Friday, 2 December 2016

Did you know? #52

Did you know that all of our past exhibitions are available online?


Polymorphia

The ubiquitous nature of plastics means that they are often taken for granted. Very different plastics are lumped together in the one generic term with their special properties and capabilities often being overlooked by the consumer.

 
Plastics are synthetic or semi-synthetic polymers.  A polymer is a large molecule made up of a number of smaller units (monomers) and joined together to create a long chain.  They can be broadly divided into two groups, thermoplastics and thermosets. Thermoplastics are those which, once formed, can be heated and reformed.  This means that they are easily processed and recycled.  Thermosets cannot be reformed or remoulded so the recycling process poses different challenges.

Plastics truly are polymorphic.  They are an extensive family of materials which take many forms, and for many decades have been the group of materials that are most widely used globally.  They have a broad range of properties and many typical characteristics which set them apart from each other and make them particularly suitable for an inexhaustible list of applications.  They range from semi-synthetic plastics, first developed over 150 years ago, to the fully synthesised techno-polymers designed and engineered for very specific uses today.  With the growing realisation that fossil fuel resources are not sustainable, there is a renewed interest in the development of bio plastics derived from an increasing variety of sustainable biomass resources.

This exhibition looks at some of the plastics we commonly encounter in our everyday lives.  It examines their history and development, explains what sets them apart from each other and shows the more typical applications, some of which have become icons of design, made possible only because of the type of plastic used. 

Louise Dennis, (Assistant Curator)

Monday, 28 November 2016

A different view #45

There are many ways to look at the objects in the MoDiP collection.  With this series of posts I want to highlight the interesting views of objects that we may ordinarily miss.  These include the underside of an object, the surface pattern, or traces of manufacturing processes.



Title:Roanoid ashtray
Designer: Robert Conroy Robertson
Manufacturer:Roanoid for Roxon

Object number: PHSL : 91


Louise Dennis (Assistant Curator)

Friday, 25 November 2016

Can you guess?

MoDiP has the kind of collection that you may think you are very familiar with. We have objects which we all use every day, and some pieces which are more unusual.

By looking at this distorted image are you able to guess what the object is? What do you think it could be used for?


Post your answer in the comments below or to find the answer click here and you will be taken to the MoDiP catalogue.

Louise Dennis (Assistant Curator)

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Winfield Fine Art in Jewellery


I have just completed an object condition review of the Plastics Historical Society collection which features some of the very first man-made plastics and has been cared for by MoDiP since 2009. During the course of my project, a selection of brooches caught my eye which was really quite surprising as I typically ‘don’t do jewellery’. But there is something quite different about these particular items, cast in acrylic and dating back to the 1940s. Intrigued, I wanted to learn more. 

PHSL : 48.1
 The six pieces in question are all linked to Armand G. Winfield (1919 – 2009), an American inventor and pioneer in the field of plastics. Originally a student of geology and anthropology, Armand particularly enjoyed working on the preservation of specimens and this is where his interest in plastics began when he discovered the possibility of encasing artefacts in acrylic; a new, transparent, lightweight, shatter-resistant material. By 1945, Winfield had created one of the first mass production methods of clear acrylic embedding and he soon turned his attention towards producing objects which he could sell.

Armand & Rodney Winfield, 1946. (Schon, 2003)
His brother Rodney (an art student at the Cooper Union, New York) was unimpressed by Armand’s crude attempts to make saleable items so he assembled a group of fellow students to create original, miniature artworks for his brother to embed. Together they founded the gallery/workshop Winfield Fine Art in Jewellery, with pieces selling from $5.00 to over $100.00 in post war America (equivalent to approximately $85 - $1600 today) (Winfield 1979). 

PHSL : 48.2

Most major, mid-20th Century design movements have been represented within the work these artists produced including montage, collage, assemblage, abstraction, surrealism, cubism, minimalism and biomorphism and many went on to become famous painters, sculptors, writers, and designers (Schon 2003). Two that we have identified with work featured in the PHS collection are: Lilly Ascher (PHSL: 48.2, above) who formed miniature abstract sculptures with beads and wire and Betty Smith (PHSL:48.3, right) who painted bright, freely formed surrealist abstractions. 

PHSL : 48.3
 If you want to find out more, visit http://www.modernsilver.com/winfieldfineart.htm for a comprehensive and fascinating account of this rather brilliant man. 

Katherine Pell, (MoDiP Administrator)

References
Schon, M., 2003. Winfield Fine Art in Jewelry: a Fusion of Art and Scientific Discovery (online). Mississippi: Modern Silver Magazine. Available from: http://www.modernsilver.com/winfieldfineart.htm (Accessed 26 September 2016).

Schon, M., 2009. Remembering Armand Winfield (online). Mississippi: Modern Silver Magazine. Available from: http://www.modernsilver.com/rememberingarmandwinfield.htm (Accessed 26 September 2016).

Syracuse University Libraries., 2006. Armand G. Winfield Papers (online). New York: Syracuse University Libraries. Available from: http://library.syr.edu/digital/guides/w/winfield_ag.htm (Accessed 26 September 2016).

Winfield, A., 1979. Clearly a Work of Art. Antiques and the Arts Weekly, 6 July 1979. Connecticut: The Bee Publishing Company.

Monday, 21 November 2016

BXL photographic archive #0115

In 2010, MoDiP was donated a large archive of images relating to a single company. Bakelite Xylonite Ltd, also known as British Xylonite Ltd or BXL, was possibly one of the first British firms to successfully manufacture a plastics material in commercial quantities. The company was established in 1875 and after a long history went into liquidation in the late 2000s. The images we have in the collection are concentrated around the 1960s through to the 1980s and show us glimpses of the manufacturing process, products and the company’s employees during this time. We plan to share an image each week to give a flavour of the archive. If you want to see more you can view the whole collection on our website.

This week’s image shows George Brown's visit to Tyseley.

To get a better view of the image and find out more have a look at it on our website http://www.modip.ac.uk/artefact/bxl--1501

We are still working on the documentation of the archive, some of the images we know more about than others. It would be fantastic if we could fill in some of the gaps in our knowledge, if you know anything about the company or specific images it would be good to hear from you.
Louise Dennis (Assistant Curator)

Friday, 18 November 2016

Did you know? #52

Did you know that all of our past exhibitions are available online?  
Polymorphia


Plastics truly are polymorphic.  They are an extensive family of materials which take many forms, and for many decades have been the group of materials that are most widely used globally.  They have a broad range of properties and many typical characteristics which set them apart from each other and make them particularly suitable for an inexhaustible list of applications.  They range from semi-synthetic plastics, first developed over 150 years ago, to the fully synthesised techno-polymers designed and engineered for very specific uses today.  With the growing realisation that fossil fuel resources are not sustainable, there is a renewed interest in the development of bio plastics derived from an increasing variety of sustainable biomass resources.

This exhibition looks at some of the plastics we commonly encounter in our everyday lives.  It examines their history and development, explains what sets them apart from each other and shows the more typical applications, some of which have become icons of design, made possible only because of the type of plastic used.

Louise Dennis (Assisant Curator)

Monday, 14 November 2016

A different view #44

There are many ways to look at the objects in the MoDiP collection.  With this series of posts I want to highlight the interesting views of objects that we may ordinarily miss.  These include the underside of an object, the surface pattern, or traces of manufacturing processes.


Title: Flack D3O short liner
Designer: Unknown
Manufacturer: Race Face
Object number: AIBDC : 007099



Louise Dennis (Assistant Curator)