Squirrel Bottles


Above, three kinds of squirrel bottle.

1. Above, left: An 1800s Squirrel Bottle from the Moravian potters of Old Salem, North Carolina. (another style with mold on right)

2010-01-12__11-16-05Image6 “Of all the bottles produced at Salem, the squirrel form was the most popular, resonant of the general popularity of gray squirrels and flying squirrels as pets. The squirrel bottle, based on the Eastern gray squirrel, was in production as early as 1803. An 1806 pottery inventory lists 96 squirrel bottles. Two types of squirrel-form bottles survive: one that stands erect clasping a nut in its paws, sometimes with a spout in the tail, and the other leans forward and looks upward as if startled or begging.”

Frances McQueeney-Jones Mascolo
Art In Clay: Masterworks Of North Carolina Earthenware

RockyBullwinkle 2. Above, right: a 1960s Rocky—(the flying squirrel)—Colgate Soaky Shampoo bottle—shown with partner, Bullwinkle, the moose, in photo on right. (Soaky bottle photos from: Vintage Toy & Diecast Collectibles)

In a bottle related lead-in to commercials on the Rocky & Bullwinkle cartoon show, Rocky finds a bottle washed up on the beach:

Rocky: Look, Bullwinkle, a message in a bottle.

Bullwinkle: Fan mail from some flounder?

Rocky: No, this is what I really call a message.

At the end of this conversation, Rocky holds up the message for the viewers at home to see. I couldn’t find an image of that, but what I recollect seeing there was a spiral-shaped scrawl.

3. Above, center photo: this Summer, Scottish microbrewery, Brewdog used taxidermied squirrel bottles (and other taxidermied rodents as well) for their limited edition “The End of History” beer.

(More taxidermied packaging, after the fold…)

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Fish Bottles


On left: vintage cod liver oil bottle; on right soy sauce bottle/packets from Jamesies’s Photobucket

I’m thinking of devoting this week to animal-shaped bottles. Starting with fish.

In an earlier post about animal-shaped packaging we touched upon, but did not fully explore the diverse animal kingdom of figural bottles. It seems to have been a big thing for manufacturers of liquids at the turn of the century.

The choice of animal is sometimes ingredient-related, as in the cod-liver oil bottle above and sometimes the animal serves as a sort of serving suggestion—as in the the little soy sauce bottles.

But other times it’s more homophonic, as in Dr. Fisch’s Bitters (below) which came in a fish-shaped bottle simply because the Doctor’s name sounded like “fish.”. (Similar to the fox-shaped bottle we mentioned in our post about Fox’s U-Bet Chocolate Syrup—a fox-shaped bottle as a reference to Herman Fox, the company’s founder)


The photos of vintage “Fish Bitters” above are via: AntiqueBottles.com. (Interesting how the label went on the hidden belly of the fish.) W.H. Ware’s 1866 design patent for this fish-shaped bottle is via www.bottlebooks.com

Randy Ludacer
Beach Packaging Design


Dorothy Torivio’s Avant-Garde Seed Jars


top: Black-on-white eyedazzler seed jar, c. 2000 (Photo via: Vassar.edu); lower photo from eBay

Another type of helical container: Dorothy Torivio’s “eye dazzler” seed jars.

Dorothy’s idea for this design came from a pottery shard she found on the Acoma reservation. Originally, she says, it was a series of simple squares, half white, half black, so she called this idea the “Day and Night” pattern. In this interpretation, the square has become a rectangle, actually a parallelogram, and executed in one of her famous spirals. Her trademark is executing the same number of geometric shapes, regardless of the variance in circumference.

Canyon Art

TopViewsPhoto on right via: Tribal Expressions

Although “eye dazzler” was originally used as a derogatory term by 19th Century collectors of Navajo rugs—(who preferred the earlier, subtler colors to the bright colors that later became available due to railroads)—Torivio’s work (like early “Op Art”) is mostly black and white. Dazzling in pattern, but ascetic and restrained in color. (See also: The Bridget Riley Look)

It is impossible to analyze the mathematical precision of these designs, which she works out in her mind and puts directly on the pot. She looks at a pot, visually divides it in half, then in quarters, then eighths, sixteenths, and more, and keeps dividing until there is no room on the surface. After the mental gymnastics, she begins to paint the pot…

…One day Dorothy was having an exhibition of her pottery in his gallery, at which she was being honored. A man approached her saying that he was a mathematics professor, and he had been trying for a long time to figure out on his computer how she did the designs until he finally arrived at the solution. Whereupon Dorothy laughed, pointed her finger to her brow, and said, “My brain is my computer.”

–Susan Peterson, Women Artists of the American West

(More Torivio seed jars, after the fold…)

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Helix Redux

Left: a decorative bottle from Eastern Corner; center: a Pepsi “swirl” bottle; on right: a coiled snake bottle (photo from: Rust-Tex)

Some afterthoughts on yesterday’s helical labels post. I keep thinking of additional helix-shaped associations… distillers coils, caduceus, coil pots, candy canes, etc. (The Pepsi “swirl” bottle, that we touched on briefly in May, is another helical example.)

Coilwithhands The coil pots are interesting and—when the pot is made from one continuous coil of clay—helical. Traditionally the clay is scraped and smoothed out so the underlying helical structure is invisible. (inset photo with hands from Laguna Clay)

And while a helical structure may serve as a guide for building a container, it can also serve as the underlying structure for destroying a container, as in Jiwoon Park and Kwenyoung Choi’s twistable “Nnew Can” concept giving aluminum cans a sort of latent predisposition to be crushed by twisting. (Something that some consumers already do.)

Coil pot picture via: Berroco; Jiwoon Park and Kwenyoung Choi’s twistable “Nnew Can” concept via PopSop

(Some Solomonic-column sports-bottles, after the fold…)

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Helical Labels


Top: “Triumph Brewery” labels by Abby Brewster (via: The Dieline); on right: 12 inches labeling by War Design (via: The Dieline); lower photo: Directors Cut Wine—concept by Marc Schwarzberg, graphics by Sfaustina (via: The Dieline)

Wrapping a label around a cylindrical object (bottle—jar—can) there are pretty much two ways you can go. You can either go straight around the middle like a belt… or you can wind it around at an angle, forming a helix.

Labels often come printed on a roll to begin with, so one au courant concept is to wind a few inches of labeling around, letting the redundant graphics provide the same information from any vantage point.


Barabasol photo from Roadside Picture’s Flickr Photostream; Adnams Beer (via: Lovely Package)

Barbasol’s stripes are clearly a reference the classic barber’s pole, but there are plenty of other packages with helical motifs that are simply abstract graphics, although usually with a jaunty, uplifting angle. Note how, in all but two of today’s examples, the direction is upwards, from left to right—(as if it would be a downer for it to go the other way.)

The Adnams Beer label, while “uplifting” is actually not a helix at all, as it reverses course and loops back down in the back. The front view strongly suggests a helix—but it is actually worn more like a beauty contestant’s sash.


On left: Mack Cider by Tank (via: The Dieline); on right: Found Juice

Even in labels that do not actually extend all the way around, the helix is still implied. The label on the two cider bottles (above left) surely end abruptly in the back, but their upper labels at the neck pretend to be continuation of the same winding strip.

The found labels, on the the other hand, really do continue on all sides. (According Found Organic’s co-founder, Mark de Luca: “Found has nothing to hide, there is no ‘back or front’ so from any angle the logo and all info can be seen.”)

(The helical story continues unwinding, after the fold…)

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Droste Effect Kids’ Food Packaging


In 2008, when I was first attempting to catalog examples of “Droste effect” packages—(packages that featured pictures of themselves)—I could only find 3 in my grocery store: Land O’Lakes Butter, Morton Salt and Cracker Jacks. Since then, I’ve occasionally found other examples which I’ve posted here. Sometimes they’ve been there all along and I just never noticed the pack within a pack.

All three of the examples I’m showing today are in Steve Roden and Dan Goodsell’s book, Krazy Kids’ Food! and it was only while looking through it for the fifth time that the scales fell off my eyes and I thought, “that banana on the box is pouring cereal from a box—also with a banana on it who is also pouring cereal from the same kind of box!” 


Photo on left: from Gregg Koenig's Flickr Photostream; photo on right: a detail from Krazy Kids’ Food!

Likewise, the family scene on the “Blue Bell Bar-B-Q Potato Chips” bag includes an easy detail to miss: the little girl is holding a bag of “Blue Bell Bar-B-Q Potato Chips.”

(The third example, after the fold…)

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Liquid Smoke Label with Droste Effect


One of the liquid smoke companies whose bottles we featured in the previous post was Figaro out of Mesquite, Texas. (Now owned by Baumer Foods). Another early Fagaro label (above) features some before-&-after “old way—new way” illustrations that seem very similar to illustrations used by Kauser & Brother.

But the special feature of this label is the inclusion of a Droste effect bottle. (See: Droste Effect Packaging) I don’t have any closer view of this label, but it clearly duplicates the same bottle with the same before-&-after illustration, on a smaller scale. (And, presumably, on and on into infinity.)

On Monday, we’ll be featuring a few more Droste effect packs that have eluded me up until recently.

(Another photo with vintage Figaro jugs, after the fold…)

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Liquid Smoking — Liquid Smoke

Smoking-Smoke Thinking about the apparently propensity (of certain inventors) for combining smoking and drinking, I wondered, “How far has this trend gone without my having even noticed?” (As it happens: things have gotten pretty far out…)

Unbeknownst to me—(a non-smoker and dilettante drinker)—it is now possible to reverse the usual way of doing things. Thanks to a number of recent technological breakthroughs, today’s modern consumer now drinks cigarettes and inhales alcoholic beverages.

LS-redesign The “Liquid Smoking” brand, above, is actually something of a misnomer. More like an energy drink with borrowed tobacco glamor, it originally came in a can designed to resemble a Marlboro cigarette pack, but contains no tobacco or nicotine. Recently the product appears to have undergone a brand makeover. (inset photo on right) Electronic cigarettes come closer to using a sort of liquid tobacco, but while futuristic and high-tech, they are still inhaled like old-fashioned cigarettes and do not constitute a breakthrough tobacco beverage.

The name “Liquid Smoking” derives from the barbeque favor additive known as “Liquid Smoke.” (Photo of hand holding Colgin Liquid Smoke, above: from Meghan Deutscher’s Flickr Photostream)



Photo, above, from: Andrew Filer’s Flickr Photostream

“Liquid smoke”—while having nothing to do with tobacco, really is a liquid made from smoke. 

“Liquid smoke consists of smoke produced through the controlled burning of wood chips or sawdust, condensed and then passed through water, which captures and dissolves the smoke-flavored components in solution.”

Wikipedia entry on “Liquid Smoke”

“A Ham is a Queer Thing for a Druggist to Sell…

LiquidExtractofSmoke…It is, but Krausers’ Liquid Extract of Smoke to smoke it, is not.”

Originally developed as a meat preservative—and promoted as an easier alternative to using a “smoke house”—liquid smoke is another of those products that date back to the era of patent medicines.

Krauser’s “Liquid Extract of Smoke” was actually manufactured and sold by a pharmacy based in Milton, PA.

The advertisement on right was published in 1899, in the Meyer Brothers Druggist, Volume 20.

(More liquids & smoke, after the fold…)

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Ashtray Bottles

Jim Dingilian’s smoke-illustrated bottles from yesterday started us out on this week’s “smoking & drinking” thread. Ever notice how these two activities often seem go together? (See also: de Kooning’s smoking preferences and drinking preferences)

The drawing above from Catherine Miller’s 1955 patent application brings both vices together in one container. Ostensibly a “multi-purpose container“— although it really seems intended to serve just two primary purposes: smoking & drinking.


(Some other variations on the theme, after the fold…)

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Cereal Box Barn


Another variation on the theme of house-shaped kid packs: Felix Palm’s 1962 patent for a “Toy Object.” Starting out as a rectangular cereal box, which the post-consumer is instructed to divide into two trapezoidal sections, the package is then reconfigured into a house shape.

“It will be appreciated, of course, that my invention may be applied to any rectangular cardboard box or container, but a cereal box is a package to which my invention is particularly likely to be applied.”

Felix Palm

See also: Trapezoidal Boxes and packaging as toys

(Some of the patent text, after the fold…)

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