The Implied Beneath

While it might not be apparent on first glance, this is a salt and pepper shaker set:


This set represents the Bluenose, the Canadian fishing and racing schooner from Nova Scotia that has been appearing on Canadian dimes for many decades:


While it’s a little hard to make out, since it consists of slightly raised brown letters on the same brown background, the side of the shaker schooner proudly announces its name:

Bluenose name

Well, actually, the name on the shakers specifies that it not the original Bluenose, but rather, Bluenose II, the replica of the original Bluenose built in the sixties.  That replica has itself recently been in the process of being restored at a shipyard in Lunenberg, Nova Scotia, as this photograph shows:


What this photograph also reveals is what might not first be apparent when you look at the shaker version:  the shaker version does not depict the complete schooner.   It shows only what would be visible above the water if the schooner were at sea.  In other words, the shaker set implies that part if it, actually not seen, is nevertheless there, under whatever surface you might happen to put it on. 

I like the idea of the implication of something beneath, something unseen but that a viewer can know is there.  Something like that does, of course, occur again and again in photographs, painting, sculptures.  A bronze bust implies the rest of a  body that comes below the parts it actually depicts.  A painting of a figure looking out, even a full length one, implies a back that isn’t actually there.  We viewers are assumed to be willing and able to extrapolate beyond the borders, to assume they represent not the actual edges of whatever is being depicted, but just a point beyond which what still exists nevertheless cannot be seen.

But there’s something special, something unique, about the way in which these shakers do that.  I’m not exactly sure about this, but I think it’s that, in cutting off the bottom part of the ship that would in fact not be visible if it were a real ship floating in actual water,  the shaker Bluenose II magically transforms the surface it sits on into a representation of water.  There is no water, and the shakers contain no depiction of water–and yet they manage to transform part of their environment into something that has a quality of water.  In other words: the magic is that in putting them in relationship to something else, a mere flat surface, a tabletop or window sill, they have the ability to transform that flat surface into something else, something different and more meaningful than it ever was before.  And they imply a depth beyond the surface of a solid object, an apparently but nevertheless impossibly penetrable depth that the unseen underside of a ship might float in.

Again, that the kind of magic a painting often performs–it suggests that the flat wall it hangs on is actually a window into another world beyond and behind the flat surface.  But that’s a magical aspect of paintings that many of us are so used to that we simply take it for granted.  It happens less often with three-dimensional objects like my Bluenose shakers than it does with two-dimensional ones like paintings or drawings.  And painting don’t appear to turn the still visible surfaces of the walls they hang  on that surround their frames into something else.

For those who might be wondering why I keep identifying what appears to be just a single object, a depiction of a schooner, as a set of shakers: it is actually a set.  It does consist of two separate and separable pieces, as can be seen here:

half blueThe designer of this set has solved the problem of turning one schooner into two shakers through the simple act of just dividing the ship in two, right down the middle, and making each of its separate parts a separate shaker, two fragments that become one whole ship if probably placed beside each other  It is, then, an example of what I identified in a previous post an example of bisectionality.  I have a number of other strangely bisectional shaker sets, which I might get around to discussing in later posts.

Published by pernodel

Children’s literature critic and author of books for children

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