Lesson Plan — Making Face Jugs


  • Example of North Carolina Face Jugs
  • Clay
  • Clay tools
  • Water containers
  • Glazes and/or paint
  • Broken china (for teeth)




  • Discuss how artists use exaggerated face features to express emotions
  • Create a hand-built vessel with facial features

Crafting•NorthCarolina web site connections:

250 Years of Clay: The face jug tradition (African American & tourist whimsies)


Look@Gallery: NC 4th graders make face jugs


Let's Go: Hear potter Sid Luck talk about his work and the face jug tradition


NC Pottery Hall of Fame: See folk potter Burlon Craig's "Weeping Eyes" face jug


Pottery-Mon trading cards



  • Face jug
  • Hand-built vessel
  • Traditional pottery


  1. Ask students to look at examples of traditional North Carolina face jugs.
  2. Describe the face? What makes it humorous, silly? Explain to students that face jugs are also called "ugly jugs" or "voodoo jugs." Explain that face jugs are very popular collector items with the public.
  3. Explain that potters have made face jugs for years to break up the monotonous task of making utilitarian pottery for home and farm use. Explain that African-American slaves also made face jugs as ceremonial vessels. These vessels were passed down from one generation to the next.
  4. Look at the face jugs by 4th graders in the Look@Gallery.


  1. Explain that students will make their own face jugs.
  2. Help students generate ideas about facial features by sketching ideas on a piece of paper. Students can look in a mirror to view how their face changes with various expressions or can divide into pairs and take turns drawing a classmate. Have students exaggerate their facial features to create dramatic faces.
  3. Distribute clay. Have students create vessels by rolling slabs of clay, rolling snake-like coils, or making pinch pots. For best results, have students make clay vessels in one class period. Cover with plastic or place in plastic bags for storage. During the next class, students will have an easier time "facing" a vessel that is not too soft or wet.
  4. Have students add clay facial features to their vessels. List the following features on the board that students may choose to apply (2) ears, (2) eyebrows, (2) eyes, (1) nose, and (1) lips. Optional features include a moustache, tongue, beard, and horns. Finally, if teeth are desired, it is recommended that teachers carefully insert small broken pieces of china. If china is not available, teeth can be made of clay and painted with a white underglaze or painted after the vessels have been fired.
  5. After clay face vessels have dried, works are ready for the bisque firing. Commercial underglazes may be painted on the vessels before this firing.
  6. The last step is glazing the vessels for the final firing. Traditional glazes for face jugs are browns and greens. Names like "tobacco-spit" and "frog-skin" glazes are often used by North Carolina potters. If glazing is not possible, students can paint or stain their face jugs with acrylic paint, watercolor paint, or shoe polish.


  1. Display the face jugs. As students look at them, point out the unique facial features and characteristics of individual vessels.
  2. Can students summarize why North Carolina potters created face jugs? Do students have an appreciation of traditional face jugs? Do students recognize the importance of the pottery tradition in North Carolina?