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Friday Slide Show: Carved Bottle Stopper Share This on LinkedIn   Tweet This   Forward This

15 September 2023

We inherited this fellow, whose job is to cork open bottles, from our grandfather. And we suspect it came from his father. And we guess it was brought to this country from Europe. Because things like this are just not what our contemporaries spend their time on.

It's labor intensive, for one thing. And that labor is sustained only by some devotion to craft, some fascination with seeing something fanciful emerge from something ordinary, some hook to keep at it.

That explains why the mouth moves. Because the carver got the idea that it could. So he made it happen.

He made a separate piece, which was probably heretical, for the lower lip and chin with a lever on the other end. And he cut a big hole in the head to insert it. Or maybe he whittled the face first before cutting the jaw out. Only he could confess.

We used the Joby Beamo key light to light the right side at a 45˚ angle with various color temperatures and the background light to light the left side directly from a bit rear of the side.

That jaw and its lever are two different parts, providing some spring. And in over a century of play it hasn't failed. It just doesn't break. Children (like us) have tried.

So we thought we'd celebrate this work of art by photographing it.

We used the Joby Beamo kit we're reviewing (by doing stuff like this) to illuminate it for our Nikon D200 with an antique Vivitar Series I 70-210mm Macro zoom in macro mode.

It's tough to focus that macro. You slide the lens back and forth and it isn't exactly a smooth ride. We resorted to moving the subject or the camera to get what we thought was focus. We missed about a quarter of the time. But we aren't showing you those.

A lot of work went into this unsigned piece. Hours. Days, perhaps. But it has lasted decades. Centuries even.

And one night it stood in the spotlight to take its bows.

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