Lillstreet presents “Neat: The Art of the Whiskey Vessel”

Doug Jeppesen curates ceramics perfect for whiskey and bourbon.
 (Photograph: Courtesy of Lillstreet)
Photograph: Courtesy of LillstreetJosh DeWeese, Bozeman, Montana. �I love the idea of creating an object that implies slowing down and having a libation with friends,� DeWeese says. The artist also appreciates �the challenge of making a set of things work together� and the �animation� of a pouring vessel. DeWeese incorporated a decomposed diorite granite from Montana�s Elkhorn Mountains into the glaze applied to this stoneware liquor set. He likes to use local materials because they �have a richness that is not found in processed materials as easily�a depth that�s really beautiful.�
 (Photograph: Courtesy of Lillstreet)
Photograph: Courtesy of LillstreetJosh Stover, Minneapolis, Minnesota. Stover derived the form of this vessel from stoneware whiskey jugs used in North Carolina, which the Florida native frequently visited during college. While those traditional jugs were plain, the artist paints whimsical scenes on his own hand-built works. (The reverse side of this jug depicts two alligators running away from the skunk�s odor�and leaving it their whiskey.) Stover makes his pieces out of earthenware because �it looks a little bit warm,� he says. �It gives [the work] an aged look that I like.�
 (Photograph: Courtesy of Lillstreet)
Photograph: Courtesy of LillstreetLorna Meaden, Durango, Colorado. Meaden, who grew up in La Grange, Illinois, fell in love with ceramics when an SAIC professor did a demonstration at her high school. She began making �whiskey buckets,� accompanied by two to four cups, when she was in graduate school. �They�re for more than one person hanging out together�for partying, basically,� the artist says.Meaden threw these porcelain vessels on her potter�s wheel and fired them in a wood/soda kiln. She drew the lines on the set in inlaid black clay before adding color. �The drawing reflects the shape of the piece,� she explains. �I use a lot of what I consider to be rich colors: yellows and oranges and greens.�Meaden didn�t design this set specifically for whiskey, but because the cups and flask �are fairly small,� she says, �it would have to be something pretty potent.�
 (Photograph: Courtesy of Lillstreet)
Photograph: Courtesy of LillstreetDoug Jeppesen, Sugar Grove, Illinois. The �Neat� curator cites two inspirations for this unglazed, wood-fired piece: Illinois�s oval barns and the Knob Creek bourbon bottle. Jeppesen doesn�t mind if a collector just places his work on a shelf, like a sculpture, but his own family enjoys eating and drinking out of �a complete mishmash of artists� pots.��When people come over, the conversation becomes all about the artwork,� he says. �Someone�s taken the time to think about that handle or that foot. That�s a pretty neat thing.�
By Lauren Weinberg |

“Really good whiskey or bourbon isn’t something you just drink and drink. It’s something that you enjoy over a period of time,” Doug Jeppesen says. “There’s nothing like having a handmade cup to think about and look at,” the Sugar Grove–based artist adds, “and—just as it reveals itself—that drink will as well.”

Jeppesen brings together ceramics created by brown-liquor enthusiasts from across the United States in “Neat: The Art of the Whiskey Vessel,” which opens at Lillstreet Art Center (4401 N Ravenswood Ave) Friday 1, 6–9pm. Koval Distillery sponsors a whiskey tasting during the reception, and nearby restaurant Fountainhead offers a discounted whiskey flight that evening. Four artists spoke with me about a few of their works in the show:

“Neat” opens Friday 1 at Lillstreet Art Center.