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The Proper Bottle for Your Ship or Scene:

By: H. G. Rogers 

To choose the proper bottle to house your ship or scene, the builder needs to think about how the art will appear when it is complete.  How is the relationship between space, shape, and overall atmosphere represented?  A lonely sloop, built to scale and placed inside a wine bottle is most likely going to appear visually awkward.  The model may be of the highest quality and perfection, but the quantity of empty space that would exist in such a bottle, would create a visual tension between the two.  Focus first, on collecting bottles of different shapes and styles and then creating an atmosphere of harmony between ship or scene and bottle shape.

Finding bottles for your art is an easy task and doesn't necessarily mean finishing off a bottle of whiskey to do so.  Search your local antique stores, flea markets, and second hand boutiques and you will be surprised at the treasures they hold.  As a bottle artist, I have only a small collection of some 25 bottles, but a relatively wide range of styles and shapes that are suitable for most any ship or scene.   Any glass vessel can serve as a house for your art.  Decanters of numerous shapes, pharmaceutical bottles, clear wine bottles, lights bulbs, chemist bottles, lamp globes, etc., all of various sizes make up a good collection.  In addition, be very critical when selecting a bottle.  Evaluate its quality as best you can with clarity being your biggest concern.  A good test is to hold a bottle up into the light, making sure it is dry inside.  Is it hazy, scratched, shows some iridescence from chemical exposure, or have rings from liquid once sitting inside it?  If yes, set it aside and move forward with your search, because these things are generally unchangeable.  Blown bottles, without molding marks, will commonly be the best choice.  They may contain bubbles or streaks and can also be slightly asymmetrical in shape, but these things if not overwhelming, can give character and an expressive quality to your bottled art.

Most importantly, harmony should exist between the art inside and the bottle itself, therefore choosing the bottle in direct relationship to the ship/scene or vice versa is ideal.  For example, a round, conical shaped, or decanter style bottle would be well suited for a sloop or two-masted vessel, but not a three to four-masted schooner or square rigger, which would fit better in a pharmaceutical (taller and broader) bottle.  The shape versus the space needs to be balanced.  As stated in the first paragraph, a lonely sloop in a wine bottle would be visually lacking, but add other elements creating a scene and filling the space (lighthouses, other boats, shoreline with houses, etc.) and you've created a balanced composition.  When you pick up a bottle, let your imagination take off.  Ask yourself, what would fit inside this bottle best?  It is almost always easier to develop a plan based on a bottle than developing a plan and then searching for the perfect bottle to fit it.  A design can change with creativity, but a bottle cannot.  That said, you may find after designing your ship or scene, that another bottle among your collection is better suited, which is just another part of the creative process and the reason why you should have a various assortment of bottles.

Finally, keep developing lots of ideas for future masterpieces.  Ideas can always be set aside until the perfect bottle is found.  The overall task is to create something visually attractive, that draws the attention of the viewer, and fits harmoniously, all within the small compounds of a bottle.  If you accomplish these things, the attracted onlooker will certainly wonder and ask, “just how did you get that in there?”


Ship in Bottle, "Mariquita" is a good example of how a ship placed inside an attractive bottle makes the overall piece of artwork more appealing. The two shapes agree and the ship can be viewed at any angle clearly.