Face Vessels: Original African-American Folk Art

By Gianis, Robin | Arts & Activities, February 2006 | Go to article overview

Face Vessels: Original African-American Folk Art


Gianis, Robin, Arts & Activities


There is nothing like clay to make a great hands-on learning experience for the middle-school level. This particular lesson incorporates all the Standards for Learning in Art. It is one of my favorite lessons during the 10 weeks each year when I teach seventh-grade art.

ART HISTORY Between 1810 and 1865, an abundance of functional pottery was produced in the remote Edgefield Potteries in South Carolina and sold to neigh boring counties and states. Edgefield Potteries was worked in part by artisan slaves who turned the pots, pushed the wheels, carried the pottery and loaded the kilns. In their free time, some of the artisans made pottery of their own choice. Many of them chose to make jugs and pots now known as "face vessels." These were often stoneware jugs modeled in the shape of human faces. They were most often alkaline-glazed stoneware in simple, tones.

Though there are many gaps in historical data regarding the making, use and meaning of the face-vessel pottery, there is no doubt that the vessels were original, functional artistic expressions of the African slave culture of the time. This all adds to the mystery of possible deeper meaning of the face vessels in the slave culture.

Few of the skilled potters who made face vessels have been identified by name and their inspiration for making face vessels is unknown. Researchers speculate that the vessels may have had religious or burial significance, or that they reflect the complex responses of people attempting to live and maintain their personal identities under cruel and often difficult conditions.

Face vessels have been found along the routes of the Underground Railroad and on gravesites, both indicating how highly they were valued and how closely connected they were with the enslaved African-American's own culture.

Images of the original works provide great inspiration for this lesson. I do this lesson with my seventh grade, though it can be adapted for any age. To make the lesson even more exciting, I also show my students face vessels made by contemporary artisans in the spirit of the original designs. These modern-day face vessels are often glazed with brightly colored underglazes and their faces are full of imaginative expression.

This lesson takes approximately two weeks to complete in five 40-minute sessions. Allow drying time between finishing the hand-building steps and the first firing.

I use approximately one pound of clay per student when beginning the process. I cover the work area with newspaper to facilitate cleanup. I prefer red clay, which makes a mess, but any color can be used for the project.

CREATING THE FACE VESSELS

1. Introduce students to the history of face vessels with a class discussion and visit to the Internet sites listed.

2. Have students sketch two to three designs of expressive faces and vessel shapes they might use. I like to give inspiration to my students to be as expressive as possible in their designs. I also encourage them to do monster faces, half-animal faces or any other sort of distorted or expressive face design they can come up with. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Face Vessels: Original African-American Folk Art
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.