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Friday, May 9, 2014

Art in a Bottle- How Did They Get That Ship in There!

The Schooner Virginia Races the Pride of Baltimore II past Thimble Shoals Lighthouse.
Created by marine artist Heather Gabrielle Rogers.
The first known ship inside a bottle was created during the early years of the 19th century. Like other sailor-made art forms, these were created aboard old sailing ships in an era when sea voyages lasted months and sometimes years. Whalemen, during their idle hours, produced scrimshaw for family members, sweethearts, and friends. Decorative and utilitarian objects were carved from bone, ivory teeth, and baleen, and designs were engraved on the same materials. But other materials such as wood, rope and yarn were also used, and many interesting and decorative objects were created from these.

Two tall ships pass each other in this early 20th century ship in a bottle diorama.

It is not surprising then that an empty spirit or a medicine bottle lying around aboard ship might have spurred the imagination of a 19th century seaman into devising a way to display a model ship in it. Whatever the origin, the technique for placing ships into bottles was passed along and over time became a favored art form for sailors. Some sailors produced a facsimile of the ship that they sailed aboard; others may have created multiple ships passing by under full sail on rough painted clay seas or a diorama of a ship in harbor with the seaport in a background, a lighthouse at the harbor’s edge, possibly with tugboats in tow. These works can now be found in maritime museums around the world for there are few sailor-made decorations as nautical as a bottled ship.

Tom Applegate prepares the US Coast Guard tall ship "Eagle" for launching in the bottle.
Today, ship-in-bottle artists have taken the old sailor art form and produce exceptional works of art with microscopic detailing that will rival anyone’s imagination of “how did they get that in the bottle.” A selection of new works by Heather Gabrielle Rogers and Tom Applegate will also be a focus of this nautical show.

The US Coast Guard tall ship "Eagle" under sail on blue clay seas.

Skipjack Nautical Wares & Marine Gallery is hosting “Art in a Bottle,” a collection of exceptional ship-in-bottles and dioramas from the 19th century through the present and featuring recent creations by maritime
artists Heather Gabrielle Rogers and Tom Applegate.

Heather Gabrielle Rogers- As a passionate crafter of ships in bottles, Heather has developed a huge appreciation for the challenge of constructing these tiny ships with my main focus directed towards detail. Her overall goal is to always produce what appears to be a miniature version of a ship or vessel captured in a moment in time.

Thomas Applegate- From as far back as he could remember he has had a love for the sea. In the early 1970's he made his first ship in a bottle, a brigantine. Being self taught, he found it very challenging and rewarding. Over the years, he has researched each vessel he has created in order to make them a work of art while being true to life.


Skipjack nautical Wares & Marine Gallery is located on the riverfront, 1 High Street next to the High Street Landing in Olde Towne Portsmouth, Virginia. Parking is available in the municiple parking lot next to the gallery and the Water Street garage located across the street of the building and along High Street.


 "Art in a Bottle" will be an ongoing show through September 28, 2014. The gallery hours are Monday through Saturday 10 am to 5 pm and Sunday from 1 pm to 4 pm.  Special showings can be arranged for groups by calling the gallery.


You can visit the gallery or peruse the collection online on their website at: You can call the gallery at (757) 399-5012 or email at The gallery showing is free to the public. The artwork is available for purchase but cannot be removed until the show is concluded.