Artwork for podcast Artsville
Jim McDowell: The Need to Look Back in Order to Move Forward
Episode 1315th August 2022 • Artsville • Crewest Studio + Sand Hill Artists Collective
00:00:00 00:46:39

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Today, we welcome ceramic artist, Jim McDowell, to the Artsville Podcast! Jim, known to many as the Black Potter, is a ceramicist based in Weaverville, North Carolina, who specializes in stoneware face jugs, a type of vessel that bears the likeness of the human face. Through his work, he honors the origins of these culturally rich vessels and reflects on the experience of being Black in America, in order to call out the racism and injustice endemic to this country. As you’ll discover in this episode, Jim believes that it is important to uncover the histories we don’t want to hear about, and retrieve the knowledge and skills that have been buried by centuries of oppression in order to move forward and make positive progress. This personal excavation and vulnerability is central to his work, which embodies the principles of ‘sankofa’, a Ghanaian word that means “it is not taboo to fetch what is at risk of being left behind.” Tuning in, you’ll learn how Jim honors his ancestors through his vessels and gain some insight into the history of Black potters. Jim also offers a glimpse into his process and shares some poignant words of wisdom for artists, plus so much more! You won’t want to miss today’s powerful conversation with the Black Potter, the one and only Jim McDowell!

Key Points From This Episode:

  • Jim speaks to the spiritual nature of his work and how his face jugs honor his ancestors.
  • The significance of the Ghanaian word, ‘sankofa’, and bringing forth knowledge and skills from the past in order to move forward.
  • Making the distinction between folk potters and Jim’s work as an artist.
  • What sparked his passion for throwing clay, which he says he has been drawn to all his life.
  • Understanding the practical differences between an electric kiln and a wood-fired one.
  • The wealth of knowledge that our guest has accumulated over his 40 years of experience.
  • Insight into the history of Black potters like David Drake, who Jim sees as a personal hero.
  • How he ensures this spiritual tradition is kept alive through storytelling.
  • Where he garners inspiration for his face jugs and the words he inscribes on them.
  • Honoring Jim’s mother and father, who instilled in him a strong work ethic and tenacity.
  • How he draws inspiration and his entrepreneurial spirit from his grandparents.
  • Why Jim says that his kiln is a testament not only to his parents but his ancestors too.
  • A glimpse into what it feels like for our guest to receive recognition for his face jugs.
  • The community he is building in Weaverville based on the principles of sankofa.
  • Jim takes us through the process of creating one of his face jugs, from start to finish.
  • Hear the story of how he came to call himself the Black Potter.
  • How Jim channels his anger and acts of resistance into his artworks.

Links Mentioned in Today’s Episode:

Jim McDowell —

Jim McDowell on Facebook —

David Drake: ‘The Enslaved Artist Whose Pottery Was an Act of Resistance’ —


Artsville Podcast —

Scott “Sourdough” Power —

Louise Glickman —

Daryl Slaton —

Crewest Studio —

Sand Hill Artists Collective (SHAC) —