Building ships in bottles is a fascinating, and to some people, a daunting task. It’s no wonder they are also known as patience bottles. The first SIB’s were built in the late 18th and early 19th century. While the person who started building ships in bottles is unknown, the reasons are not hard to see.
Being a sailor on a ship was a lot of hard work but not all the time. While traveling the world at a speed of 20 mph or less there was only so much that could be done. So it’s easy to see that one day a sailor is looking at the trash he’s about to throw over board, consisting of old rope, yarn, whale or walrus bones, wood and of course bottles and he gets an idea. Why not build a replica of the ship he’s sailing in and fit it in a bottle.
In looking into the history of ships in bottles I found there was really three reasons people built them, religious gifts given to churches to bring sailors good fortune, gifts for family or lovers at home, and sheer boredom. Today it has become a fascinating craft of amazing detail and skill. There are associations worldwide whose sole purpose is to keep the art of ship in bottle making alive. The Ship in Bottles Association of America has over 500 members and produces a quarterly newsletter.
The modern world of SIB builders has created many great techniques that add to the detail of their creations. SIB’s have become more like paintings in that some builders elect to put more detail in their ships while others withhold some details that the imagination fills in.
Also in recent years there have been many SIB builders that are notorious in the SIB community for their craftsman ship and style. One such Builder was George Fulfit who is known for his incredible ships and for putting seagulls that seem to fly around the bottle. A short documentary featuring George Fulfit was made by Robert Fresco entitled “Steady as She Goes” and can be found at http://www.snagfilms.com/films/title/steady_as_she_goes.
Ships in bottles have come a long way over the last 200 plus years of the craft. In my opinion, it is not going away. As long as people can feel the thrill of sailing and the awe of the enormous and elegant tall ships or have a fascination for the impossible there will always be Ships in Bottles.
Thank you for reading! After this post I will begin explaining and describing how to do some different types of ships and the little details you can put on to them.