Elizabethtown artist's shot at exhibit pays off

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By Robert Villanueva

A Louisville museum exhibition focusing on some whiskey business got a double shot of help from an Elizabethtown artist who used a unique approach in creating her porcelain shot glasses.

“I had this idea of making a shot glass out of clay and then shooting it,” Verna McLaughlin said, explaining the idea came from taking the term “shot glass” literally.

The art pieces were shot with a .22-caliber rifle by McLaughlin, her husband, Richard, and their preacher. After some trial and error, McLaughlin created her work, called “Beauty in Violence,” which she submitted for the national juried art show and which were accepted.

“I made tons of them, and I picked out the best,” she said.

McLaughlin has three examples of her shot shot glasses in the “Bluegrass Bourbon: By the Bottle/By the Ounce” exhibit on display at the Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft. The exhibit continues through June 16.

Presented by Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft and Louisville Clay, the exhibit opened April 5, and celebrates the history of bourbon, a press release from the museum said. Ceramic bourbon bottles and shot glasses created by artists from across the country are spotlighted in the exhibit.

“Getting them there was kind of scary because they’re pretty fragile,” McLaughlin said.

Originally she was asked to ship them, but she asked to transport them herself, she said.

A member of Louisville Clay, an association of regional ceramic artists, McLaughlin said she works in clay a lot. She started trying other types of clay before working in porcelain, which she called “the purest of clay.”

The medium, she said, is also harder to work with because “it’s not as forgiving” as other clays.

When it came to shooting the creations, McLaughlin found they had to use a smaller caliber gun and shot the pieces while they were still wet, otherwise they would be completely destroyed. Most of the shooting was done by her husband and their preacher, though she did shoot one herself.

“The gun just freaked me out,” McLaughlin said.

Contrary to what she originally thought, shooting the pieces didn’t mean she didn’t have to make them attractive to begin with. She had thought since she was going to shoot them, it really wouldn’t matter.

By making the shot glasses as perfect as possible to begin with, she said, the violent gun shot blast created a stark contrast.

“If you made them not so good, they just didn’t work,” McLaughlin said.

Robert Villanueva can be reached at (270) 505-1743 or rvillanueva@thenewsenterprise.com.