perfect condition, no cracks, chips or crazing. Stamped Ben Owen Master Potter (which dates: 1960). Its dimensions are: 3-3/4”h x3-3/4”w x 4-1/2”d.
Note: The price is for the three piece set.