Bakelite Delight

Spyralle Orrery Clock 1920 'Celeste' Edition

Spyralle Orrery Clock 1920 ‘Celeste’ Edition

Inspired by my long-time interest 20th Century design and bakelite artifacts of the era, I created this table or mantel clock as an exclusive release at the Twisted Summer Sale, aka “Sockdolanger”, now open. All proceeds from sale of the clock go to Relay for Life, which is supported by the Twisted folks at this event through the Relay Rockers RFL team.

The word ‘sockdolanger’ is a bit obscure to track down, but in the 1920s it was a popular slang word roughly equivalent to ‘awesome’ in current usage. Mind, I’ve picked up some  1920s slang in my life from family, but this one was new to me.  Maybe it never got all the way west to where they all settled. However, I do think the choice is awesome. Those Twisted folks are never afraid to be obscure, creative and tongue in cheek – as well as inventively evil (or evilly inventive) when it comes to puzzles and hunts, which is why we love them. So the theme of the summer sale is, more or less, the 1920s.  Cool!

We tend to lump certain decades and eras in with design styles that were not neatly self-contained by year numbers. For example, when people say “The Sixties”, they’re often really talking about a style that arrived somewhat late in that decade and persisted through most of the 1970s. Art Deco is the same way. Yes, there was a lot of what we recognize as Art Deco in the 1930s, but it began far earlier (don’t get me started on Biedermeier!) and persisted much later, not even counting “revivals” and “inspired by.” In the 1920s Art Deco elements were definitely creeping in, but the ‘Arts & Crafts’ and other traditional styles were still very strong – and many objects and fashions blend more than one style influence.

1920 Celeste Clock - back view

1920 Celeste Clock – back view

Spyralle’s 1920 clock is mostly Arts and Crafts, with just a bit of Deco and, of course, liberal lashings of Steampunk, because I could not resist bringing in the fabulous Orrery textures for a new generation!

The Orrery clock face and hands textures are the only part of our original Orrery Clock that remains from the pre-mesh steampunk models – and they had to be remade from the original fractals for this project. I have been working on meshing the clockwork and getting it really low poly for a couple of years, on and off. This project motivated me to finally finish the job. The case is entirely new original mesh, a transitional mesh on the way to the next project, to be covered in a future post.

And the bakelite! Bakelite is an early form of plastic invented in 1909 (you can look it up!) that was easy to mold, took bright colors and was inexpensive to produce.  Bakelite quickly became popular as a material for jewelry, toys, and domestic objects and ornaments. It was a good insulator, so it was also used extensively for electric appliances like telephones and, especially, radios.

People familiar with my work already know that I collect bakelite, especially jewelry, and that I’ve released a number of items emulating the material. Which is not as easy as you might think. Bakelite was usually smooth (i.e. shiny, for our purposes), and usually one-color-per-piece, but it was not “solid” color. Bakelite could be manufactured to imitate ivory, tortoise shell, jade, wood and other natural materials. Even when a piece was intended to be “solid color,” there are often subtle color variations that show up as streaking or lighter and darker patches. In addition, you see areas faded by wear and UV light or darkened with age-grime or even painted details to set off shaping. Fascinating stuff!

Of course, any surface is imbued with detail like that. It is a continuing challenge for creators of virtual objects. The more deeply you observe surfaces, the less satisfying it is to simply paste on a simple texture, now that we can create forms from mesh and map the surfaces.

The 1920 Celeste clock is actually made of wood with bakelite decoration. Or it may be bakelite doing a very good job of imitating wood. Either way, it has a panel in the back for opening it up to wind the spring. The 1920 house may not have had electricity!



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