HUSSEY, BILLY RAY
has spent most of his life in his birthplace, the small town of Robbins, in Moore County, North Carolina, a longtime center of traditional pottery production. Raisedlargely by his maternal grandparents, he was exposed at a young age to the potter’s craft through his great-uncle M.L. Owens, who operated a pottery businessfounded by Hussey’s great-grandfather, J.H.Owens. Between the ages of six and eighteen, Hussey lived across the road from the Owens Pottery and in close proximity to the famous Jugtown Pottery operation. From the time he was ten he performed a variety of chores for both businesses, and closely observed the processes by which their utilitarian earthenware pieces were formed, glazed, and fired.Hussey’s first creative efforts were horror movie-inspired “face jugs,” which he made in the late 1970s for the Owens Pottery, and these were soon followed by avariety of animal figurines that he sculpted. In 1982, after several years of employment as a carpenter and as a furniture-factory worker, he was hired to make utilitarian pieces on a full-time basis for Owens Pottery, and shortly thereafter he began doing part-time carpentry and repair work at nearby Jugtown Pottery.
The 1980s were years of increasing experimentation for Hussey. He began developing a richly varied repertoire of figural forms that set him sharply apart from hisfellow Moore County potters, and trying his hand at several different glazing techniques. In 1986 he finished building his first wood-fueled “groundhog” kiln, from whichhis first successfully fired load of fifty lead-glazed pieces was purchased in its entirety by the Smithsonian Institution’s folklife office. Two years later he left the Owensand Jugtown Potteries to begin operating his own shop, and by the early 1990s he had built a second groundhog kiln reserved for firing salt-glazed pieces.Unlike his more traditional counterparts among Southern potters, Hussey has extensively studied the international history of the ceramic arts, and his works aregenerally far more sophisticated than those of his many potter neighbors are. In a major departure from local tradition, some of his sculptural pieces deal with personal,religious, and social themes. In addition to his creative activities, Hussey has served since the late 1980s as president of the Southern Folk Pottery Collectors’ Society,which auctions older pieces to collectors and serves as a clearinghouse for information on potters and their wares.
Jugs, Face; Pottery, Folk
Billy Ray Hussey: North Carolina Visionary Potter.
Charlotte, N.C., 1997.Gordon, Ellin, Barbara R.Luck, and Tom Patterson.
Flying Free: Twentieth-Century Self-Taught Art from the Collection of Ellin and Baron Gordon.
HUSSEY, BILLY RAY