Artifact: Nelischer’s nozzles
TEXT BY CATE COCHRAN
Maurice Nelischer’s idiosyncratic gardenware collection got its start at a garage sale. When his daughter Kate was young, he used to spend Saturday mornings with her rummaging through other people’s cast-offs as an exercise in father-daughter bonding. In 1997 they made their first find and bought three garden hose nozzles for a nickel. With that, they had begun building a collection that Nelischer believes to be the largest of its kind.
To this day Nelischer, OALA, Professor Emeritus of Landscape Architecture and Director for Sustainability at the University of Guelph, still searches them out by scavenging junk stores and the Internet. His most recent find, acquired in Baysville, Ontario, is from the 1930s. Nelischer, who has a keen sense of design, arranges them all on a specially designated shelf in his living room.
The nozzles, all examples of pragmatic industrial design, are made of heavy brass, and some date back to the 1870s. They have been banged around over the years, but these icons of domestic life and weekend waterings were intended to withstand unforgiving use. Viewed together they demonstrate how, as form follows function, minor design tweaks modified the object for a range of uses. Short spouts with a fan of brass up the back became sprinklers. Others have an elongated elegance and adjust for hand-held watering. One, a favourite of his, was designed for Craftsman/Sears and has a twistable control knob on the side of the spigot to control water flow.
For Nelischer, who grew up in a military family that moved around frequently, part of the nozzles’ charm is that they represent the unpretentious beauty of objects designed
for daily life. Each of his family’s new homes had a garden, and the nozzles harken back to the establishment of stability and predictability. His response to the garden hose nozzles is visceral, and connects him to a past of regular lives well served by objects
designed to last for generations.
BIO/ CATE COCHRAN IS A PRODUCER AT CBC RADIO’S THE SUNDAY EDITION.