Creating wheel thrown and altered - slab rolled pottery

Wendy Brabender


My love of face jugs started with the Toby jug, collecting every jug I could get my hands on until the cupboards were full. That desire graduated me to a ceramics class where my eldest son taught an Adult learning group at the local high school in the evenings, and I being the supportive mother signed up for all of them. The fun that I had while in his Adult learning group inspired me to create my own face jugs.

My first jugs were primitive, chunky tornado ware that would never blow out of a windowsill during a major storm. But the more I practiced, the more my pottery improved. Quickly I found myself shaping my pottery into the wacky, the confused, and the wondering. And then tried jugs wrapped in sea creatures, dragons or crawling with fuzzy critters. Overjoyed, I had found my creative outlet! 

Now I dabble in the making of face jugs along with a vast array of slab and hand made pottery in my retirement. I enjoy the textures I achieve in clay admire how the glaze flows over the patterns and divots that I've pressed in the clay in a soothing manner when fired. And I love when their surprised expressions are looking up at me as I open the kiln. It is so rewarding.

Art Fairs and Craft Shows

2020 Art Fairs

May Covid-19 Canceled

June Covid-19 Canceled

September Wo Zah Wa Days

November Cambridge Art & Craft Fair

Saturday Nov. 7, 9am-3pm

Cambridge HIgh School, Blue Jay Way

Christmas in the Country Craft & Art Show

Deerfield WI. 

November 14, 9am-3pm


Edgerton Snowflake Craft Fair - Edgerton WI

December 5, 9am-3pm

Edgerton High School

Home of the Original


As my customer base became stronger with the more shows I attended, I decided to make a little piece of my art that anyone could afford and enjoy.

Each one I make is an individual, complete with its own attitude and personal design. No two will be perfectly alike because when I glaze, the glaze enhances the textures and forms of the Thumbeez.    I am always asked, " why did I make them?" And my answer is always, "How do you feel when you look at them or hold them in your hand?"

Happy, scary, sad, whimsical, questioning, inspiring, reminding you of a certain someone or pet, or just plain enjoyment. Thumbeez are a delight for all ages.

Current pottery in the making

 During the winter I dabble in new ideas and forms.

A circus wagon bank

New trays

A little history of Face Jugs

Pottery with “faces” can be traced back to Egyptian and Mesopotamian times and follows many cultures throughout history. During the 13th century potters outside the London area became more decorative, creating anthropomorphic vessels, characterizing Medieval face jugs. In the 1600’s full body vessels modeled after Edward Vernon, became known as British Toby Jars.

African Nkisi dolls were made with many different materials including clay and were transported through the slave trade and found commonly in Latin American regions. These vessels were full figured pieces with exaggerated human features similar to the African-American face jugs.

Multiple stories and theories vary about the first pottery face jug made on US soil, but most follow the history of Dave the Potter from Edgefield Pottery, Pottersville, South Carolina in the 1800’s. A village of about 150 people, most of them slaves produced lead-free pottery and face jugs until the beginning of the civil war in 1861, and then Pottersville was abandoned.

As alkaline glazed pottery was continued to be produced in the south, in 1820 the practice of making face jugs spread throughout South Carolina, Georgia, North Carolina and their surrounding states. In 1830, about seventy folk potters operated pottery shops within a four mile area of Mossy Creek, Georgia. Well-known early potter’s names like, Meaders, Craven, Davidson, Pitchford, Brownlow, Warwick, Chandler and Anderson.

Theories suggest that the early 1800 face jugs were used as grave markers by slaves, and by making the jug “ugly” enough it would ward off the evil spirits. But as the face jug evolved, by the 1920’s they were made to conceal a different kind of “spirit” and became a great place to store alcohol. The uglier the jug, the more frightening for children and parents had no trouble keeping their youngsters away from the jugs.

This collaboration of Face Jug history can also be found on the web sites of Chattanooga State University, Kuehn Pottery, and Wikipedia. (Pictured, Amorite Jug, 2200 BC - Carr, Karen E., AMORITES, Kidipede, March 10, 2015, web. March 11, 2015)