New Bottles

Since my last blogpost I made 10 new bottles. Yes, I have been on a kind of spree, making many miniature houses using paper mache, something I work with anyway at the moment. Every time I was working on a batch of paper mache I also formed little geometric shapes, that I later turned into building by painting them – and some to even more complicated structures. See for yourself, here are my new bottles:

message and miniature in bottle no 105

Message in a Bottle No. 105

message and miniature in a bottle

Message in a Bottle No. 106

I am always looking for new ways to integrate my message. Can you spot it for these two? Well, I have to tell you that the first one is hidden in the same way, you can’t actually see it in the photo.

miniature and message in a bottle

message no. 107

miniature and message in a bottle

message in a bottle titled “alien throne”

I titled this bottle “alien throne” – or what do you think this might be? Would you sit on it if you could?

miniature and message in a bottle

message no. 109

miniature and message in a bottle

message no. 110 with a picknick basket with blanket, apple and book

The miniature in message no. 110 is a bit recycled, I have to admit. If you have followed this blog for a while, you’ll know that I made a range of different baskets a while ago, and I still had this one. But the lawn is new…

miniature and message in a bottle

message no. 111

Of course I had to keep using the new lawn…

miniature and message in a bottle

message no. 112 – house on a cliff

miniature and message in a bottle

message no. 113 – tall house

miniatures and message in a bottle

message number 114 – abandoned high rise appartment blocks

miniature in bottle

Bottle No. 115 – underground pool

Bottle number 115 is the hardest to show! It has a structure in it, that I cut from a block of papermache with a dremel, and decorated. It is supposed to be an underwater pool… Well, you’ll see more of it if and when it gets found :-). And last but not least:

miniature in bottle

bottle no. 116 – obelisk

I am currently thinking about maybe planning (notice how careful I am here) an event that, if it indeed takes place, will be related to my messages in bottles. And so I want to make even some more, maybe of another type, not necessarily with miniatures in them. But we’ll see.

Later in the summer I am definitely planning a trip to the sea, maybe to the East (Lincolnshire or North Norfolk) or the West (somewhere in Wales or maybe Liverpool), or maybe to all these locations to drop my bottles in.

I am also thinking of maybe sending some of them abroad to be tossed where I have not tossed a bottle before 🙂 If you would like to dispatch one of my bottles, maybe along with one of your own, please get into touch, and we’ll see whether and what we can arrange.


New Bottles and Planned Drop Off Trent Bridge

Trent Bridge in Nottingham

I have dropped off a couple of bottles from Trent Bridge before, five, if my records are correct, and I never heard back from a single one. That’s why I have been hesitant to drop in more, although I just love that Bridge.

But coming Friday, I am going to give it another go.

Peter’s Bottle along with my three unsealed ones

From the Sheffield Drop Offs (Blog post part 1, part 2, part 3) I still have one of Peter‘s bottle waiting to be put into a body of water. Now that spring is filling England’s rivers, it seems like a good time to part with it.

I didn’t have any of my own left over, so I made a couple new ones this past week.

close-up of the teeny tiny houses I am going to put in the bottles

In my main part of work, I started to use paper mache more, and as usual, my messages in bottles reflect that.

I don’t think I’ll put all the bottles in, possible just one of them. – And that then would be the one with the folded paper boat. The letter in the bottle, btw, is suspended from the cork that will seal the bottle as to not disturb the scene inside. I hope the construction will survive!

More, once the bottles are sealed and on their way.

Sheffield – Part 1: Preparations

From 9th – 12th October I spent a couple of days in Sheffield. They were my personal writer’s retreat: I booked myself into a hotel and spent my days there to write. BUT of course I carried a couple of bottles to dispatch there. I had a really good time, with walks along the river and canal, discovering little and big things on my excursions, with new ideas and trying marmite for the first time – and got a lot of writing done.

Unfortunately because I was writing anyway, I failed to write here on this blog while things were happening, which I now realise was a mistake: Packing everything I want to tell and show you into one big blogpost is just too much. So I’ll split it into two or three parts and will publish them over the next couple of days. I hope you’ll enjoy them and stick with me!

Here’s a map of the dispatches, as some kind of preview for those who are just too curious just now (and also in case a bottle is being found already). You’ll see this map again in future posts. You’ll notice that there are three kinds of markers in there: the blue ones are where I dropped off my bottles, the red ones are sightings, and the green ones are where I dropped off Peter’s bottles.

Preparations – The Bottles

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From left to right bottles numbered 102, 100, 103, 101

When I announced on facebook, and shortly after here on this blog, that I would be dispatching bottles in Sheffield, I had made 99 bottles to date, and all had been set free, none was with me in my studio to take along with me. That was because I was slightly haunted by the idea that bottle No. 100 should be somehow special, and thus had postponed actually making one for a while.

The reason why I booked my stay in Sheffield was that I was (and am) awfully clogged with work at the moment. I have so much work to do, I find no time to work! (It sounds funny but it really isn’t. I will have to seriously think about how to solve the problem, but that’s a different story.) So maybe it’s no surprise that for a good while I didn’t do anything about the lack of bottles.

Then James Ismael Kuck, also known online as Peter S. or Peter Stein send me a message, asking whether he could send me some bottles for the Sheffield dispatch. “Sure”, was my answer, “it will be a pleasure!” And I was delighted that anyone had taken notice in my plans and was happy to participate. And it put the necessary pressure on to really get going and make some bottles. (If you don’t know his blog, click on the link, and you’ll find a wonderful mix of stories about messages and bottles, ocean currents, and people who collect or make messages in bottles; most of the posts are in German but a fair bit have English summaries or translations.)

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First steps in making a rounded bathroom sink and cabinet

There are two major things I try to continuously improve for my bottles, and have not found a universal (i.e. the best) solution for: a) where and how to place my actual message and b) how to best make use of the little space I have in the bottle.

To this end, I decided to try and make a curved piece of furniture this time. I first put some polymer clay into a bottle and baked it inside. Then I took it out, it kept its shape, so that I had a bit of “wall” to work with for my model. Of course the opening on top is smaller than the curve on the inside, but I thought I took care of that and set to work. Unfortunately it turned out that the cabinet was few millimeters too wide to fit in. – I had forgotten to take the thickness of the board properly into account.

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Doesn’t fit in by a fraction of a millimeter

So I started over and made a second cabinet, just a bit smaller.

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New cabinet at the bottom is a little bit smaller

It turned out that with just a millimeter smaller, it was really hard to fit the sink in, for which I used piece of a blister pack that did not magically shrink a bit just by my willing it to. But I managed somehow, painted it, put on some decorative paper, and added a few details:

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Front view of cabinet with a sink, a toothbrush, a cup and some toilet paper at the bottom

Below is another view of it, from the back: By puttin some paper over the back, I am hiding that I had to score the board to make it fit as a round. The photo also has a matchstick (and the old cabinet) in it for size comparison. Also, the grid on my worktable is a 10mm grid.

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cabinet from top/back.

With so much work poured into that bottle, I decided that this had to be my number 100, and it is the bottle for which I wrote the accompaning letter (to be rolled up and placed beside the toilet paper) first. But I actually started the bottle No. 101 with the disinfectant bottle first.

Well, you can see by now that I have a bathroom / hospital / sanitary thing going with these bottles. That’s because I am still in the finishing steps for my artist book “346” involved. But that, too, is another story to be told at a different time and place.


pencil loop closure work like this: There are two loops attached to the front over of the book, and one in the middle between the two on the back cover flap. You close the book, and the loops line up, then you push a pencil through and they all stay in place. Pull the pencil out, and you can open the book – and you have a pencil ready to write, too!

I then tought, it was time to make a miniature book again for a bottle. And I was going to pay more attention to the closure (of the book) this time. So I managed to make a teeny tiny pencil loop closure. I explained what that is above as a caption to the image. Obviously, with a book as tiny as this, I can’t put in an ordinary pencil. Instead this is a tapered and clipped toothpick, with some black painted on. I experimented with making it a real pencil that would write, but didn’t really like the result. You can see the real pencil in the picture below.

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The book is filled with images and text on (almost) all pages

I then put the book on what I thought could look like a hospital blanket and pillow, but probably it doesn’t, and put all this onto a hollow pedestal into which I put the accompaning letter. Unfortunately, as you can see in the group image above and maybe below, that placed the book and miniature scene rather close to the cork.

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Book on its bed, ready to go in the bottle

At that point I had spent the better of two days on making the bottles. I was waiting for 4 bottles from Peter, one for each day I’d spend in Sheffield. So I made the last one rather quickly, I must admit, and filled it with miniature kidney bowls.

Peter’s bottles reached me just in time the afternoon before I left. Below is the array of bottles I packed, including two empty ones for bystanders to make their own. – I am always hoping someone might join me, but unfortunately this rarely happens. More about that in my next blogpost about my Sheffield dispatches!
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99 Bottles


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.

flaschenpost no 097 - making of

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.

flaschenpost no 097book

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!

flaschenpost no 98book

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.

Apples Series

new bottles

The message in a bottle bug bit me again last week when one of my bottles that I dispatched in London was found, miraculously (or not) upstream from where it was dropped. Since then I made five more bottles, which I want to show off here.

Number 88: Parcel, Book, and Apple

Message in a Bottle No. 88

Message in a Bottle No. 88, title: Parcel, Book, and Apple, by Hilke Kurzke

The design of this bottle is radically different from those before, as the scene inside is now horizontally oriented rather than with the bottle standing upright. The parcel is glued to the carpet, as well as the apple. The book is free moving (and of course not blank), which makes it hard to capture. Here is a view of it that also shows my message to the finder:

Detail of message in a bottle No. 88

Detail of Message in a Bottle No. 88, title: Parcel, Book, and Apple, by Hilke Kurzke

Number 89: Ward

Message in a Bottle No. 89

Message in a Bottle No. 89, title: Ward, by Hilke Kurzke

This bottle has – beside the message of course – a piece of linen fabric with coins stitched on. When I got intererested in embroidery two years ago (has it really been that long?!) and learned how to add little mirrors and the like, I thought it looked interesting and made this piece with rows of one and two pence pieces. I had this idea that coins were used as a ward against evil in medieval magic, but reading up on it on Wikipedia apparently it wasn’t coins in particular but any shiny objects were thought to protect from the evil eye. I though tit was an interesting thing to add to a bottle, but I am a little concerned about whether it will float. The maths say it will: I put the piece on the scales, and it was less than 100g, and although these were 90ml bottles, I believe they actually hold 100ml. So anything that weights less than 100g should make it still a floating bottle. – A test in practise will show.

Number 90: Three Letters

Message in a Bottle No. 90

Message in a Bottle No. 90, title: Three Letters, by Hilke Kurzke

Another bottle in horizontal design. This time I mounted my scene on a piece of birch veneer. The three envelopes do contain pieces of paper that can be pulled out and read. The scene also has a chocolate bar and an apple. This bottle got me started on a food theme. The letters are addressed to: Unknown fellow chocolate lover, new friend, and philosopher. And in the last latter I wrote about my thought on food as such. And it provided a theme for the contents in the next bottles as well.

Number 91

Message in a Bottle No. 91

Message in a Bottle No. 91, title: Come Eat With Me, by Hilke Kurzke

This one probably looks rather odd from this perspective. I wonder how long it will take finders to realise they are looking at the underside of a table. Normally I only show work in progress pictures once a bottle has been found, but here’s the exception of the rule. The photo below shows the table before being inserted in the bottle.
I am rather proud of the water glass, by the way. Can anyone guess what it really is? – It is a plastic bit that I had lying about which I glued onto the table.

Message in a Bottle No. 91, title: Come Eat with Me, by Hilke Kurzke

Number 92

Message in a Bottle No. 92

Message in a Bottle No. 92, title: What can I tell you?, by Hilke Kurzke

This one is rather similar to the three letters bottle. In this case, however, the letter is still outside the envelope and I added a pencil.

Some more thoughts and plans

That’s it, these were the five bottles I was going to show you. Since the dispatch into the Thames was so successful (with a rate of 1/2 found), I currently have the vague plans to go to London again in the next couple of months and have another splash there.

Bottle No. 85: Small World – Woven Chair

Message in a Bottle No. 85 Woven Chair

Message in a Bottle No. 85 Woven Chair

There is the chair again, bottled, with a book as always in this small world series. If you take a close look, you can see that there is also a miniature pencil included. And I had a new idea where to put the accompaning letter: I hollowed out a bit in the cork, and put a – miniature – scroll with the text there. Because the writing is necessarily very small on the paper, I felt a little insecure about whether it stays readable, and so decided to write the web address of this blog onto the cork. – Not so sure about the look of that. Well, I really ought to “post” those bottles to see how they will hold up to water and waves.

I am just about to book flights to Hamburg in Mai. – Maybe I’ll drop them into the river Elbe after all. Or maybe just a couple? I’ll see.

Und hier ist der Esstischstuhl noch einmal, jetzt in seiner Flasche, verkorkt und versiegelt, wie ĂĽblich in dieser Small World – Serie zusammen mit einem Minibuch. Eine neue Idee, wo ich den Beibrief unterbringen will hatte ich auch: Ich habe den Korken ein wenig ausgehöhlt und dort eine kleine Schriftrolle untergebracht. Weil die Schrift darauf notwendigerweise so klein ist, habe ich auch nochmal mit schwarzem Permanentmarker die Webadresse dieses Blogs auf den Korken geschrieben. – Da bin ich mir nicht so sicher, ob mir das gefällt. Naja, ich sollte die Flaschen wirklich auf den Weg bringen, um zu sehen, wie sie Wind, Wetter und Wellen standhalten.

Ich bin gerade dabei, einen Flug nach Hamburg zu buchen, Mitte Mai. – Vielleicht schicke ich sie auf der Elbe auf die Reise, oder zumindest einige der Flaschen.