Ship in a Bottle: Concept, History and Significance
Ship in a bottle, a very popular nautical gift during bygone maritime eras and even in the contemporary times, is a unique concept of putting a model ship in a glass bottle. A well-crafted memorabilia, the concept of ship in bottle served as a poignant reminder of the magnificence of both – the vessels and the oceanic domain.
Various historical anecdotes recount different theories to the ship in a bottle paradigm. Certain tales talk about the seafarers’ desire to whittle their free time through these minutely constructed figurines while many assign these uniquely filled bottles to yet another sleight of hand technical manoeuvre. But contrary to the latter theorisations, the art of constructing and fitting out ships of different dimensions within bottles having constricted necks is as painstaking and really arduous.
The significance of the model ship placed strategically within the bottle perhaps arises out of this arduousness. The accentuated creativity and singularity of the ship model were perhaps the major contributors to this constructional art-form which perpetrated its immense popularity in its heydays and transformed presently into equally well-crafted replicas of the original constructions.
Ship in a Bottle: Constructional Era and Methodology
The nautical gift of Ship in a bottle was in vogue during the late 18th and the early and mid-19th century in Europe and in the Americas. Over the years spanning this era, the constructional methodology also underwent changes with various ship in bottle designers coming up with different constructional approaches. However, even though the actual start of the concept is well-known, the innovator of the concept still remains a mystery.
There are different ways to successfully incorporate a ship within a bottle. The most commonly employed technique is to construct a ship based on historical vessel models and then placing them within the bottle. A lesser-known technique involves the construction of the vessel by placing structural elements within the bottle and then whittling them to shape.
How to Make Ship in a Bottle: A Glimpse
Elaborating on the first constructional methodology, the very basic requirement for a ship in a bottle architect is to choose the right bottle variant. Since ships of the past came in different shapes and sizes, the size of the bottle and the extent of its flat-base shape when placed horizontally matters immensely. Apart from the bottle sizing, there are several other important elements too that need to be considered while constructing ships in bottles. Typical items finding their way into a ship in a bottle kit thus would be – the right kind of glass bottle, pigments to depict textures of the sea, small blocks of timber and cables and gum to solder the whole structure wherever necessary.
– The first step after the bottle is chosen involves the replication of the vessel using the small blocks of timber. The constructor needs to utilise the right quality timber which can not only be easily whittled but will be equally durable. Whittling the timber to the intended vessel’s shape is a meticulous task and needs to be carried out by thoroughly calculating the flat-base dimensions of the bottle and the proportions of its mouth.
– Once the timber is whittled, the torso of the ship model with all detailing is created and appropriate finessing agents are applied to emphasise its detailing, the next step involves the construction of elements like the mast-pole, spar-poles and riggings of the model ship with the help of timber, cables and glue.
– These elements too require calculation precision so that the positioning of the vessel into the bottle is not hindered because of faulty measurements. At the same time, the architect also needs to maintain the authenticity of the replicated craft vis-à-vis the original, which makes these minute constructions even more important. In order to replicate the unfurled sailing canvasses, paper is utilised which is gummed to the replicated spar-poles.
– The cables are used as a means to provide flexibility to these structures which while positioning and shifting the vessel into the bottle are made planate. Thus these cables act as flexible joints into the already carved vessel support structures and help the architect in the smooth transition of the ship model into the bottle.
– Before transitioning the ship in bottle, its flat-base needs to be coated with pigments to create the effect of the sea. Mixing fillers to these pigments gives the pigments a semi-solid consistency which can be coated into the bottle’s flat-base to give an authentic feel of the ripples and waves.
– Using the extended length of the cables, the flexible joints of the pole structures and the riggings are slowly lowered so as to allow the easy passage of the model ship into the bottle. After the vessel is successfully transitioned into the bottle, aligning it perfectly over the coated wave replication is equally important. After the vessel’s aligned absolutely, the cables are tugged to raise the poles and riggings with the extra cable lengths then snipped to present a daintily carved ship in a bottle.
Ships in bottles are a unique way of associating oneself with the maritime domain even if one weren’t a seafarer and are truly, a collector’s pride and marvel. Moreover, these constructions boast of aesthetic ingenuity with a never-to-be diminished allure and appeal.
Watch the Video of Making a Ship in a Bottle