From The Archives: Douglas James Ferguson

Fair 59 Ferguson

Douglas James Ferguson

Douglas James Ferguson was born in Possom Trot, Yancey County, NC in 1912.  He received a degree in Art Design Studies from Mars Hill College.  From 1935 to 1947 he worked in the Ceramic Research Laboratory for the Tennessee Valley Authority in Norris, TN, where he acquired an interest in pottery experimenting with local clays.  In 1946 he started Pigeon Forge Pottery in an old tobacco barn with Ernest Wilson who was his colleague at the Ceramic Research Laboratory.
The Great Smoky Mountains inspired Ferguson's ceramics and he created bears, owls, raccoons and chipmunks as well as a functional line of vases, bowls, tumblers and other dishware.  He employed up to 18 local people in his studio and shop which was one of the first in the area to present high quality ware.  In 1995 he published Spirit of the Black Bear, a catalog to accompany his trademark glazed black bears.  It featured the rotund small whimsical creatures in various poses:  rolling, standing, walking.  Ferguson reproduced butter mold prints in clay:  wheat, snowflake, dandelion and the oak leaf.  Inspired by the content of local mud dauber nests he used red and gray clay found in Pigeon Forge.  Initially he utilized a mule at his pug mill to attract visitors.  He formulated many of his own glazes including a crystalline and crater glaze.  In 1957 he created the Clingdom Dome tea set which the state of Tennessee presented to Queen Elizabeth.  In that same year a major fire closed his business until he could rebuild.
Fair 67O Ferguson
Ferguson became a member of the Southern Highland Craft Guild in 1948 and remained active until 1998, receiving Life Membership in 1991.  He credited the Guild with "making the local people more aware of their potential, and giving the public a view of something they were more or less not aware of."  He won the Western North Carolina University Mountain Heritage Award in 1982 where his work was described as "spiritual" and they credited him with creating "in sculpture, pottery, and tile the life of our mountainland."  He earned two awards from the Tennessee Arts and Crafts Festival in Nashville.  He received the Rotary Certificate of Distinguished Service.  He was featured in books on Appalachian craftspeople by Bernice Stevens, Edward Dupuy and Helen Bullard.  In the fall of 1952, Ferguson attended a ceramics symposium by international artists at Black Mountain College.  Through worldwide travel, Ferguson studied ceramic techniques in Great Britain, Europe, Asia, and Egypt.
Ferguson participated in the American Craft Council and the Ceramic National exhibitions in 1963.  He served as President of the Blue Ridge Parkway Association.  He was also a member of the Gatlinburg Rotary Club, assisted with the Gatlinburg and Grandfather Mountain Highland Games, and served on the Board of the East Tennessee Automobile Association.
In the 1970s - 80s Ferguson created a fountain with traditional Appalachian quilting designs at Mars Hill College, his alma mater, as well as a heritage wall mural in Blackwell Hall, the Four Seasons Mural, and the College Seal.  Ferguson died in 1999.  Pigeon Forge Pottery was closed in 2000.

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