Initial Object Exploration: Swan Planter

Aqua in color with a smooth exterior, the swan crooks its neck to the right, tilting its head back towards the left. Seven inches long and three inches wide, this planter’s walls are about an eighth of an inch thick. The swan’s wings make up the sides of the width of the planter, while the front and back are contained by the tail and upper back. The hollow inside of this bird extends briefly into the tail and the neck for about half of an inch. The tail, a one inch nub located on the rear of the planter, features two gentle indentations on either side going the length of the tail– on atop another. Three similar, yet longer indentations on either side are used to indicate the texture of the swan’s feathers underneath the wings, curving around the belly. These indentations were clearly designed to achieve this added level of dimensionality through the use of shadows. Because they curve around the body at a forty-five degree angle, any light from above will produce an array of shadows on the aging body of the swan, adding an extra level of depth. The neck, which retreats for four inches before crooking and protruding back out another three is about three-quarters of an inch thick and completely rounded. The end of the neck widens to form a head with circular marks on either side to appear as eyes. At the bottom of the head lies the bill of the bird, which extends out for an inch and is three-eighths of an inch in diameter. Two white dots can be found on the left wing of the bird, as well the left side of its neck. A longer mark of the same color can be found on the underside of the swan on its right side. When flipped upside down, the base retreats back in towards the planter, forming a lip to rest on. With the right wing towards the ground, the words “BAUER POTTERY” can be read etched into the bottom, although a small chip in the paint has made the “R” and “Y” nearly illegible.

I am particularly interested in this planter because of how unique its design is. While planters can often have beautiful designs on them, it is much more rare to find an beautifully designed planter. The line of movement that flows throughout the bird, continuing all the way up through its neck makes a stationary piece containment both movement and character. The subtle tilt of the bird’s head towards that left distinguishes it from just any swan and gives it a personality in and of its own. The smooth exterior and corners of planter make for a very minimalistic and mod piece, while the indentations and use of natural light on the piece seem more impressionistic. This planter is the Goldilocks in the relationship between design and function; it is just aesthetically pleasing enough without being too intricate, while also seamlessly being able to perform its function. When the design of an object becomes too intricate in form and structure risk of impairing functionality almost always increases. This swan is an incredible example of exactly the opposite: an object so simple in design and function while still being subjectively beautiful enough to be in a museum.

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