City News

For local craftsman, history sails in a bottle

Jim Goodwin's work takes him inside small places. Really small places. Like the inside of wine bottles.

No, he's not a sommelier. Goodwin's line is recreating Carolinas history in a bottle.

After retiring from more than 20 years as an off-shore well site geologist, Goodwin spends his time these days as a Maritime Craftsman painstakingly building ships in bottles. With more than 1,020 ships under his belt, Goodwin, who lives in the SouthPark area, qualifies as much more than a hobbyist. His work is featured in galleries, museums, private collections and soon at a movie theater near you.

One of only a handful of such experienced and established artisans nationwide, Goodwin was contacted last year by the property manager for the upcoming DreamWorks film production of Alice Sebold's novel, “The Lovely Bones.” The film needed 50 ships in bottles in just over three months.

Goodwin was more than up to the task, and his work so impressed the film's director, Peter Jackson, that he asked Goodwin to create some special pieces for his personal collection. The film is slated for release in 2009.

Goodwin's passion for his craft is fueled by his love of historical research, engineering, woodworking and aesthetic design. The vast majority of his work features maritime vessels with historical significance to the Carolinas. Goodwin refers to his ships as “not just pieces of art, but pieces of history.” A project can take anywhere from five to 50 hours depending on the complexity.

His works range from the Blockade Runner Advance to Blackbeard's legendary flagship, the Queen Anne's Revenge. Goodwin's reach into history covers the 1500s to present day. Many of his works feature Carolina lighthouses. “I add lighthouses to offer balance,” Goodwin said.

Each work is handcrafted, with Goodwin carving the hulls from Carolina Red Cedar. Masts are fashioned from walnut dowels and the ship's sails are made from high-grade all-cotton bond. Special clay is colored and serves as the ocean bedding for the ships. His secret for achieving a weathered looking sail? He stains them with coffee.

Goodwin's friends kid him that he spends so much time on his work that they worry that he may end up on the inside of one of his bottles. That's likely just fine with him.