After refrigerators became commonplace, many of their pieces began to be acquired by collectors.When the Smithsonian Institution focused its attention on the work and processes of White County potter Lanier Meaders, he became internationally known. The attention paid to Lanier and to other potters in the Meaders family by the Smithsonian raised their work and that of others in the region to folk art status.
|The Folk Pottery Museum of Northeast Georgia in Sautee, near Helen.|
My husband and I have an especially keen interest in this museum. He's related to the Meaders family and Lanier Meaders, who made utilitarian wares along with his renowned "face jugs." Lanier's face jugs feature grinning or grimacing characters, often with "teeth" made from porcelain clay. For Lanier, creating these grotesque pieces was simply a fun diversion from the more serious side of the pottery business. He was amused but puzzled when people began stopping at his small pottery operation in White County seeking to buy something so "ugly," as he described them.
When a documentary film on the Meaders family's work and processes was released by the Smithsonian in 1976 at a special event held at the Library of Congress, it cast the attention of the cultural world on this plain-spoken man and his family. It also transformed a humble household commodity, along with the quirky face jugs, into highly collectible art.
Lanier had clay in his blood, so to speak, but didn't take up the profession until he was in his 50's. His father Cheever was an accomplished potter with a well-established business supplying general stores, hardware stores, and gift shops. Several uncles and other family members were also skilled potters; Lanier's mother Arie took up pottery making at 60 and became widely known for her highly decorative designs. Lanier didn't have children, but members of his extended Meaders family produce pottery to this day, with multiple generations still shaping clay by hand.
Naturally, their works occupy much of the Folk Pottery Museum's display space, along with those of many other well known North Georgia pottery families including the Dorseys, the Hewells and the Fergusons. The museum's collection features an amazing number of pieces from the earliest periods right up to contemporary works. Each has its own story and provides a fascinating glimpse into the social, geological and economic aspects of our state's history.
|This kiln looks life sized here, but it's actually an exquisitely constructed model in a glass case.|
|Face jugs by Lanier Meaders. He marveled that anyone would find these whimsical creations, which he described as "ugly," appealing enough to buy. Demand for them was high: he produced and sold several thousand of them over the course of his career.|
|This massive specimen greets visitors in the reception area.|
|Natural wood and lots of glass give the museum a rustic yet comfortable atmosphere.|
|My hubby with a toothy friend|
©2014 Lynn Edwards