And so it’s time for a TTAG project gun. The frame you see above is a naked Cabot Guns S-Class, the start of our journey into extreme customization. No, we’re not doing anything funny with the 1911’s function. John Moses Browning’s meisterwerk needs nothing in the way of light, lasers or other accoutrements. Nor are we building anything other than a .45. The gun above is getting the full Otto Carter. You may remember Mr. Carter as the Texas-born and bred engraver whose Bond Arms derringer blazed new territory with its resurrection of the Aesthetic Movement of the Victorian era. Carter first came across the style . . .
while online looking through a Victorian ephemera website for inspiration. The Master Engraver came across articles on the British “Aesthetic Movement.” Here’s Otto’s take on its history:
During the 1850’s, International Exhibitions of manufactured goods from all over the world displayed an eclectic array of styles influenced by the different cultures. Motifs ranged from Maori tattoos to Assyrian architecture. These exhibitions revealed a lack of creativity on the part of British manufactured goods.
Design reformers of the era sought to add some spice to their conservative goods and came up with product designs characterized by an eclectic if not exotic use of Japanese, Moorish, Egyptian and geometricized natural forms. “Art for Arts Sake” was an apt moniker of this idea and thus the term “Artistic” was applied to the style. “Artistic Printing” was the name given to the letterpress printing industry of the time.
Competition in the print industry caused much experimentation of Artistic printing and lead to developments in type setting techniques. New technology enabled the use of decorative elements in printed material like never before. More books became available offering opinions and advice on design which promoted the development of Artistic printing. At this time Artistic printing began to flourish as did the Aesthetic style in manufactured goods. Books and publications of that era include; Oscar H. Harpel’s “Harpel’s Typograph”, “The American Model Printer”, “Art Age”, and “The Superior Printer”.
Artisans applied the Aesthetic Movemen to furniture, door hinges, metalwork and more. It was original to the Victorian period and not a revival of older styles. As with any design period, it had its detractors. After a 20-year life span it faded away. Economics caused the print industry to adopt high volume, low-cost production which ended the labor intensive product of Artistic printing. The same paradigm applied to mass-produced decoration.
How does this end up as a gun engraving topic? My favorite engraving resource book is “L.D. Nimschke: Firearms Engraver”. My favorite parts of the book are not the ubiquitous scroll designs but all of the unique space-filling motifs that are tasteful accents which work to embellish an area while at the same time separating it from the scroll fields. These designs are executed primarily with single point graver cuts.
The exotic Victorian embellishments are rendered similarly and add artistic surprises throughout the piece. As a student of design it is fun to revisit the past and make the old new again. What we end up with is a total departure from normal engraving and a “what is that?” from the casual observer.
Otto studied Aesthetic Movement designs engraved on English door hinges, escutcheon, furniture and architectural pieces. He was immediately, irretrievably smitten. “It’s still highly sought after by collectors today because it’s so damn pretty,” Otto told TTAG.
Copy that. Not literally, of course. Otto will put his own spin on the TTAG project gun engraving and keep us in the loop with regular updates. He’ll be bringing the gun to the Texas Firearms Festival on November 14 and 15 at Best of the West Shooting Sports in Liberty Hill, Texas. (Click here for tickets.) Meanwhile, watch this space, as unadorned as it is.