About flaschentiger

I am Hilke Kurzke the artist working Büchertiger Studio & Press. You can find my regular blog here: http://blog.buechertiger.de

A dry approach to Messages in Bottles

showing a bottle to a visitor blog

Bonn, the very first dispatch

Those of you who have followed me for a while know that I used to live in Bonn. The river Rhine goes through Bonn and we lived just a short walk away from the shore and a large bridge from where it was easy to drop in bottles. Some only made it to the next bend, others made it further, one almost reached the Netherlands. But the most remarkable thing was a high rate of responses. I don’t really want to count the first 7 bottles which I dropped in without a cork (just a waxed cloth over the opening). That makes 5 bottles put in, 3 found – a response rate of 60%. Even if I count the first 7 – one of those got found – AND for good measure all the bottles I put in over the year a little further upstream at my parent’s at law in Mainz, that still makes a response rate of 6 out of 19 or 30%. Response rates for my bottles overall is 24 out of 99. (Maybe we should make this 24 out of 93, because I entered 5 bottles into an exhibition at the MCBA under the promise of them being tossed into the Mississippi but that never happened as far as I know, and one into an exhibtion in Swansea which suffered the same fate).

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Yours truely, tossing a bottle into the river Trent

So on average I have a response rate of 25%, in the Rhine about 30% and in all English rivers combined this number is slightly above average with 3 to out of 11 if I count two bottles that were dropped in so close to the coast that they were actually found on a beach. If I don’t that brings that figure down to 1 out of 9, and not one of the 6 bottles I dropped into the river Trent were found.

That got me a little frustrated with tossing bottles in here in Nottingham, which in turn results in bottles mainly being tossed in either from English beaches, or when I or Matthias are travelling somewhere.

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Hiding a bottle in a library

Not long ago, I hid some bottles in libraries here, which was good fun and had a surprising result and find, too. (Read more here).

But I just love hiding and leaving out things for people to find. More recently I started to hide painted pebbles around Wollaton, where I live. I don’t post photos of all the pepples, but if you are interested, you’ll find some in my instagram stream. And I still find the idea of hiding messages in libraries brilliant. The problem is that my previous experiences showed that although dispatching them in a dry environment, I would have to make them waterproof nonetheless because the finder is likely to put them in the water.

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new project: eggs and pods

And so I now embark on a new series of messages in, erm, eggs/nests/pods that probably won’t be tossed into the water. I am not turning away from messages in bottles and from this project, I will continue to make these. And the new messages are different in many ways. Actually in most ways:

  • the message inside is always essentially the same.
  • the thing itself is the artwork, kind of, no additional art is included, just the message
  • most of them have no reference to me, no explanation of any kind, some have initials, some have my name. None ask for contact
  • I am not sure people will understand that there is a message somewhere

I am not going to post more about this new project in this space. If you would like to follow it, you could follow me on instagram where I will probably put the odd picture. But there will be no real documentation. While this project is all about the connection with a stranger, this new thing is not. And I feel it therefore doesn’t need documentation. I am still curious to see whether I will ever get contacted about it. And I do feel it is a direct continuation of what began here with this project.

It follows the same idea that I want to spread joy with and about art, and want to share something with people who might not otherwise go in a gallery to see or even buy works of art.

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P.S.: I must admid, now that I went through the figures – I might actually try some rivers again, too 🙂

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Some Skegness Bottles Found, One still Travelling

In my last blogpost, I wrote about how I dropped off four bottles on a short vacation in Skegness on the first weekend of June. One of the first two bottles I dropped in on the Saturday, standing in the waves was bottle No. 96. I showed you a picture on the beach already, here are some from when it was still at home:

Unfinished and not yet sealed bottle No. 96

The letter is tied to the board and looks from the outside like this:

When I came back home, the following message was already waiting for me in my mailbox:

Hello, we have found your note in a bottle. It is number 96 and we found it on the beach in Skegness. It was in the water while we were splashing in it and we found it on the 2nd of June 2018. I think it brought us great happiness finding it however it was quite challenging to open, the cork was enormous :). We would also like to know when and where you released the bottle from. P.s. We loved the chocolate.

I was slightly amused, I must admit, by them remarking on the cork. I think that’s because the letter that I wrote starts with the words: “I hope you enjoyed finding and opening this bottle”. I have opened a couple of my own bottles (because I forgot to put a letter in or something similar), and I found them very easy to open – with a cork screw. But I suppose that’s not necessarily what you have with you when you are going for a day at the beach.

I of course answered them (honestly) with where and when I dispatched the bottle – and to ask them tons of questions. I always love to hear more about how they were found, how they were spotted, how opened, etc. – But they never answered my message. Maybe they were a bit disappointed that it didn’t float for longer.

The letter to “a stranger”, by the way, offers the chocolate.

Skegness Pier, a few minutes to 10 on Sunday 3rd of June 2018

The next day (without knowing one of my bottles was already found), my son and I headed out to the pier of Skegness and dropped two more bottles (as I already told you in the last blogpost). The first one that hit the waters was mine, and I felt very confident about it. As I saw it bobble on the waves, I imagined I saw it move out ever so slightly, and even if it didn’t, as long as it didn’t land straight away, I figured, it would get carried away by the water as it was past high tide.

But I received a short message on the same day, just three and a half hours later (so it can’t have been the next flood coming in) saying:

Found #95 on Skegness Beach

He confirmed that he found it right at the pier. And that’s all I heard from this bottle. It had a coloured in fishprint in it. I don’t seem to have a good image of the bottle here at home, but it made an appearance in this blogpost here on my main blog. And I wrote about the printing technique in this blogpost here. I am quite proud to have invented a printing technique like this. It might not be the most convincing for printing images of fish, but I am currently using it in another art project, to make the prints look like ultrasound images. I could also imagine using it to imitate the look of hectograph prints.

The print is folded inside the bottle to fit in, and on the back I wrote the lines which I used before: “We are fish, all of us, floating in time and space, opening and closing our mouths to the tide.”

My son insisted on dropping in one bottle, too and I am always delighted when he takes an interest in my projects. However, he’s an even worse thrower than I am. On the first attempt, he flatly dropped his bottle in, and we watche it land through the gaps in the planks of the pier we were standing on.

I was willing to just let it sit there. But Junior was excited about seeing it there, and insisted on trying to throw it in better the next time. And so we went to collect the bottle and give it another try. He did a real good job the next time – but the water was already retreating, right, and so I saw it clearly move back to the beach. But I didn’t tell him. After all, I figured, it might still bring joy to someone. – And indeed it did.

When I got home, I found this photo and message in my mailbox – and a comment on this blog which you might have found already.

Hi,

I’m pleased to tell you we found your bottle number 94 at Skegness beach. Y0u really did make our little 2 day trip worth it! Lovely poem; I’m going to frame it. Here’s a picture of my daughter after finding it. We would love to know when and where you threw it in […]

The poem she’s referring to, is one of my favourite poems by Wisława Szymborska. Unfortunately I can only read her in translation. And in the translation by Clara Cavanaugh (which I included) the title of the poem is “A note”.

In this case a lovely exchange came forward, and I learned a tiny bit more about them. They genuinely seem to have enjoyed the whole experience, and that makes me so happy!

Four splashes in Skegness

Skegness Beach, trying to find a spot and moment where I wasn’t watched putting the bottles in

First of June is the birthday of my twins (who are at the beginning of the story of this whole project), and we went to Skegess with them for this weekend to celebrate their big day. Of course I also brought some bottles with me. Now, when you put a bottle into the sea from the shore, chances are it will return to the same shore (most likely the same beach) from where you put it in. But this was the only thing I could do this weekend, and some of the bottles have waited for a dispatch since October, so I figured, I’d just take my chances. And after all, if they get found soon, that also has its advantages: It is likely that the contents are undamaged, and they’ll hopefully make their finders happy, no matter how long they travelled.

Bottles No. 93 and No. 96 shortly before their dispatch at Skegness Central Beach at 2/6/2018

We reached Skegness central beach on Saturday 2/6 at about 4pm. It was a couple of minutes to low tide, and thus an especially bad time to put in a bottle. The beach was rather crowded considering that the weather was far from brilliant. It was foggy, but at least wasn’t raining, and there was a yellow alert of heavy rainfall in place. Thus I figured, I’d rather put them in now, than not being able to dispatch them at all. I chose bottle No. 93, one of those with a monoprint on them, and a more recent bottle, No. 96.

Lot of effort that got my trousers completely wet – but bottles went up too high, and landed maybe 5 meters away from me in the water

I am rather poor at throwing, and they just sat there for a long time.

I brought two more bottles with me to the coast, and I kept those two until the next morning. We went to the pier in the morning, and waited for it to be opened. It was 10 minutes after high tide when we went stairs and walked to the end. Maybe an hour later would have been a better time, current-wise. But the water was already retreating, and thus I figured that the chances for them to wash out of the Lincolnshire bay were positive.

Bottles No. 94 and 95 shortly before their dispatch from Skegness Pier on 3/6/18

I went with my son onto the pier, and he insisted on throwing in one bottle himself.

As you can see, he really just flatly dropped it, and while it did land in the water…

we watched it land while we were standing on the pier. So we went down, picked it up, and he gave it another go.

The other bottle which I put in, looked like a promising dispatch:

a close-up:

Right after returning from the pier (the second time) I found this:

Notts Rocks

On the backside of the pebble it said “FB Notts Rocks”. I looked it up in the meantime, and it is a community of people who decorate rocks and pebbles and leave them at places for others to find. – Wonderful, absolutely wonderful! It will have its own special spot in my studio! Thanks to whoever left it there for me!

That’s it from me from the Skegness dispatches. 3 of the 4 bottles were already found by the time I am typing this blogpost. I’ll speak more about the finds, and the bottles (with contents revealed) in the next days. So stay tuned!

99 Bottles

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My son on a beach near Palma de Mallorca in 2018

In the past couple of days or weeks, this blog gained a number of followers. I have no idea whether this is just a coincidence, or whether maybe it was featured somewhere. In any case, I would like to welcome the new readers!

Just recently, for Easter, we spent some time on Mallorca. Unfortunately, I forgot to take bottles with me. I still had three in my studio, waiting for a dispatch, and I did think of taking them. But in the general hustle of packing for four people, and organising the whole trip, I completely forgot. It was only when we came to a rest on the beach, that my thoughts went back to them. In German we say (word by word translation): I could have bitten my own arse. I felt like I seriously cheated myself here: I don’t have a bottle in the Mediterranean yet, and would have loved to drop on in. Ah well, maybe it’s not my last chance to bring a bottle to there.

Message in Bottle No. 96

Bottle No. 96 “Small World – Chocolate”

The feeling of having missed out at least kicked my bottle-making back into gear, and once I returned to my studio, I started to think and eventually make a couple: I started out with bottle No. 96, essentially using up material I still had in my miniatures box.

The real challenge was bottle No. 97: I still had some “tiled” background which I originally made for the model that goes with my artist book “346. A Journey While Staying As Still As Possible”. I wanted to use it to make a room, I briefly pondered making a toilet, but it was clear pretty much from the start that it would be a shower.

Message in Bottle No. 97

Bottle No. 97 “Small World – The Shower”

Now the first thing it needed was a drain. I tried putting on silver paint, cutting a grate from silver foiled cardstock. I realised nothing but metal really looks convincingly like metal. The moment this thought came to my head, a light went on, and I knew how I would do it.

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trying out different drains for bottle no. 97

I am pretty proud of the result.

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Drain in bottle No. 97 and 99

Next up was making up the story that would go with it. All my small world bottles have a book in them that is written like a journal entry of someone who realises that he/she is surrounded by glass walls and needs to smash them. Then I wrote the story on paper, bound it between leather – and then realised that the resulting book was nice but too big for the shower to look convincing.

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Book for Bottle No. 97

And so I made another one for the shower. Later I decided to add the first book to bottle No. 98. All done!

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Book in Bottle 98

Message in Bottle No. 98

Message in a Bottle Bo. 98 “Streets of Nottingham”

Now I couldn’t stop with No. 98, could I? And so I made another shower, using a rectangular shower cabin this time, and adding an older, mini book that I already made years ago.

Message in  Bottle No. 99

Bottle No. 99 “Lost in the Shower”

On the weekend May 12+13 I will be holding an open studio event here in Nottingham. You are very welcome to stop by and see the bottles in person!

New Bottles – Monoprints

What drives me to make new bottles more than anything is when I hear about one of them being found.

Over the last couple of weeks I have been experimenting with a new way of printing. It is a monopriting technique, that – to my knowledge – is unique. It works really well for leaves, and the bottle on the left above (No. 94) is one of the results, hand-coloured with watercolours. I hope the bottle won’t draw water, because that would wash out that colour.

The fish in the middle (No. 93) and right (No. 95) bottle were made with polymer clay in a similar fashion. Fresh, mouldable clay is being used which has to be re-shaped after each print (as it is then squished flat). The on the the right is again coloured with watercolours.

As to the other contents… Those will remain a secret until they get found.

As you can see the bottle on the right isn’t capped off by wax in that picture. That is because the sun was setting, and I wanted to get a picture quick before it was gone, and thus took the picture while the wax was melting. – It now has a waxed cotton fabric top, tied down with a piece of string. I might make some more pictures of individual bottles before I send them off. Not that a drop-off is already planned. I would like to put them into the river Thames or the sea. We’ll see.

Bottle No. 92 found

On September 25th bottle No. 92 was found. I dispatched it on August 15th at the Maaraue during an awful thunderstorm. I threw it into the river Rhine from the banks, and that never really works well. And the bottle didn’t travel far. It got found just a couple meters downstream.

The interesting thing (for me) is that it got found by a member of the river police. They loved it, and it is now on display at their police station right there at the tip of that island where it was found.

When a bottle gets found, I usually share the making of story and a picture of its contents. In this case, the contents are not so very secret, but I included a close up above. The chocolate and the apple were made out of polymer clay. The pencil is the tip of a toothpick that I painted with some water colours.

With my small world bottles I experimented with hiding the accompaning letter behind or beneath the scenery. – It is hard to feature a scene inside the bottle on the one hand, and include the letter without disturbing the overall impression on the other hand. In this case, as you can see, I decided to mount the little scene on a thin piece of wood and hide the letter behind it.

Summer Drop-Offs

Ferry from Hull to Rotterdam, near Rotterdam, in the early morning hours, 1 or 2 hours from the port

Like every summer, we made a trip to Germany this August, and of course I used the opportunity to drop in some bottles. Unfortunately I don’t have too many photos of the actual dispatch this time. All images from the ferry for example are hopelessly blurred by the motion of the ship and my hand.

Bottle No. 89 "ward", just before its drop into the North Sea

Bottle No. 89 “ward”, just before its drop into the North Sea

The bottle that you can see in the image above is bottle no. 89. Here is another image, taken at home, shortly after closing it:

I weighted the contents before closing the bottle, and I am fairly sure that it can float. But it is rather heavy and will swim deep in the water. I didn’t see it pop back up to the water’s surface after I dopped it in from the sun deck of the “Pride of Hull”, and I hope it does indeed float.

A couple days later, I put in three more bottles from two different locations in Wiesbaden:

dispatch of bottle no. 92 from the Maaraue, an island in the river Rhine near Mainz

The bottle should be in the photo below, but I fail to spot it, to be honest. Maybe you can see it?

dispatch of bottle no. 92 from the Maaraue, an island in the river Rhine near Mainz

In a down pour of summer rain that quickly turned into a thunderstorm we made our way to the railway bridge near Mainzspitze where the river Main meets the river Rhine. We counted the seconds between lightning and thunder and noticed with growing concern that it was quite near, and we planned to stand on an iron bridge arching over a wide river.

But then we just made sure we were quickly off again, and this impacted on the photo quality. But we do have some gloomy shots of me throwing in the bottles.

Me walking out to the middle of the bridge

view from Südbrücke Mainz

here you can see me throwing in bottles No. 88, 90, 91

Usually I was lucky with bottles into the Rhine. I hope also these will encounter happy finders! (If you are interested, click here to find images of the bottles right after they were made.)