Submitted by: Sydney Luther, Gallery Assistant

Bonnie Gilmour, a longtime member of the SCC has been recently focusing on a new line of work: face jugs. These jugs have a fascinating history, which adds to the charm of these works of art. There are many differing stories concerning the history of these ceramic jugs, known throughout history as ugly jugs, voodoo jugs, devil jugs, or simply face jugs.

The first account of the history of these jugs is that they were created by African peoples who were slaves in the United States in the 1800s. These jugs were found around North Carolina and Northern Georgia, dating back to the 1840s, throughout the Underground Railroad, and in gravesites in known slave areas. It is said that the daunting faces were meant to scare away the devil and other evil spirits, so that the souls of the departed could go to heaven. These slaves obviously had a strong spiritual connection to these jugs, considering how often they appear in their history. Slaves were often not allowed to have tombstones, and so some theories suggest that these jugs functioned as grave markers because of this.

Another account of the jugs is also from slaves in the United States, but these people were brought to the U.S. from the Caribbean, where belief in voodoo was very popular. According to this story, the jugs were involved in some sort of voodoo ceremony, and the style of ceramic vessel was brought to the U.S. by these artists.

Another common historical account of these jugs is from the prohibition of alcohol in the United States during the 1920s. Moonshine was stored in ceramic jugs at this time and the frightening faces were created to scare children from drinking the liquid inside the jugs. Other sources state that artists made the jugs so ugly because they supported the prohibition and wished to dissuade anyone from drinking the alcohol inside.

Bonnie Gilmour creates her face jugs with a sense of humor and names each separate jug, which is fitting since each is unique and has a strong individual character! To see more of Bonnie’s face jugs, please visit her website here

For more information about the face jugs, please visit the following links: