Vessel in a Vase

Any idea how we get it out of there?

The practice of putting ships in bottles dates back to at least the eighteenth century, meaning that for 300 years, people have been fascinated by the idea that something as big as a ship could fit through the narrow neck of a bottle. The truth is that these ships are often put together inside the bottle with a long pair of tweezers and a lot of patience.

Builder Jason Yu didn’t use tweezers to create his Minecraft ship-in-a-bottle (or even a bottle – technically it’s a vase). “When I first started creating the vase, I had no idea what I was going to create,” he says.

The vase was a test at first – Jason was messing around with the “deform” command, which rotates objects to put them at an angle. “To test the command, I first created a completely upright vase,” he says, which he then rotated to put it at the angle seen in the final images.

“At this point, I thought to myself that it would be really cool if I could add some roses falling out of the vase,” Jason says. He started constructing the water that the roses would have been sitting in, which spilled out of the vase as it tipped over. It was as he was building the water out of white and light blue stained glass that he realised that a ship would be way cooler than flowers (no offence to our millions of florist readers).

“I have little experience building ships,” he admits, “so I had to use a lot of reference images. I wanted to make the ship small enough to easily fit inside of the vase, but large enough that it was too big to fit through the neck of the vase.” After he had settled on how big the ship was, the rest was easy, he says. “I simply had to build the boat and paste it into the vase. After a few final edits, the build was complete.”

There are lots of details within Jason’s build that he agonised over. He remembers worrying about each little thing: “how large should the waves be? Should there be a lot of water or just a little? How many masts should the ship have in order to best highlight the shape of the vase?” There was also the added difficulty of building at an angle – most Minecraft builds are on solid ground, or solid… water, at least, with a nice flat surface to start from. Jason’s vase was already tilted, so that meant building a ship in a different way.

“I had to adjust the typical shapes in order to match the correct position,” Jason says. He points out that the front mast is leaning forward more than the others, so that anyone looking at the build can definitely tell that the ship is too tall to fit through the neck of the vase.

“Because these tiny ships are crafted inside of the bottle, they inherently cannot have exquisite details,” Jason explains. He describes the objects, the vase and the ship, as being “generic” because less detail makes it look more lifelike.

“I wanted to communicate to the viewer the simple idea that a ship is flowing out of a vase. To convey this information, all that is necessary is to make the most generic-looking ship possible.” The ship has white sails, a brown body and red flags – it’s the most shippy ship imaginable. “Although I could have added many additional colours and details,” Jason says, “I think that would have distracted from the overall mood of the piece.”

When people build ships in bottles, it’s usually for a purpose, whether that purpose is to create something nice for their bookshelf, or to practise having a steady hand. But for Jason, the goal was much simpler. “As long as I enjoy the work I produce,” he says, “I am satisfied.”

Me too! Well, actually, I haven’t slept for two weeks because I’m constantly wondering how I could get that bottle out of the vase without breaking it :(

Written By
Kate Gray