Wednesday, 16 October 2019

The Colour Orange

Orange, an uplifting colour of autumn among other things, apparently represents fascination, stimulation and creativity.  So, I thought I would dip into the collection and find objects that are not only orange, but also have a fascinating purpose, will stimulate conversation about design in plastics and inspire creative thought.  Plastics are able to take colour completely – not just a covering – so plastic objects that are orange, can be made to look particularly vibrant.

My first object is a ‘Novelty orange pencil sharpener’ which imitates a real orange with great attention to detail. This shows the playful side of plastic as it is almost a surprise to discover, that this apparent orange, actually turns out to be a pencil sharpener!

My second object is the infamous ‘Orange Panton chair’ (injection moulded polypropylene) which readily stimulates discussion about the design of this tough, consistently dyed chair.  As well as being a design icon, this chair demonstrates how well polypropylene is able to take on a strong colour such as orange.

My third object is a pair of ‘Jelly Jolly boots’, the soles of which are again injection moulded, this time using a bright orange PVC.  Maybe they could inspire you to create a complete costume around them for a performance or exhibition, or perhaps develop and create a character in a play or story – someone who might wear a pair of boots like these. 

These appropriately called Jelly Jolly boots, also reflect another meaning of the colour orange – happiness – so they will help you walk through autumn with a much jollier step!

Julia Pulman, Museum Digital Communications Officer.

Wednesday, 9 October 2019

The Role of Canada in the Development of Plastic Furniture

This is a welcome opportunity to share a significant story about Canadian furniture
innovation. I'm a design historian in Australia, writing international furniture manufacturing
history and global trade history. From 1996 to 2001 I was Curator of Canadian Decorative
Arts and Post-1900 International Design at the Royal Ontario Museum, and a lecturer in
furniture history at the University of Toronto from 1989 to 2001. My doctoral thesis, titled 'A
Quintessential Global Product: Bentwood Furniture in Canada and Australia 1860 to 1945'
was completed in 2017 at University of Technology Sydney. 

World’s first prototype of a one-piece moulded plastic chair, designed by A. J. Donahue and D. Simpson. Fabricated in Ottawa in 1946 by the National Research Council of Canada.
(Library and Archives Canada PA-160515)

The world's first prototype for a one-piece moulded plastic chair was made during
1945 and 1946 in the Structures Laboratory of the National Research Council of Canada in
Ottawa. It was displayed in the 'Plastics' section of the Design in Industry exhibition, which
opened at the National Gallery of Canada in October 1946. The exhibition was one of several  industrial design projects jointly supported by the National Gallery of Canada, the
Department of Reconstruction and Supply, the National Film Board of Canada, and the 
National Research Council of Canada. The plastic chair was designed by Canadian architects Arthur James (Jim) Donahue and Douglas Colborne Simpson.

Jim Donahue (1917-1996) was born in Regina, Saskatchewan, and completed a
Bachelor of Architecture degree at the University of Minnesota in 1941. He was awarded a
Master of Architecture degree in 1942 at Harvard University where he was the first Canadian to complete a degree at Harvard's Graduate School of Design. There he studied under the illustrious ex-Bauhaus architecture and design professors Walter Gropius and Marcel Breuer. Donahue's familiarity with pre-fabricated housing systems developed by Gropius with Konrad Wachsmann enabled him after graduation to obtain a job working on pre-fabricated housing structures for the National Housing Authority in Ottawa.

A parallel interest in materials research and applications was encouraged by his
studies under Breuer, who had been a furniture pioneer in the use of bent steel tube in the
1920s and of moulded plywood in the 1930s. In 1945, Donahue designed and co-curated a
national touring exhibition called Wood in Canada that included new bent-plywood and
moulded plywood products.

Douglas Simpson (1916-1967) was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and graduated from
the University of Manitoba in 1938. He worked as a government architect in Ottawa before
serving with the Royal Canadian Navy during the war. At the end of the war, he joined the
staff of the Building Research Division at the National Research Council where he recruited
Donahue for the furniture design project.

Their chair and table prototypes displayed in the 1946 Design in Industry exhibition
had a light grey, glossy finish, and were fire and acid resistant. They were made of ten layers of glass fibre-reinforced cotton, 3/16 of an inch in total thickness, moulded onto a reusable form with epoxy-resin adhesives, and baked in an autoclave at 350 degrees Centigrade. The epoxy resins were developed during the war for use in the Canadian fabrication of plywoodconstructed Mosquito bomber planes. The NRC engineer for the plastic furniture project was Eric Brown.

Simpson and Donahue applied for a patent for their moulded plastic chair but the
application was refused and the design was not put into production. The reason for the refusal of the patent is unknown as rejected applications are not disclosed by the patents office. This protocol protects the privacy of the design product information in the initial application and enables applicants to re-submit with revised applications. 

Jim Donahue and Douglas Simpson were founding members of the Affiliation of
Canadian Industrial Designers in 1946 with eight other architects, furniture designers, and
product designers from four provinces. This group became the Association of Canadian
Industrial Designers (ACID).

Donahue and Simpson both established successful architecture practices. Simpson
was a partner of the influential modernist firm Semmens and Simpson in Vancouver.
Donahue was appointed a professor of architectural design at the University of Manitoba in
1947. He moved to Halifax in 1963 to teach in the School of Architecture at the Nova Scotia
Technical College (now NSCAD University). He died in 1996, before publication of my
book for University of Toronto Press titled Modern Furniture in Canada 1920 to 1970, which
included the first published documentation of the plastic chair prototype since 1946. I had
discovered the negative of the photograph at Library and Archives Canada in Ottawa, in an
unsorted and uncatalogued collection of negatives from the first years of the National Film
Board of Canada. The first manufactured one-piece moulded plastic chair was designed by
Danish architect Verner Panton in 1960, going into production in 1967.

Furniture production was a long established industry in Canada when the plastic
research was undertaken in the 1940s, and Canada continues to be one of the world's leading furniture producing and exporting countries. Large-scale manufacturing and trade began in the mid-19th. century, with Canadian exports to Australia, for example, starting in 1869.  Historically, a considerable amount of Canadian exported furniture was recorded in
importing countries as American because the goods were shipped from Boston and New
York. When they were trans-shipped via British ports they were recorded as imports from
Britain. These anomalies in global trade history have obscured the scale and importance of
Canadian furniture design and manufacturing history.

Virginia Wright

Launceston, Tasmania

Author: book Modern Furniture in Canda 1920 to 1970 (University of Toronto Press 1996)

Doctoral thesis ‘A Quintessential Global Product: Bentwood Furniture in Canada and Australia 1860 to 1945’ (University of Technology Sydney 2017)

Wednesday, 2 October 2019

Output animations

As part of MoDiP’s current exhibition ‘Output’, AUB Alumnus Jody Sweeney, BA (Hons) Visual Communication, was employed to create a series of visual explanations of the sometimes rather complex plastics manufacturing processes. These accompany the objects on display in MoDiP from 13th September 2019 - 13th March 2020 and can also be viewed online through our website. Katherine Pell, Museum Collections Officer.

Producing eleven plastic process animations for MoDiP has been a very exciting experience for me. Not only because it has been one of my first freelance works since graduating, but also because of the engaging subject, as I was learning more and more about plastics manufacturing as I went along. 

I was very eager to start, and began watching many plastic videos online. My favourite process to research and animate was the Sqezy washing up bottle. I was very new to the blow moulding process and wasn’t aware that to make the bottles, air is pushed into a plastic tube in order to expand the material into the mould. I now also know the reason behind the markings on the bottom of the bottle is because the excess tube at the bottom is cut. 

Another favourite of mine was Thermoforming, as the action of draping plastic over a mould as if it was a tablecloth, was quite a satisfying aesthetic. 

3D printing was a process that I was not entirely familiar with, especially SLS (selective laser sintering). To get my head around this process I was able to view a printer in the AUB workshop to see how it works. This was the most challenging and exciting animation to create in my opinion, as not only lasers were included, but the object being created was a fedora with a lot of texture and chain links integrated into the hat.

All of the animations were created by digitally drawing frames and objects. Titles, text and the MoDiP logo were also digitally drawn. My aim was to simplify the busy plastics process videos, usually filmed in factories. I created basic shapes for the moulds and machinery to visually interpret each process and used MoDiP’s colour palette to correlate with the museum branding.

Each object featured in the clips can be seen on display in the exhibition (MoDiP, 1st floor, AUB Library).

Jody Sweeney, BA (Hons) Visual Communication

Thursday, 26 September 2019

MoDiP AUB Student Bursary 2019

Would you like to be the next MoDiP AUB Student Creative?
Fancy the opportunity to get up close and personal with a museum collection?
Want to see your work on display and inspire others?
Well, here’s your chance…

We welcome applications from all disciplines.

Some examples of the work from past creatives: 

For more information see below or contact

Closing date: 27th October 2019

MoDiP Student Creative Brief

The aim of the MoDiP Student Creative is to offer all students at the AUB an opportunity to create a work inspired by the MoDiP collection. This could be in any discipline with any creative outcome from physical art work to film or acting production.

MoDiP is the only accredited museum in the UK with a focus on plastics. It is the UK's leading resource for the study and interpretation of design in plastics. Our mission is to increase understanding and appreciation of the use and significance of plastics in design during the 20th and 21st century.

MoDiP’s purpose is to collect, research, interpret and present artefacts made of, or including components of, plastics, and thus add unique value to the Arts University Bournemouth as a learning resource, a resource for collaborative, experimental and interdisciplinary research, and as a gateway to the AUB’s wider environment.

The outcome of this project can be within any discipline working with any material but the work must be inspired by the MoDiP collection or its processes and working practice and in line with its mission and purpose Depending on the medium, the work will be displayed in cases in the library and/or featured on all of our social media.

Terms and Conditions
Creative’s work

  • MoDiP and/or its plastics collection should be at the heart of the project
  • The applicant should expect to spend time looking at the collection and/or talking to the MoDiP team
  • The applicant could work in any discipline (they would not have to work in plastics)
  • The applicant should be prepared to have work displayed at the end of the project and to describe how they have been inspired by MoDiP
  • The applicant will need to give regular updates to the MoDiP team on progress (to ensure deadlines will be met and that the work can be physically displayed)

Support and administration
Support for the project and administration will be provided by MoDiP’s Collections Officer, Katherine Pell. Digital support will be provided by MoDiP’s Curator, Louise Dennis.

The successful applicant will be appointed on 1st November 2019, ready to start their project on Monday 4th November 2019. It is expected that the work will be completed and ready for display on Monday 23rd March 2020.

A £250 bursary (including material costs) will be paid to the successful candidate to facilitate the project. Up to 50% (£125) of the bursary can be claimed during the project as material costs are incurred. The remainder will be paid on completion.

Monitoring and evaluation
The resident will be expected to keep the MoDiP team updated with progress reports on a regular basis (to be agreed). This could be either through email including images, or face-to-face.

It is expected that the candidate will write 3 blog posts during the process – complete with images. The first will be a plan for the work, the second being a progress report, and the third showing the work and an overview of the project.

The experience
We expect you to work in a professional manner, engaging with both the collection and the staff of MoDiP. This is an opportunity to have your work published or displayed within a museum setting.

The project can be included in your portfolio of work to show future employers or clients. It will demonstrate working creatively to a deadline and experience of working with real clients.

Appointment will be subject to approval and written support from your tutor.

How to Apply
To apply please submit a proposal of 300-500 words with expected outcomes including how you intend to use the collection. Please include images of some of your previous work and the name of your tutor, who we will only contact if you are successful.

Email your application to with ‘Student Creative’ in the subject box

Closing date: 27th October 2019

Interview and an opportunity to show Portfolio: Wednesday 30th October – Friday 1st November 2019 (we will contact you to arrange this)
When we will let you know: Friday 1st November 2019

If you would like more information or an informal discussion about the project please contact the MoDiP team by email