QwkDog 3D Bauer Pottery Teapot

And Back to Bauer

Finally took a break from the distraction of making chrome barware to soldier on through some of the Bauer models. I was dreading making the teapots (the spouts, actually), but it seems that lots of practice has improved my modeling skills.

QwkDog 3D Art Deco Shaker Bel Geddes Manhattan

Bel Geddes Manhattan

Looking for opportunities to increase revenue during the Depression, the Revere Copper & Brass Company started producing giftware items in the early 1930s. They partnered with the industrial designer Norman Bel Geddes, who designed a number of chrome-plated items in a fully modern style for the company, including what became the iconic “Manhattan” cocktail set. Revere released the tray in 1935 and buddied it up with the shaker and cups in 1936, selling it as the “Revere Cocktail Ensemble.” Revere renamed the set as “Manhattan” in 1938. The Manhattan cocktail set is featured in several museum collections as an outstanding example of modern design, including the Brooklyn Museum.

On Design

Sometimes the simplest designs can be the most challenging to reproduce. In this case, the lack of any decorative elements on the shaker made the chrome shader I’d been using too reflective. I found another node setup with a gradient that fixed some of the issue.

Layer Weight Blend 0.8 > ColorRamp Dark Grey to White > Glossy BSDF Roughness 0.08 > Material Output

A more time consuming alternative to try later is a Chrome PBR with a Specular workflow.

Orange background: #C95718

Improvement Areas

The lighting needs improvement, but didn’t want to mess with the setup that was working for the other shakers. Edges on tray could be slightly beveled.

QwkDog 3D Art Deco Glass

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

QwkDog 3D Art Deco Shaker - Farber Bros
QwkDog 3D Art Deco Shaker - Zeppelin
QwkDog 3D Art Deco Shaker - Blue Glass

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.

Blender Screenshot

Lighting Setup

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.

Glass Shader

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.

 

QwkDog Art Deco 3D Manning-Bowman Shaker

Making Art Deco Barware Parts

QwkDog Art Deco 3D Manning-Bowman Shaker
QwkDog Art Deco 3D Drink Caddy
QwkDog Art Deco 3D Bar Cart

I took a break from pottery modeling to create some new shapes. On the path to architectural visualization, I built out a series of art deco barware pieces from found images. The original cart design is 18″ wide by 28; the elegant shaker is the Empire design from Revere Ware; and the drink set is one that shows up fairly frequently (maker unknown) with different color bands around the glasses. Eventually, I’ll build up enough pieces to create better composite scenes.

QwkDog Art Deco Bar Cart Scene
QwkDog Bauer Pottery Plainware Cup & Saucer

Starting the 3D Project

Early in 2020, I created a set of new fabric designs for printing at Spoonflower. Once you upload your design, Spoonflower automatically generates a set of pre-staged images that show how your design will look on a tablecloth, pillow, etc. Since I won’t have every design I create actually produced, it’s a really cool way to virtually see some of the designs. I love to have control over the creative process and I knew I could probably do better.

Over the past couple of years, I’ve played with Adobe Dimension, Adobe’s 2D & 3D compositing application. Most simply, Dimension lets you stage a 3D scene using prebuilt 3D product models either available free through Dimension or by purchase in Adobe Stock (or other sites, like CG Trader). I could download a 3D table and tablecloth object (for example), and apply my fabric design to the tablecloth. Just looking at a table is boring and I wanted to add additional elements (like pottery!) to my scenes. I found a few 3D vase forms, but I really wanted to incorporate real California pottery examples.

I remembered that Photoshop had some basic 3D modeling capabilities, so I started there. I was able to create a couple of really simple vase forms to use in Dimension, but there were so many limitations! While perusing YouTube tutorials for Photoshop 3D to find out why something wasn’t working, someone wrote in the comments of one video: “Why don’t you just use Blender?”

Blender? I checked it out.

Blender is a complete open-source 3D creation suite that supports all aspects of the 3D workflow process, including modeling, animation, simulation, compositing, etc. The best part is it’s FREE. Commercial competitors can cost thousands of dollars a year for a single user license.

Blender’s learning curve is steep. I spent the first six weeks going through a series of excellent Blender Guru tutorials before I started creating my own models. As you get into it, you’ll discover that model development is only one small piece of the puzzle. You’ll need to learn about texturing, lighting, scene setting, and camera techniques. Each day I try something new – a new object, a new technique – that I can practice with.

My first project is to recreate the Bauer Pottery “California Colored Pottery” dinnerware line, both ring- and plainware pieces. I’ve completed the first draft of the plainware line.

QwkDog Catalina Pottery 3D

My very first simple 3D models using Adobe Photoshop & Dimension. Dimension doesn’t let you build your own object materials on the fly, so you’re limited to prebuilt materials or simple color changes.

QwkDog Merida Flower Pattern 3D Example

Here’s an on-the-fly example from Spoonflower with one of my fabric designs. I know I can do better!

Bauer Pottery Hands on Hips Vases

One of my first Blender 3D models of Bauer Pottery “hands on hips” vases. Need to work on lighting.

QwkDog Blender Donut

And the final results from the Blender Guru donut tutorial series.

1935 San Diego Expo Pacific Pottery Brochure

1935-36 San Diego International Expo

Between 1935-36, San Diego held another exposition at the site of the original 1915 Panama-California Exposition in Balboa Park. The purpose of the expo was to stimulate the local economy as well as promote the area as a destination location. The expo ran from 1935 to 1936.

Building 42 (no longer standing) housed the Hollywood Potteries exhibit, featuring wares from Pacific, Metlox, Catalina Island, Bauer and Gladding-McBean potteries. The postcard below showcases a spectacular display of gardenware. If you look closely, there is a table in the middle featuring decorated Pacific chargers.

1935 San Diego Expo Hollywood Potteries

Pacific Pottery also produced a brochure with their wares. In addition to their display, they sold novelty items, including a cowboy hat glazed in Hostessware colors, and their stoneware honey orange, also in Hostessware colors. The hat shows up from time to time in red and sand glazes, and is very rare in other colors. The oranges are also extremely hard to find.

For fun, I reproduced the brochure using my own collection.

1935 San Diego Expo Pacific Pottery Brochure QwkDog

 

 

Better Homes May 1938 Cover

Spring Vegetable Varieties

Better Homes & Gardens, May 1938

“May’s the month for it – for a crisp green landslide of fresh vegetables offered in a score of teasing new ways. Not the first time, perhaps for there’s just nothing that can tie the tang of baby beets, youthful cabbage, or the first fat garden peas served up in their own birthday flavors, cooked just until tender. But it’s on return calls that we year for variety – new seasonings, different sauces, and little tricks of dressing up the young things for meals in the spring.”

In this feature on spring vegetables, we have the Pacific #617 and #659 platters in Delphinium Blue. The main dish is rice pressed into a loaf pan rice mold, filled with peas and surrounded by “well-seasoned” cabbage wedges and spring beets cooked with tops on.

Better Homes May 1938 Cover Pacific Pottery

Also on the back cover of the magazine, an advertisement for Pillsbury Flour features the Pacific Pottery #617 platter again along with a #619 cake plate in yellow. The display includes Fiesta plates and salt & pepper shakers. While the cocoa scones sound like a nice idea, the “corn and salmon loaf” probably leave something to be desired.

Better Homes May 1938 Pillsbury Pacific Fiesta

Better Homes Jan 1938 Cover

Shelves, Those Smart Space-Savers

The January 1938 edition of Better Homes & Gardens features an article on “Shelves, Those Smart Space-Savers.” It’s a little hard to see from the image, but there are many pieces of Pacific Pottery Hostessware displayed in the Welsh cupboard. On the bottom shelf, you can see the #430 ring pitcher with #431 barrel tumblers, the #314 footed salad bowl, and directly above it, the #302 beater pitcher. A dominant decorating style in the 1930s was Colonial Revival, and it’s always interesting to see the juxtaposition of modern dinnerware design set back into period furniture.

Better Homes Jan 1938 Pacific Pottery Display

However, Pacific isn’t the star of this particular edition. Pages 40-41 provide guidance for throwing your own Mexican Fiesta party, and the dinnerware in the display is Gale Turnbull’s “Going to Town” pattern by Vernon Kilns. The dinnerware isn’t mentioned by name, merely “As for dishes, Mexican ware of colored pottery is ideal to carry out the idea. But china will blend surprisingly well with a few authentic Mexican pieces to give the table a party atmosphere.”

The menu for our Fiesta includes Chile Con Carne, Avocado Salad, Tortillas, Fresh Figs or Dates, and Chocolate whipped to a froth in the Mexican manner. A Mexican party may need never be monotonous!

Better Homes Jan 1938 Vernon Kilns Fiesta

Better Homes April 1937 Cover

Adventures in Table Settings

Better Homes & Gardens, April 1937 | Adventures in Table Settings

Between 1936 and 1937 Pacific Pottery launched a nationwide advertising campaign featuring Hostessware in marquis women’s magazines like Better Homes & Gardens. As an advertiser, Pacific enjoyed the benefit of having their wares featured prominently in articles and editorials. In this two-page spread (pages 38-39), table settings incorporating Pacific Hostessware (plain and decorated) are illustrated for the “Spring Breakfast” and “Spring Luncheon” displays.

Better Homes & Gardens April 1937 Adventures in Tablesetting

For a Spring Breakfast

“The cloth with its tulip design appropriately sets the theme for this table setting. On it we’ve used blue and white plaid plates with the rest of the pottery in plain blue and white. Yellow-center tulips with their green leaves are gracefully arranged in a low blue bowl.”

For a Spring Luncheon

“Spring flowers inspired the selection of yellow-linen doilies for this setting on a maple table. The pottery is green and yellow, and the glassware, clear crystal. Note the charming use of four containers for the flowers instead of one.”

Pacific Pottery Decorated Hostessware Advertising - Better Homes April 1937

The display items are only mentioned by brand in a footnote at the bottom of the page.  Pacific advertises their Decorated ware on page 118 (shown below). The breakfast table image is featured again in an advertisement for Tablecraft Cloths and Napkins by Rosemary on page 152.

Sunset Magazine July 1936 Pacific Pottery

The Modern Garden Table

Sunset Magazine, July 1936 | The Modern Garden Table

The star of this July 1936 cover of Sunset magazine is the outdoor table setting designed by two San Francisco area decorators. “The story of this cover centers around the garden table, and the table centers around Ernest Amberg and Hugo Hirth, two young artists who are doing more than their part to promote modern decorative art on the Pacific Coast. In their shop at 165 Post Street. in San Francisco, they sell…only the finest handicraft of western artists – wood carving, metal work, weaving, and pottery.” Their firm, Amberg-Hirth, was well known for promoting area craftspeople and designers.

In the inset for the cover, Pacific Pottery is not mentioned by name, but you can clearly see the stack of BG plaid 613 dinner plates and the 449 and 450 demitasse creamer and sugar. A Bauer Pottery casserole is featured in the display at left.