Imagine Sally Wilson’s surprise when she saw the latest Garden & Gun magazine, for her late husband’s julep cup was on the cover. The cover says “Classic Southern Drinks” and displays a mint julep in all its frosty glory. Sally Wilson had no idea they were going to feature the cup. Calls were made and it was determined that Garden & Gun thought it was a vintage cup and picked it for its beautiful unique shape, but they did not know that these cups were still being produced right here in Louisville, Kentucky, by Wilson Artworks.

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Image credit: Garden and Gun Magazine

In 1978, Thomas Wilson designed his first cup for the Steeplechase event at Hardscuffle Farm, with the Hardscuffle logo on the front of the cup. He later patented his design of this fluted cup, which was made of copper and then silver-plated. It is called The Wilson Cup.

Thomas Wilson was an artist. He made his famous Wilson Cup, jiggers, and many other pieces of art, jewelry and gifts made of metal. At first, he hand-hammered each cup, spending hours getting it just right. Eventually, he developed a machine to shape the cups perfectly, called a spinning mandril. He created the molds of all the different figures that can go on the front of the cups, known as a sculptured casting. There are over 100 different figures.

He trained his sons, daughter and wife in his craft. His son, John, joined him in the business. He also trained another artisan, Branden Ezell, under his watchful eye. Thomas Wilson died in 2009 and his son John died in 2011. Thomas’s wife Sally and Branden Ezell now carry on the legacy of Wilson Artworks. Sally runs the business operations and Branden creates all of the cups. These cups are still made with tender loving care and meticulous attention to detail.  They work in small industrial space off Broadway, near the distilleries, ironically.

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Sally Wilson and Branden Ezell consult about a piece.

Here’s the visual behind-the-scenes on how these cups are crafted:

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First, middle, last. Cups start out looking like a piece of copper pipe. Then, a bottom is placed on it and it is formed into a fluted cup on a machine. A figure is placed on the cup and then it is sent to be silver-plated.

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A jigger cup in its raw copper form.

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This is the machine used to form the cups into a fluted cup. This is called a spinning mandril.

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These fluted cups are in the second phase. They need to be polished and a figure placed on them. I would buy and use them in this state they are so beautiful.

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Branden Ezell fires up the torch while Sally looks on.

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This is a picture of Thomas Wilson finishing a cup.

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The mark if the artist. They still sign them with Thomas Wilson’s name with a triangle indicating that the work was posthumously done.

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One of the first cups ever made by Thomas Wilson, with a giraffe. This was one of the original hand-hammered cups.

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A mold for the cup. This one is an athlete.

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Two finished Wilson Cups.

Wilson Cups are available in three sizes:

Wilson Julep Cup (10oz) – $215
Wilson Tippler Cup (7oz) – $160
Wilson Jigger (2oz) – $120

All orders can be placed through their website. Simply contact them and tell them via their website what you would like to purchase. They do custom orders for companies, groups and individuals. Their website is wilsonartworks.wordpress.com.

Each cup is a beautiful piece of handmade art. We should all be proud that they are handmade right here in our fair city. The most appropriate city for a julep cup to be made, I might add.

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