The success of the pottery industry in the area around Seagrove, also known as Jugtown, is largely owing to the work of the Busbees, Jacques and Juliana. Born in Raleigh as James Busbee, the man who would become Jacques Busbee studied at art schools in New York. In 1910 he married Juliana (born Julia) Royster, who had attended St. Mary’s and learned photography. It was in 1915 that the couple, living in Raleigh, discovered the folk pottery of the Sandhills region and enthusiastically began to collect it. Living in New York the following year, they were encouraged by artist friends to pursue their interest in the traditional pottery style.
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The pottery industry at the time was in decline, Prohibition having effectively eliminated the demand for jugs. Jacques began to revitalize the trade by shipping the wares to a tearoom that Juliana operated in Greenwich Village. The operation was successful and the demand led Jacques to establish Jugtown Pottery in 1922. The Busbees hired young potters, the first being Charlie Teague, who worked there for eight years. In 1923 the Busbees hired eighteen-year-old Ben Owen, who would be a driving force at Jugtown Pottery until 1959.
The Busbees took it as their mission in life to save the traditional pottery of the Sandhills region. Jacques limited the ceramic styles and glazes produced at Jugtown, so that the potters could concentrate on form. Consequently, Busbee’s ideas firmly established the area as a folk pottery center—helping the craft to survive Prohibition, the Depression, and to flourish into the modern era. The couple successfully marketed their wares and created a demand for North Carolina folk pottery.
Jacques Busbee died of a heart attack in 1947. Juliana Busbee and Ben Owen continued to operate Jugtown Pottery until Juliana was declared incompetent in 1959. When Jugtown fell under new management, Owen left to open his own shop. Juliana Busbee died in 1962. Jacques’ and Juliana’s ashes were scattered in the yard at Jugtown.
Charles G. Zug III, Turners and Burners: The Folk Potters of North Carolina (1986)
Jean Crawford, Jugtown Pottery: History and Design (1964)
William S. Powell, ed.,Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, I, 289-290—sketches by George Troxler
Gay Mahaffy Hertzman, essay in the NC Museum of Art’s “Jugtown Pottery: the Busbee Vision (1984)
Charles G. Zug, “Jugtown Reborn: The North Carolina Folk Potter in Transition,” Pioneer America Society Transactions, Volume III (1980) “Meet the Busbees of Jugtown,” The State, November 18, 1933