Reimagining Dimestore Deco
In the Vintage Bar Ware collector’s book by Stephen Visakay (you can still find his time capsule of a website here), the author refers to the joyful Farber Brother’s “bubble” cocktail set as a marquis example of “dimestore deco.” “Mass produced, low-priced, stylish goods…overdone, exaggerated, and inexpensive…everyone knew exactly what it was, but after seeing all those Hollywood movies during the Depression, this was the only way to get some glamour.” Anyone who has collected many of these pieces will be delighted by the design and disappointed by the flimsy chrome-plated materials. Of course, not all designs were manufactured to poor standards and pre-prohibition sets sold for quite a bit of money in their day.
3D modeling these shakers provides a welcome break from modeling the entire Bauer ringware line. In this design study series, I’m tapping into my reference books and Internet images to uncover interesting cocktail shaker and shaker set designs. The majority of these shakers were produced between 1928 and 1940 (interestingly, Prohibition ended in 1932). Famous industrial designers like Lurelle Guild, Walter von Nessen, and Norman Bel Geddes all contributed designs to various manufacturing companies. The challenge is that every time I think I’m done with my design study, I continue to find more outstanding design examples to reproduce, which seems to be keeping me from getting back to my Bauer project at the moment.
A Few Examples
3D Design Highlights
A few major breakthroughs in getting a look-and-feel I like in Blender. As if creating 3D models wasn’t challenging enough, you have to obsess about textures, lighting, and composition. Each 3D shaker model takes around 60-90 minutes to complete. I wanted to create a simple backdrop that allowed the piece to stand out, so I experimented with various planes (walls and floors). I decided to use a box on the floor and a flat plane for the wall. Through experimentation, I discovered that moving the box away from the wall and adding a backlight created a really nice gradient.
I experimented with a lot of different light configurations. Chrome is a hard surface to light since it’s reflective. I opted for three point lights at 3 foot diameter at 15W spaced in an overlapping triangle configuration. The backlight sits just behind the object. Due to reflectivity issues, without it the shaker was blending into the color background. The backlight provided enough of a highlight around the edges. Finally, a sun lamp is used to create the offset shadow. I didn’t adjust the Surface Background lighting, instead upping the brightness post-render in Photoshop.
There are a few different ways to create a glass effect. I used the following method for the champagne glass and liquid:
- Principled BSDF shader node with Roughness 0.0 and Transmission 1.0
- Add Volume Absorption node with color profile, adjust Density, and attach to Volume in Material Output node for the liquid. Volumetrics are necessary to add color depth to the shape, otherwise the color just sits on the mesh surface. Make sure to put the “liquid” mesh just within the edge of the “glass” mesh to avoid light refraction issues.
An alternative method is to use the Glass BSDF shader.