Two places you must check out when you’re driving throughout Thoroughbred Country in South Carolina — roughly the area immediately east and south of Augusta, Georgia — are the Little Red Barn Pottery and Art Gallery in Barnwell, SC and Jim Harrison Gallery in Denmark, SC.
Liz Ringus is the Master Potter who owns this store/gallery along with her husband. You can actually watch Liz work if you visit at just the right times. She may be best known for her face jugs, but she has plenty of other beautiful items on display as well. The face jugs have an origin that I learned for the first time. “Back in the day” everything in a home had a specific function, particularly when it came to pieces of pottery. The first face jugs were created to hold the hard liquor of the man of the house as a way to “scare” young children from drinking any. I believe these frightening, grotesque faces would have been a great deterrent, don’t you? It makes me wish we still had graphic tools like this to keep children and young people away from substances that are harmful. In my opinion, mere warning labels don’t have the same effect.
A number of other local artists have their works available for sale, too, at Little Red Barn (12080 US Highway 278, Barnwell, SC), so it’s a great place to find the perfect gift.
I was inspired by hearing of Liz’s work at a nearby prison. She goes once a week and teaches a 3 1/2 hour class to a group of inmates. She is justifiably proud of their progress both artistically and in the rehab they are going through to prepare for life eventually outside the prison. She mentioned that a variety of classes are offered at this facility. I applaud South Carolina for promoting such efforts.
I would strongly recommend that you browse the Jim Harrison website to learn about this fascinating man who died in 2016 at the age of 80, still actively doing what he loved. He graduated from the University of South Carolina with a dual major in art and physical education, then coached for a number of years before deciding to pursue a painting career full-time.
His gallery at 4716 Carolina Highway in Denmark, SC. features limited and unlimited reproductions of the works he created during his 35-year career. I spotted one original painting near the front door with a price tag of $85,000!!!! But, most, of course, are less expensive. His Clemson Tiger and University of South Carolina Gamecock prints are particularly popular.
Jim Harrison may be best known for his works that incorporated the Coca-Cola logo, a company with whom he had a licensee relationship dating back to 1995. His fondness for the logo began when he was 14 years old and hired as an apprentice for J. J. Cornforth who had a contract for painting Coca-Cola advertisements on the sides of barns and stores.
Harrison considered himself to be “a self-proclaimed protector of old things and old ways” and was known as a public speaker and an author, in addition to being an artist.
While you’re in the vicinity, here’s another arts and crafts related suggestion:
If you’re in Thoroughbred Country during a weekend when the Living History Park is in full swing, you’ll be able to see costumed Early American reenactors weaving, quilting, candle-making and blacksmithing, among other things. Check this page for upcoming dates and events.