Patriot Jug

In 2010 Michelle Erickson was asked by Winterthur Museum to reverse engineer the process of making an 18th-century Liverpool creamware jug to inform their publication Success to America: Creamware for the American Market referencing the S. Robert Titleman Collection, the finest collection of patriotic jugs in the world. This genre of colonial era ceramics, largely produced and exported from Liverpool, England, documents an incredible historic record of war, revolution, independence, and trade. Commemorative and celebratory depictions of American revolutionary heroes merchant and war ships and sailors adorn these British ceramics "made for the American Market." At first glance, the inscription "Success To Trade" appears to be an innocuous salutation but the reality of Britain and America's cynical capitalistic enterprise was the brutal business of human commodity and Liverpool the largest slave port in the world.

Erickson's exacting prototype of an 18th-century creamware jug is the vehicle for her 21st-century "Patriot Jug" that cries for social justice. She acutely observes the similarities in the actions of NFL player now Nike spokesman Colin Kaepernick's taking a knee against the inhumanity of mass incarceration and institutional racism with the creation of the iconic image of the "kneeling slave" made famous by Josiah Wedgwood's 1787 abolitionist medallion "Am I Not A Man and A Brother". By the early 19th century, ceramic sugar bowls and tea sets were decorated with abolitionist themes featuring images of the kneeling slave as a call to boycott sugar produced by slave labor- directly instructing social activism through household ceramics. Erickson used a kneeling enslaved woman on the face of her jug, borrowed from a 19th-century pin cushion worn around the wrist, an artifact of women's work, and an intimate daily reminder for the abolition of slavery. She has further surrounded this image with cries of Liberty in Arabic and Justice in Hebrew summoning the ancient human struggle for freedom and encircles the interior of the rim with a transfer print of the 1st amendment. The Nike campaign moniker EQUALITY opposes the iconic image of Kaepernick's extraordinary action to risk his career and raise his voice with millions watching by taking a knee on behalf of the voiceless who suffer the injustice of racism.

The techniques Erickson employs include wheel thrown and lathe turned earthenware, a modeled and press molded spout and a handle extruded through a custom cut brass die.