Steampunk Brewing Sculpture

FinishedBrewSculpt Photo by Mike Shane for the Staten Island Advance

Scott Van Campen & Mark Zappasodi’s COAHSI-supported “Brewing as Art” project: a portable, steampunk-style brewery.

If you are in the NYC area tomorrow you would be well advised to attend their opening —(at The Nobel Maritime Museum at Snug Harbor, Staten Island: Tomorrow, Saturday October 30th at 7 pm… directions)— where this beer-making sculpture will be put through its paces:

20 Gallons of FREE CRAFT BEER provided by New Brighton Brewing: “Maritime Ale”, “Dusseldorf Old Ale”, and Staten Island Brewfest Bronze Metal Winner “Ginger Foot Saison” will be served until the kegs are tapped!

Brewing as Art blog

I first heard of this project last year when I met Mark Zappasodi and happily consumed some of his home-brewed beer. It sounded to me like a radical gallery project along the lines of Helmut Smit’s “The Real Thing” installation (a machine that converts Coca-Cola into clean drinking water) or Wim Delvoye’s “Cloaca” (a digestion/defecation machine).

What I hadn’t realized at the time was that “brewing sculptures” were an established practice in home brewing circles:

A brew sculpture is a structure that holds the various vessels… used in all grain brewing. One of the major advantages to using a sculpture is that it normalizes the brewing process allowing for a smoother brew day and reducing setup and tear down time. Vessel to vessel connections can be made somewhat permanently and optional devices like pumps and chillers can be mounted as well. Most sculptures are made as compact as possible and feature castors/wheels to tuck it out of the way between brew sessions. The variance of design is limited only by the brewer's imagination, budget, and fabrication skills.

Most “brewing sculptures,” however, are highly practical affairs—DIY engineering projects for making beer, never intended for exhibition—and certainly not funded by any public arts organizations!

For their brewing sculpture, Campen & Zappasodi clearly paid unusual attention to certain aesthetic details…


Regarding its steampunk vibe, Campen says, “I think the overall aesthetic of using that sort of Victorian style, it sort of evolved from the original discussion we had about how to tie in the history of brewing of Staten Island 150 years ago”

(Another photo, after the fold…)

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Mr. Bubble | A Short History of Seduction

MrBubbleEmbossed Mr. Bubble Bank with embossed information & hangtag (photos from Roadsidepictures’ Flickr Photostream)

MrBubblePrinted Mr. Bubble Bank with printed information (photos from Collectors Online Mall)

I’ve been given permission to occasionally publish some posts from Packaging | UQAM—the excellent bilingual packaging blog by Sylvain Allard, director of the Graphic Design Program at L’Université du Québec à Montréal. 

The words and reminiscences below are not mine, but his:

It was the late 60s. I was sitting, legs dangling on the shelf of a metallic cart, pushed almost aggressively by my busy mother. We strolled along the aisles zigzagging and following the same weekly routine in this “new type” of grocery called the Supermarket.

We were at that time still lulled into the illusion of postwar that thinking everything was still possible and especially convinced of the infinite resources the planet had. The extraordinary production effort that had nourished World War II had quickly been replaced by a new concept called consumption.

This place had something magical and reassuring as it gathered in one place all the goods now essential to modern life. Each package there was all more useful and functional than the last. It was a new era opened to infinite idealism opportunities.

It is among all these wonders that I saw it for the first time in the distance. It was there: a tiny pink spot in a pile of mundane forms. Despite the distance, I could recognize the shape of its head and the smoothness of its pink body. I pointed it out to my accelerating mom, but she seemed insensitive to the charm of such splendor. Incidentally I seized it on the go with such conviction, that my mother couldn’t refuse it to me and bought it.

I was my first purchase and therefore, this Mr. Bubble bottle became an icon of my childhood. I do not remember what sensation or odor this bubble soap had, but the bottle accompanied my baths for years.

I found out later that my mother was in fact refilling the same bottle with another brand of soap, probably cheaper elsewhere. It didn’t matter much to me. It was the packaging that attracted me first anyway and I was thrilled to find it has a second life as a piggy bank.

The packaging was the product.

–Sylvain Allard, Packaging | UQAM

(Another vintage Mr. Bubbles commercial and Mr. Bubbles boxes follow, after the fold…)

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Bouzouki-bots & Ionic Ouzo Bottle Caps


After yesterday’s post about Annabouboula’s ouzo-style CD package, it might have been nice to do a whole “Greek Week,” but I only have enough material for a Greek couple of days… Think of it as a mid-week “Greek Weekend.” I try not to blog on the actual weekend. (Seldom on Saturday. Never on Sunday.)

The bouzouki-shaped ouzo bottle (shown above, left and center) is part of the same figural bottle tradition that brought us other stinged-instrument bottles: viobots and banjobots. Are bouzouki-shaped bottles called “bouzoukibots?” I don’t know, but I’m guessing they are highly collectible.

The column-shaped Ouzo bottle on the right features a large Ionic capital as a bottle cap and is obviously a prized collectible object.

Randy Ludacer
Beach Packaging Design

Immortal Water


Finally got a chance to design some more music packaging—a cross-referential CD package with an Ouzo-style bottle label for Annabouboula’s long awaited 3rd album, Immortal Water.

The Greek expression “annabouboula” means a confusing noise that aouses passion. We present to you a collection of Greek songs, some old and some new, that convey our confusion and our passion. Our confusion is an ingredient of our identities: Greeks of the Diaspora dreaming of the Greece of a recent past that no longer exists (if indeed it ever existed), as we confront the Greece of the present. Our passion is the main ingredient of Immortal Water, a life-giving potion that flows from the soul and is a distillation of all the varied music we love. We all imagine ourselves, and this is the modern Greek music of our imaginations.

Annabouboula, the band, is the preeminent Greek-American trio consisting of producer/anthropologist Chris Lawrence, guitarist George Barba Yiorgi1, and singer, Anna Paidoussi.

The title track of the new album is based on Marika Papagika’s 1928 recording of a traditional karsilamas 9/8 folk tune of Greek Asia Minor…

“From your sweet eyes, aman aman, immortal water does run; And I asked you for a little bit, aman aman, and to drink you gave me none”

Aidhinikos Horos (The Magic Fountain of Your Eyes)


Tears, fountains, Ouzo, shipwrecks, mermaids… clearly, there are deeper meanings for “Immortal Water” than are dreamt of in my philosophy, but from my limited, mono-cultural perspective, I just really like the idea of “bottled tears” as Annabouboula’s new consumer product.

What they did was take a traditional belly dance and rembetiko music (smokey Greek blues) and electrify them, adding a funky rhythm and a wild psychedelic undertow to these dark and moody songs of passion and heartbreak.

Wikipedia entry on Annabouboula

And the music? The swooping keyboard riff—(a descending glissando, I think it’s called)—in the very first song (Hello Sailor) worked on me like a (psychedelic) undertow and carried me happily out to sea for the duration. (Hear for yourself!)

(Footnoted Digressions, after the fold…)

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Toxic Trail Mix

A follow-up on Debby Davis’s Toxic Trail Map project:

Hikers following her map of the toxic trail, might need a quick boost of “energy” —(petrochemical, methane gas, atomic, whatever…)—hence, Toxic Trail Mix.

Based on a tongue-in-cheek suggestion from her brother-in-law [Hal Ludacer], Debby has envisioned what form such a product might take and she’s come up with three varieties: Brookfield Crunch, ADM Salty Snack, and Fresh Kills Clusters.

Her Toxic Trail Mix packaging features a die cut window shaped like oil spill and a sensibility reminiscent of Wacky Packs.

(Larger images follow after the fold…)

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Catastrophe as Category Disruption


In our previous post we touched on Coca Cola’s reluctant product placement in The Road—a movie portraying life after an unnamed cataclysm, where there is no longer any sort of plant life and the only food left for survivors are dwindling supplies of packaged foods—(or other survivors, if you swing that way). No manufacturing has survived in the world Cormac McCarthy has envisioned for The Road, although here and there some labeled canned goods are hoarded and stolen like some new type of currency.

Question: If “family brand” soda companies were hesitant to be “associated with cannibalism” are other end-of-the-world scenarios any less damning?

One brand that seems to think so, is Diesel. In 2007 the jeans company named after petroleum fuel oil, gleefully embraced global cataclysm as their new brand promise with their “Global Warming Ready” campaign.

(Note: Although the subject is “global warming” the narrator of this video sounds a lot more like BP CEO, Tony Hayward than Al Gore…)

Accepted by many as a satirical reaction to sanctimonious and self-serving “cause marketing,” but looked at from another angle, Diesel’s campaign is a lot like those movies and TV shows from the 1950s and 60s (mentioned in Tuesday’s fallout shelter post) that tended to “promise a post-conflagration scene that was clean and pretty, though much less crowded than what went before.” 

Granted, the fantasy of living in a watery, less crowded NYC does have a certain appeal—(like an early J.G. Ballard novel)—but isn’t that appeal fundamentally anti-social? When most all the competition has been conveniently eliminated, don’t we each imagine that, as a potential Adam or Eve, we might look a bit better to the opposite sex?

Do manufacturers entertain similar fantasies? In Diesel’s post-cataclysmic world, cool companies (like Diesel) have somehow survived to party on. One imagines they must have fewer customers in this less-populated, beach-party world, but doubtless they have fewer surviving competitors as well. (The ulimate “category disruption”)

Diesel, the fashion brand, now offers a fresh take on the specter of a globally warmed planet:

More beaches!

In print ads promoting its spring/summer collection, the Italian-based clothing company depicts landscapes that have been transformed by environmental disaster. The proud buildings of Manhattan and the presidential faces of Mount Rushmore are half-submerged in water from melted glaciers. Paris is a steamy jungle. Life looks pretty awesome, though. Diesel's models are dressed fashionably if barely (to accommodate the weather) and they lounge amid this hip dystopia in glamorous unconcern, fanning themselves or applying suntan lotion to one another's tawny backs.

High-Water Marketing: Climate-Change Clothes, a Little Smug on the Hip
Libby Copeland, Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, February 18, 2007

(More photos, video and article, after the fold…)

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The Road

Three end-of-the-world packaging scenes from The Road:

1. The underground bunker scene

The point I want to make about this scene—(aside from namechecking of packaged food brands)—is this business about “the people.“

In Tuesday’s post about fallout shelters, I included a quote from Thomas Hine about how the supermarket “replaces people with packages.”

The implications are similar here. For the man and the boy in the hidden bunker, an adequate supply of packaged food appears to be a pretty good trade-off: a huge stockpile of bottled beverages, canned foods and bags of Cheetos, replacing the presumably deceased people who had originally put it all there. In the book, the thanking of the people is little different:

Do you think we should thank the people?

The people?

The people who gave us all this.

Well. Yes, I guess we could do that.

Will you do it?

Why dont you?

I dont know how.

Yes you do. You know how to say thank you.

The boy sat staring at his plate. He seemed lost. The man was about to speak when he said: Dear people, thank you for all this food and stuff. We know that you saved it for yourself and if you were here we wouldnt eat it no matter how hungry we were and we’re sorry that you didnt get to eat it and we hope that you’re safe in heaven with God.

–Cormac McCarthy, The Road

(Two more package-related scenes from The Road, after the fold…)

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Shelf Reliance


Following up on yesterday’s train of thought about 1960s fallout shelters and their stockpiles of canned goods(it’s “end-of-the-world week”, here on boxvox)—we find that President Kennedy’s impulse to privatize civil defense has apparently evolved over the years into what we now call the “survivalist” (or “preparedness”) movement. There are a number of businesses catering to this constituency. Shelf Reliance is one of them:

SHELF RELIANCE is a company that specializes in food storage, storage rotation, and emergency preparedness products. Our goal is to help families prepare for whatever tomorrow may bring, allowing them to feel confident if disaster strikes.

(from the About Us section of their web site)

Where some survivalist food packaging emulates a generic, civil defense look, Shelf Reliance’s “Thrive” brand is light and airy and uses a pastel color-code to differentiate between food groups. Their products are even carried by Costco.

Food rotation, the concept introduced by Better Homes & Garden in the late 1950s, seems to now be an established practice for many Americans. (I hadn‘t realized that.) What is it that Shelf Reliance’s customers should be preparing for? According to their web site:

• Natural Disaster
• Terrorism
• Labor Strike
• Economic Depression
• Drought
• Crop Failure
• Personal Tragedy
• Civil Unrest
• Unemployment

One big change from the 1960s—nuclear fallout is not mentioned.


(Some food rotation products and survivalist videos, after the fold

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Fallout Shelter Packaging


Today we look at packaged food in family fallout shelters.

In the 1960s, rather than promising “a chicken in every pot” president Kennedy called for “A fallout shelter for everybody, as rapidly as possible.”

In his book, Populuxe(in the chapter entitled “Just Push The Button”)—Thomas Hine makes an interesting point about Kennedy’s proposal for building home fallout shelters: that it would privatize civil defense.

Kennedy’s program… would have transformed civil defense from a community-based responsibility to one that was carried out by individual suburban families. Air-raid shelters were hardly a new thing, but previously they had been group facilities which mobilized the solidarity people feel when faced by common adversity. Kennedy’s program, which was welcomed by the building materials and construction industries, foresaw the fallout shelter as yet another feature of the suburban home… And the family, not the community, became the key unit of survival. This was so clear a reflection of the way in which American society perceived itself at the time that the novelty of the approach was scarcely noticed.

But the part of the fallout shelter that I wish to focus on here, is the well-stocked 1960s pantry. (Click on the photo above for post-apocalyptical product placement of a number of surviving brandname foods: Campbell’s, Lipton, Del Monte, Coca Cola, Spam, etc.)

Better Homes and Gardens… identified a new problem in those trying times. Canned goods left in a fallout shelter for more than a year tend to develop a metallic taste, the magazine said, and there was really nothing that could be done about that. The magazine suggested a system of rotation in which newly bought food would be put in the shelter to replace earlier purchases, which would in turn be rotated up to the kitchen for immediate consumption. Tinny-tasting tomato soup seems among the lesser risks of the nuclear age, but the magazine’s concern with the topic indicates the limited extent to which it thought women would be interested in a public issue and the widespread desire to assume that the world would not be greatly  changed by atomic warfare. Movies and television programs which dealt with the aftermath of nuclear war tended to promise a post-conflagration scene that was clean and pretty, though much less crowded than what went before.

Thomas Hine, Populuxe

The idea that, with sufficient quantities of packaged foods, we might survive in a less populated world reminded me of something that I had read in another of Hine’s books:

…in a modern retail setting nearly all the selling is done without people. … The supermarket purges sociability, which slows down sales. It allows manufacturers to control the way they present their products to the world. It replaces people with packages.

Thomas Hine, The Total Package

(One more well-stocked fallout shelter, after the fold…)

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Storck Beer


STORCKB1 The Storck Beer strork: Another homophonic animal mascot, chosen for no other reason than sounding like the founder’s name. (See also: Dr. Fisch’s Bitters and Fox’s U-Bet Chocolate Syrup)

Storck Brewery, of Slinger, Wisconsin, produced a beer throughout the 1950s bearing the label “Storck Club”. This was highly controversial, and although it was not spelled the same as the famous Stork Club of New York City, the Club eventually brought a lawsuit forcing the brewery to stop production. The labels are highly sought after by collectors today, since they were produced in very limited quantities.

from Wikipedia’s entry on The Stork Club

Storck also put out a plain “Storck Beer” without the word, “club” but still including an illustration of a stork. (Inset photo on right of descendant, Gary Storck’s breweriana collection.)

Randy Ludacer
Beach Packaging Design

Don Draper’s Daughter on Droste Effect Packaging


An unexpected frisson of identification for me on Mad Men last week, when Don Draper’s daughter, Sally said:

“When I think about forever I get upset. Like the Land of Lakes butter has that Indian girl, sitting holding a box, and it has a picture of her on it, holding a box, with a picture of her on it, holding a box. Have you ever noticed that?”

Indeed, we have noticed that Land O’Lakes box and a growing collection of otherDroste Effect” packages, as well. (See: our entire Droste Effect category)

Nice to think that the idea of packaging-infinity has now been forever embedded into mainstream culture, but I get upset when I cannot find an embed-able video clip of the scene to include here. Happily, you can watch it on

Randy Ludacer
Beach Packaging Design

David Enblom’s Aesthetics Incorporated


Above: some package-related artworks from “Aesthetics Incorporated,” the faux corporation of Minnesota-based artist, David Enblom.

Aethetics Incorporated seems similar, in some ways, to Iain and Ingrid Baxter’s corporate/conceptual art entity: The N.E. Thing Company. (One odd parallel: both Enblom and Iain Baxter& have made artworks using mass quantities of stuffed animals, although Enblom’s 1997 Still Life appears to have preceded Baxter&’s Animal Preserves by a couple of years.)

About the artworks above:

1. Squirt Stack, 1994

Every day after my day job, I went to my studio, made a vodka and Squirt and worked on designing my ‘dream house’. Saved the cans and made this triangular pyramid. Sort of based on Buckminster Fuller’s ‘close packing of spheres’.

My brother took a 4X5 transparency of it, I had someone else scan the photo, and made a 36" X 72" print of it at Kinko’s, which somebody bought at an art crawl.

After the photo, the cans went back into garbage bags which my brother later brought to the recycling center and got cash.

Shows how things can be connected through various transformations and uses on many levels and different systems of life and art.

–David Enblom

(See also: Pruitt/Early’s “Sculpture for Teenage Boys: Miller Pyramid” from 1990)

2. Manhattan Air, bottled on April 30, 1999 at 251 E. 20th St., New York City, NY

I was in New York (Chelsea) going to galleries, when I ran across this beer store selling every kind of beer imaginable from all over the world.

Ended up getting a bottle of Ommegang Hennepin Belgian-Style Ale, read on the label that Father Hennepin, who was the first European to see St. Anthony Falls, had also done the same for Niagaga Falls!

I took it back to the youth hostel and drank it (highly recommended) at a picnic table in the courtyard while reading the Village Voice and planning my evening at the openings. Then, no doubt inspired by Duchamp’s piece “Paris Air”, I washed out the bottle and replaced the cork, capturing 750ml. of Manhattan air. When I got home I designed, printed, and affixed a label, photographed it, and the rest is Art History.

–David Enblom

3. Preserved Pencils (pencils, jar, oil)

(More of Enblom’s Aesthetics Incorporated work, after the fold…)

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