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So I'm having kind of an issue. I want to create a landscape in a bottle and I have no idea how to get a nice foundation in there. On one piece before that I built in a dome (with the rounded side down and a large, open mouth to work in,) I painted glue around the area I wanted to be grass or dirt and pressed on some flock and then created my foam shape and painted/flocked that and then pressed it down in. The thin layer of flock and the thin layer on the foam structure pressed against the glass and it was... eh? Passable? Not really something I loved, but it was okay. The problem with that (admittedly only marginally passable technique) is I can't do that with the things I want to build in now that have a narrow neck bottle I want to build in.

So here's where I'm at with narrow neck bottle ideas:
  • I started with the idea of putting in some glue, spreading it, shaking in flock and rotating it around but eh. Not great and still not a nice, solid look. It also easy to get a really uneven rim, which isn't the look I want. Something I haven't tried is filling the vessel with PVA and using a syringe to extract it, hoping that will leave an even line.
  • Next I layered in what I wanted the layers to look like (did thin sand, thicker dirt, thin 'grass') and then used a syringe and squirted in well-watered down PVA to saturate all the layers. I used the syringe to extract the excess fluid and then left them to dry. That was taking forever so I did a long, super low heat in the oven. It seemed to dry, but there were areas that had distracting, spiderwebby looks to them that mottled the colors. Not into it. The only kind this worked on was some bottles I had filled with only sand because the dried glue parts hide well within the pale, uneven sand texture. Something I haven't tried is clear school glue but this method takes so long to dry that I'm not really into it.
  • Something I'm considering next is doing something like smashing down polymer clay into the bottle but I'm not sure how to sandwich flock sort of things against the glass and the clay, but at least I could bake it and have no glue dulling the textures.
  • I have also wondered about putting in flock/dirt/fill things and making a well in the the best I can and filling up the void with liquid polymer clay, hoping to guide the fill to press up against the glass as the liquid clay tries to displace it. Only I think you can imagine all the problems that can happen once we start trying to count on fluid things to move the way we want them to. 
  • I'm not sure if maybe mixing a strong concentration of fill/flock into liquid clay and smear/painting the layers would keep them in place. But the problem with doing any of these clay ones is that once I walk into clay zone, if I don't like the look I have to toss it, unlike in Glue Land where I can soak it in water, shake it out, and start over.

What I'd -really- like is to get compressed layers that look like a cross section of earth and that don't look really stiff. Think... layered sand art bottle. I've wondered if there's a way to just make free-shaking layers and then somehow get something in there that can press them down and glue THAT into place but I really struggle with the fact that since my vessel is glass, however I do it has to be done really cleanly. There's also the issue that I'm working in medical bottles/insulin sized bottles so the neck that I'm working in is like, maybe a quarter inch across? I have some larger bottles like you might be able to put a ship in, but I don't want to experiment in those because I'll waste a lot more materials in experimenting.

Totally lost on how to do this. Does anyone have any ideas or any reliable sources for tips on bottle building?

Open to ALL the ideas other than 'give up' XD
Not sure if I can be of much help here, but I do have some brain-storm type ideas.  Are these bottles to be displayed standing up or laying on their sides like ship in a bottle things?

That being said, you might search for ship-in-bottle building techniques.  I think most of these center around clay being fed into the bottle a little at a time and tamped down using a skinny tool.

If you're going for the layered sand bottle look, why not use sand?  Color it with chalk and feed it in.  Sealing it might be a trick, but a small layer of glue or similar might work.

Epoxy?  It's colorable, but it might be messy; getting a drip on the inside walls would be a pain to deal with but not impossible (Q-Tips and isopropyl alcohol).  Use slow-curing epoxy if bottles are plastic.  Epoxy can be colored and the addition of fillers (like microballoons) can render it opaque.

Wax.  Potentially also messy, but you could feed it into the bottles in little chunks or pellets then heat it in a bain marie (aka double boiler) to melt the wax.  Obviously glass bottles only, and canning techniques should be followed to prevent bottles from cracking from cooling too fast.  Thermal shock WILL break non-borosilicate glass.  
Wax is easily colored with crayons or candle coloring, but you'd probably want to do this first.  Melt wax and coloring in a bain marie and a disposable container (bottom half of an aluminum can), let the colored cake cool, then chop it up to put in bottle.

Along with wax, hot glue is a similar option.  It already comes in pellet form, but has a higher melting point than wax, so it might take more time all around.

Natural resins might work if these are available and cheap, but may be time consuming if you're dissolving them or melting them.  Probably not the best solution for bulk, but would make a good sealer for sand.

There are other pourable-curable things; shellac, polyurethane, etc.  Might be messy and/or hard to color.

I'll give this some more thought.
Tob, you are exactly someone I was hoping would respond because you always think about creative, new ways to handle problems. I'm interested by the wax idea. It would also be soft to stick stuff into like if I have bits on wires.

I'm going to experiment today. Thanks! Throw any more thoughts my way.
(05-05-2017, 06:25 PM)BlueMeander Wrote: [ -> ]Throw any more thoughts my way.

The only other thing I can think of is Friendly Plastic (actual brand name). This stuff hit a peak in the crafting world some ten or more years ago and I haven't seen it in craft stores lately, but I haven't BEEN to craft stores lately, so....

Friendly Plastic came in a lot of forms back in the day, but you might want to find the little pellets. This stuff is a thermoplastic with a very low melting temp, meaning hot water does the trick then these pellets become malleable.

Now, unlike wax, this stuff doesn't melt together or become liquid, it just gets soft enough to 'mush' into shape. For you I am thinking along the same lines as the wax idea; put pellets in bottle, put bottle in hot water (not as hot as needed for wax), and then use thin tools to mush it into itself and shape as needed.

A quick online search will yield a plethora of Friendly Plastic ideas and suppliers. Also check local stores.
Well I'm not in the position to buy things right now, but luckily I do actually already own some of that stuff. I don't know how different it is, but it functions like you describe and was branded as sort of a 'new' material for home repairs and playing around with and has been picked up by special effects makeup artists to make teeth and things like that. It would hold up better than wax for sure (in terms of melting point) but it would be harder to build into (like if I wanted to stick a wire into it after I'd put on basing.) Still, with either of those, I feel like I"m still missing how I'd get a layer of flock/dirt/sand/stuff showing immediately on the glass even if I'm using that stuff to fill up the middle. I don't really want to look at the side of the bottle and see smashed in wax/clay/thermoplastic, I want to see nature materials. Ideally I would like to make a little bottle at some point that has maybe something cute and playful like dirt with a little dino skeleton pressed against the side glass so it looks like I'm seeing a cross section of things buried in the dirt.

Anyway, I'll dig into some of the ship in a bottle tutorials and maybe just get a good look at something that looks like what I want and see if I can't visually see what they're doing and get some more ideas from that too.
The layering thing is going to be the trick. Especially the bit about seeing bones/roots/underground stuff pressed up against the glass.

I suppose you could put in a small layer of the bottom stuff (sand, ground foam/cork/whatever) and then delicately insert the bones/roots up against the glass, then add the additional layers. The added layers will further press the bones/roots against the side of the bottle. Fiddley, but that's the name of the game here.

Then put your grass layer in and glue it down. Or stick flowers/trees in first, then glue. The eyedropper technique might be your only option here.

The other angle here might be the bottles. Cut the bottoms off and build in reverse, then put bottoms back on. Easier said than done, but if you know artistic types who might be into glassblowing they could help. Then again, if you know these types of people, you might just have custom bottles made. Cost-effective? Probably not. Cheating? Possibly so.
I've been stewing this over for a few days and I can't come up with any useful suggestions.

Adding dry material to the bottom is the obvious best way to get the layering and distribution of interesting stuff in the strata.
But affixing it in place certainly poses a challenge.
If all the layers were put in place and then some sort of capping layer could be put in place that would be ideal.

Perhaps layering the material, then adding a layer of tissue paper (perhaps coloured to camouflage what it is) on top, adjusting the position of the tissue until it is correct, and then finally adding a diluted adhesive to stiffen the paper.
If you were careful the tissue would wick up the adhesive and carry it to the edges, while also keeping the lower layers dry.

Possible adhesives to stiffen the paper:
White glue watered down to a milky consistently - cheap and easy to find. If it gets on the glass it may cause it to look not so clear. Weldbond is my favourite brand.

Epoxy diluted​ with alcohol - vastly more expensive, more of a pain in the butt, and tends to be quite brittle in thin layers. Might make poking things through a bit too hard.

Floor polish, i.e. Future, or may be known as Pledge with Future shine - cheapish, lasts long time. Dries very clear. Wets material easily. I've used it as semi permanent adhesive to keep ballast in place on model ships.

This is all conceptual, so I can't guarantee success or even anything but complete failure.