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Vernon Owens has been the owner of Jugtown since 1983, but his history with the place goes back further. He learned to throw under the guidance of his father, M.L. Owens — who added the s to the Owen surname — and by age 7 he was selling his own pieces at the pottery. Now, Vernon is the longest Jugtown potter with a 55-year career. Jugtown has changed with the times, while remain-ing 32 WBM faithful to the founders’ ideals. Pam Owens, Vernon’s wife, explained their view on art. “We adhere to the Busbee aesthetics, simple, elegant, understated design, and we keep it current,” she says. “To keep a business alive, you have to change with the times and styles and not only change, but be a leader in the industry.” The nature of the art dictates that no two pieces are exactly alike. “Everything comes out of the earth — the last batch is not the same due to our changing environment, but that is exciting!” she says. “Glaze can be gone, and you can’t reproduce it with the exact same elements. A kiln can get worn out with bricks always shifting in the fire. These subtle changes make each piece unique.” Although change is necessary, the Owens family makes sure that history is preserved. They restored the original buildings and moved a tobacco drying cabin to the property and transformed it into a museum in 1989. It contains photographs, documents, and earthen works from the 1800s. The original groundhog kilns are still in use, with the occasional replacement of burned bricks. The dirt-floored workshops are intact, and a mule-powered clay mixer, a Pug mill, is still on site as a historical object. Keeping it in the family and passing down the tradi-tion, Vernon and Pam’s adult children are trained art-ists who help fill the store with their own works. Son Travis concentrates on making large forms, and his sister, Bayle, a weaving and textiles artist, makes clay animals and does felting with wool. “We each have our favorite things,” Pam says. “Bayle makes pumpkin-shaped pots (with lids), Vernon is knows for his candle sticks, I like crows (vases), and Travis makes the big vases.” Return shopper Elizabeth Wood walked out of the store with an armful of purchases. She and friend Paula Womack make a trip every year from Tarboro, North Carolina, to the pottery district. “I’ve been buying Jugtown pottery since 1978,” Wood says. “I have a lot of their blue.” The store was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1999. november 2015


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