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The One Keeper in a World Full of JugsBy Victoria Bourne
Photos by Adam Ewing
Richard Nickel was having neck trouble.
On a November evening in Norfolk, Nickel, B.C. Wilson and Brendan Tompkins huddled around a calculator in Nickel’s studio. Armed with a caliper, the group worked to solve a design problem that had become the latest hiccup in their plans to mass produce handmade ceramic growlers.
The trio wanted to reshape a large block of old ash wood into a new template for their molds, accounting for things such as glaze thickness and clay shrinkage.
They’d nailed down the growler’s 64-ounce volume, but the neck was still not quite right. “We’ve got something that works,” Wilson said. “It’s just not a perfect process.”
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An Article featuring Norfolk Growlers
What started out as a simple idea has finally come to fruition. Rick Nickel, an Associate Professor at Old Dominion University, who teaches ceramics and art, wanted to make handmade beer growlers. Ceramic beer growlers had become popular on the west coast, but the east coast had little representation. At the same time, craft breweries had started popping up all over Virginia. With the help of Brendan Tompkins, B.C. Wilson and Chris Nickel, Norfolk Growler Company was born in 2015. The company is based off the model of fellow growler designer, Portland Growler Co. where what you drink from is just as important as what you are drinking.