The Origins of Creativity - Bourbon Edition

When I decided to become a full-time ceramic artist, there are a few things I didn't expect to happen: that we would be able to afford a storefront in the historic Downtown Winchester, that Carvel would ever quit his job to join me, and that we would have a mug that would be considered our flagship product. Here we are, almost 2 years later, and all three have happened. Of these things, what I have been asked about the most is the origins of our flagship mug's phrase, 'this might be bourbon'.

The creative process is unfortunately a messy one. Even if inspiration just hits, in ceramics there are so many different options to explore and consider that there is always a few trials to run through. What size font to use, should you capitalize proper nouns, how are you going to glaze, what color should it be, how much work is too much work for the price you will have to sell the piece for: all these things must be processed and explored. So let me take you down memory lane visually as well.

Stroke of Inspiration

First things first; where did the saying come from? Necessity, basically. I wanted to make my husband, Carvel, a Christmas gift that I knew he would love. I spent about half the day coming up with sayings revolving around bourbon, (one of his MAJOR passions in this world), and most of them were too wordy. 'for the days that you need coffee with a side of bourbon', 'there just might be bourbon in here', 'bourbon + coffee = happy Carvel'. Nah. When I cleaned the phrases up, condensed them down, 'this may/might be bourbon' was the winner. While I was making him one, I thought maybe some of our customers would like them as well. I think I was right.


These are the very first 'this might be bourbon' mugs created. I experimented with the idea of having feminine and masculine versions originally, before deciding that unisex was the way to go. These featured smaller stamps, which proved to be more challenging to get the glaze to stay in. Some turned out great, but with a 50/50 split, the loss was too great. After the first batch, this design was scrapped.

I also played around with the phrasing in the early batches. I knew that the second word needed to be either 'may' or 'might' for it to flow off your tongue correctly, and after they were finished I knew that 'might' was mightier than 'may'. Still, I enjoyed the front plate that the 'may' mugs had, so when I started making the next batch, these two designs were combined.

Let's talk about glaze, baby.

Here's a whole other challenge in the ceramic world. There are so many different paths and options that span much more than just color in this step, that I had to do a few experiments. Some (most) did not pan out so well.


Lovely, reliable cobalt blue showed it's worthy in not only color, but ability to stay in the letters (when stamped well) and translucent quality to show texture.

From here I became a mug making machine last November/December, working 13+ hour days, 7 days a week to produce nearly 200 mugs in about a month and a half. I wore out our first glaze sprayer, and our poor kiln basically fired constantly during this time as well. I have some photos of my battle wounds as well, from cracked knuckles to a severely bruise hand from using our spray gun for 8 hours two days in a row, but let's stay on topic for now.

After the Christmas rush, I realized that the design that I had been creating had a few flaws. First off, although the additional front plate was nice aesthetically and gave me a clear boundary for wiping back the glaze, it caused more than a few issues. For one, a much slower drying time. Basic science will tell you the thicker the clay, the longer it takes to dry. You can't fire a piece until it is COMPLETELY dry, or you may open the kiln to a minor explosion. Also, when the front piece is added, the additional clay caused many of the cylindrical mugs to warp severely and we had to scrap them. So with more time to think on it, we changed up the design to what you see today.

We bought a stamp with the words altogether to help with the accuracy of our letter placement, and have also experimented with other glaze combinations. We keep coming back to the blue. There are plans for us to start mixing up some glazes of our own creations, so you never know what we will be doing in a few months.

So there you have it folks; the whole truth and nothing but it. The process from inception to completion isn't always linear, and we've had our share of figuring things out. Overall, I am very pleased with our current design and so very happy that everyone else is as well. Anytime that someone tells you that they want to give your art as a gift is a very high compliment for an artist, which is why we try to go above and beyond to thank all of our customers in the holiday season. Without you, 38 N. Main Street would still be vacant. Thank you, and we are wishing you the very happiest of holidays!

Ashley Norman

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