Those of you who have been reading my blog for several years already know that I am an AVID collector of Catawba Vally pottery, particularly the potters that follow the same historic traditional methods passed on by the late Burlon Craig.
Of all of the potters that are included in the book “Catawba Clay; Contemporty Southern Face Jug Makers”, there is no doubt that Steve Abee is one of my favorites. Born in 1968, Steve is one of the youngest yet one of the most collectible of this coveted group of potters who follows the traditional Catawba Valley method and styles.
As with each of the Catawba Valley potters, Steve has created a certain look to his face jugs that is immediately recognizable. The well defined nose with flaring nostrils, white bulging eyes with cobalt pupils and the large gapping mouth with two rows of white teeth are part of Steve’s trademark look.
Going to one of Steve’s kiln sales is always exciting because Steve goes out of his way to make some unusual and even whimsical pots like this great pig I was able to get last year.
Steve is one of the few potters who also excels at miniature jugs and pitchers just as Burlon Craig did so many years ago. And, he does beautiful swirl pieces as you can see from the pig and this miniature pitcher. The swirl technique that is such an important part of historic Catawba Valley pottery is fairly hard to find these days. Charlie Lisk is known for his multi-colored swirls pieces but he has not made any swirl pieces since I have been collecting.
In 2006 Steve had his first successful “burn” in his new ground hog kiln. This is a miniature jug which notes this major achievement. The kiln sale that day included works by Charlie Lisk and AV Smith as well. I love the color of this particular glaze.
Because Steve and other Catawba potters fire their pieces in their own wood-burning ground hog kilns, there is always an element of surprise when the pieces are unloaded.
The excitement when arriving and seeing all of the pieces arranged on Steve’s lawn is indescribable. It is always hard to choose a few favorites and then have to wait to see if I get a low number and therefore have a good chance of getting the piece I want!
As you can see, I have quite a variety of face jugs, a face birdhouse (lower shelf on the left next to the large jug), wig stand (lower shelf on the right) , and face vase plus numerous miniatures. Steve’s glazes range from nearly clear on the swirl pieces to a very dark brownish green.
Steve and his wife Rita have created a website: Catawba Valley Pottery of North Carolina where you can learn abut the history, find a schedule of kiln openings, and, starting soon, even purchase pottery which, until now, was only possible at their kiln sales or pottery festivals. (or on EBay for a WHOLE lot more money!).
They also produced this great 8 minute video in which Steve explains the history and techniques of Catawba Valley pottery: Steve Abee Video about Catawba Valley Pottery. For general information: firstname.lastname@example.org. I hope to see you at the next kiln opening!
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