Wednesday, 15 January 2020

We’ve Got a Fuzzbox Picture Disc and We’re Going to Display it!

We’ve Got a Fuzzbox and We’re Gonna Use it! were an all-girl English alternative rock/pop punk band from Birmingham who formed in 1985 and after shortening their name to Fuzzbox, recorded 6 UK Top 75 hits during their career (to date).

Fuzzbox  AIBDC : 0_2235 

The Top 75 Singles Chart now utilises a combination of CD and vinyl sales, audio and video streams and downloads to measure success - but during the halcyon days of the sensational seventies and stylish eighties, only actual physical product sold was used to compile chart placings. So, picture discs of singles were often utilised as a canny method of obtaining additional sales to bump a record further on up the charts (as fans would often want to buy multiple versions and formats of the same song).

Sadly this quirkily designed picture disc wasn’t enough to power the single up the charts on release, as it only managed to spend a single week in the UK Chart at 100 on 09.06.90 and then disappeared into the ether the following week. The band disbanded due to ‘musical differences’ shortly afterwards in the same year but happily have subsequently reformed in 2010 and then again in 2015 and are still going strong today:

Fuzzbox  AIBDC : 0_2235

Interestingly enough, even though the record is labelled as needing to be played at 33 and a 1/3 RPM the disc actually plays at 45 RPM according to the vinyl gurus at Discogs and any canny investor buying it for £1.99p on release might be sitting on a profit of £4 for a cut copy like the one shown here from MoDiP's collections (where the original circular unused bits of vinyl have been disposed of). Uncut versions being rarer are worth more to collectors.

Fuzzbox  AIBDC : 0_2235

Luckily enough for you though, you won’t need to take out a mortgage or contact the Doctor, enter the Tardis and set the time dials to return to 1990, as MoDiP has the picture disc available in the collection for you to view and admire in all its glory.

Groovy baby!

Dr Andrew Pulman

Wednesday, 8 January 2020

Charles Jencks

Charles Jencks (1939 – 2019)  Architect, garden designer, critic and theorist

Vacuum flask, designed for Bodum, designer unknown, AIBDC: 000746

Charles Jencks, who died in October, is remembered as the writer who announced the death of Modernism and was the catalyst for Postmodernism.  His book, The Language of Post-Modern Architecture, was first published in 1977 and ran to seven editions. It identified and articulated the significance of postmodernism before it had become a recognised style and thus he helped to bring the movement into existence.

Mary biscuit box, designed by Stefano Giovannoni for Alessi, AIBDC: 001227

Postmodernism was a repudiation of Modernism. Modernism was characterised by a search for universal truths, embodied in art and architecture by a rejection of traditional styles and a predilection for abstraction. By contrast Postmodernism was characterised by a distrust of theories, a self-conscious use of earlier styles, a penchant for contradictory layers of meaning and a love of irreverent irony. It collapsed the distinction between high and popular culture and challenged established definitions of ‘good’ art and design. As an architectural style, Postmodernism was relatively short lived. However, its plural character is especially in tune with the infinite transformation to which the plastics material group lends itself. Accordingly, it has continued to exert influence on product design. 

Diva watering can, designed by Eero Aarnio for Alessi, AIBDC: 006739
A small display has been curated in the cases outside MoDiP on the 1st floor of the AUB library as a homage to Jencks. The objects chosen have been designed by three different companies, all of whom have embraced Postmodernism: the Italian company, Alessi; the Swiss company, Bodum and the German company, Koziol. The exhibition will run until the end of January 2020.

Ahoi juicer, designed by Paolo Pedrizetti for Koziol, AIBDC: 002209

Eve fruit bowl, designed by Robin Platt for Koziol, AIBDC: 006731

Professor Susan Lambert,

MoDiP Chief Curator

Wednesday, 18 December 2019

Student Creative: Ellie Jones

I am­ an MA Illustration student and I am very grateful for the opportunity of working with the MoDiP collection. What first drew my interest was the collection of old photographs from British factories, they are mostly black and white and show an age when plastics became really popular – the 70s, which actually isn’t really that long ago. The people photographed seem full of personality and you can see what era it was by how they have styled their hair and clothing. I feel a personal connection to those people too, as my mother worked in a factory at that time.

Shrink-wrapping with Polyethylene film

I went to the museum to do some preliminary sketches to gather further ideas and to immerse myself in the museum collection. I found that I was captivated by the transparent clock, and the cicada brooches.

Coloured pencil sketch of three cicada brooches designed by Pat Thornton

Coloured pencil sketch of the translucent clockwork alarm clock

These objects made me think about the layering in plastics. Plastics can be transparent, revealing the workings of machines underneath, and it can be translucent with other colours in it which is beautiful.

So, I’ve been exploring both the photographic elements and transparency/layering in my work, using tracing paper, acetate and paper cutting.

Photograph print depicting dip coating polyethylene cut
out with watercolour pattern behind.
Layered cicada. Ink on layers of tracing paper.

I am going to continue exploring these ideas, and I look forward to seeing where it will lead me!

Student Creative
Ellie Jones - MA Illustration

Wednesday, 11 December 2019

Student Creative: Judith Allen

I was incredibly excited to be given the opportunity to be a student creative for MoDiP this year. 

When it came to choosing where to do my MA in illustration, MoDiP was one of the main assets that drew me to studying at AUB. Having a museum with a rich history of design and an extensive collection of fascinating objects right on campus, is an incredible bonus for any arts student. It’s like having your own cabinet of curiosities, full of inspiration! 

Coming from a background in social anthropology, I’m particularly interested in how objects have meaning to us, the history and stories behind seemingly ordinary everyday objects, and why we collect the objects we do. 

Figure 1 Initial sketches from MoDiP at the beginning of term

Working with MoDiP has provided me with a wonderful opportunity to explore this further through my creative practice, whilst also learning how the development of plastics technology and attitudes to plastics over time has helped to shape the design of different objects over the last century. 

My original idea was to explore the stories behind certain objects within the museum by making small polymer clay models of the objects, and placing them in shadow boxes, that had paper cut illustrations showing the story of the object behind them.

Figure 2 Initial experiments with paper cutting and shadow art

However after a little more research into building shadow boxes and several failed polymer clay experiments, I decided to take a more illustrative approach to my project.
My new idea is to create an interactive picture book with pop up and lift the flap elements, exploring the last 100 years of history through objects within the museum in a fun and tactile illustrative way that all ages can enjoy!

Figure 3 Sketches Through the Centuries- 1920's objects

Figure 4 Ink and pencil sketches of early objects in the museum

This is going to be an exciting experiment that involves me relying on my key skills of observational drawing and painting, whilst also drawing on new skills of book binding and paper craft. I’m excited to bring this project to life and to illustrate the stories behind the fascinating objects MoDiP holds.

Student Creative
Judith Allen - MA Illustration

Wednesday, 4 December 2019

Student Creative: Jak Hansford

I was really pleased to get the chance to write a proposal for the Student Creative project with MoDiP. As an Undergraduate at the Arts University Bournemouth, I was able to familiarise myself with MoDiP and the collection it houses. Using the fantastic objects on offer, I was inspired to kick start projects, essays and sketchbook work.

Now studying on the MA Fine Art course at AUB, I have the chance to bring my perspective to this project and develop exciting pieces for MoDiP. As a textile artist I work a lot with colour, shape and texture. I will bring these elements of my work to the project and take full advantage of what MoDiP offers.

Observing, drawing and photographing carefully selected objects, I will be creating something exciting and tactile through one of my key skills, tufting. The image below will show you how a finished tufted piece will look, drawing inspiration from MoDiP objects that had previously inspired me.

Image 1: Close up of tufted piece showing interesting details

This process weaves fibres such as threads and yarns into a backing fabric and is mostly used within the industry of rug making. These are referred to as a pile and the length or technique can be changed for different purposes. Such as a ‘Cut pile’ in Image 1. They are cut to leave ‘tufts’ or fringed yarns. The second type of pile is known as the ‘Loop pile’. This forms a loop woven through the backing fabric leaving more of stitched look (Image 2).

Image 2: Combining techniques and introducing new fibres to loop pile tufting.

Tufting creates a soft, inviting and interactive surface that is very tactile and comforting. Self-teaching this skill, I have been able to find ways of making more contemporary pieces that really challenge the potential of this as an art form - some of which can be by combining techniques and introducing other fibres by hand (Image 2 and Image 3).

Image 3: Adding additional yarns for a fringed look and create more interactive movement

This commission will help further my research and allow a freedom of style through my inspiration of MoDiP's objects. Having studied them before, I know you don't have to work in or with plastics to use this resource effectively. My intention is to showcase this idea and show how beneficial MoDiP's collection can be to any area of study. This will be a fantastic chance to visit new areas within my own work and produce a piece entirely unique and new. I am excited to share this experience and cannot wait to update you all at the halfway point with how it is progressing!

Student Creative
Jak Hansford – MA Fine Art

Wednesday, 27 November 2019


We all need permission to play sometimes…permission to down tools, permission to stop worrying about deadlines and permission to well, just have a bit of (very sociable) fun. That was partly the idea behind Playtime, but we also saw it as a way of welcoming students into our wonderful museum space - the gateway to the amazing research resource that is MoDiP.

The first session saw students coming in tentatively at first, not quite sure what to expect - but within a few minutes becoming totally absorbed in a strategic game of Connect 4, giggling over a silly game of Funny Bunny or going all out (great for those with a competitive streak) with the fast and furious Hungry Hippos game. And for those with a steady hand, they were even able to defy gravity playing the ‘will they/won’t they’ balancing game comprising of lots of tiny chairs!

We also got the Lego out, all of it, all over the floor and went back to relive those magic moments as a child, when the possibilities of creating whatever you could dream up was at your fingertips.  It is actually a great way to let your creative juices run free, with no expectation of creating a masterpiece at the end of it. It can be a truly liberating experience – and of course it’s lots of fun, which is really the point.
And STOP PRESS, Playtime will be running each Wednesday lunchtime in MoDiP (12-2pm) from now until Christmas (except for Wednesday 4thDecember).  And talking of Christmas, look out for our Christmas Lego Challenge coming very soon – we want you to create six themed Christmas cameos during December, take selfies and share the festive fun on Instagram (tagging MoDiP of course!)

Julia Pulman, Museum Digital Communications Officer.

Wednesday, 20 November 2019

Le Mans

The cinema release of the film Le Mans 66 starring Matt Damon and Christian Bale this week transported me back to June this year when I experienced the historical race for the first time.  The 24hours of Le Mans is a motor race not just of speed but of endurance too.  The fastest car is not guaranteed the win if it is not reliable enough to keep going for the whole 24hours.   There is nothing worse than waking up in the morning to find that the car you were supporting broke down in the early hours.

I went on a ‘girls only’ trip, with an ex colleague from our time working at Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, which was great fun.  Whilst we were there I did a bit of plastics spotting and some not-plastics spotting.

Plastics spotting

We arrived on the Wednesday to take in all the support races and qualifying sessions on track, as well as the drivers parade through the streets of Le Mans itself.  We stayed in a campsite right inside the track with the now sadly departed Thomas Cook.  Having travelled by ferry, train, and tram, we were very pleased to not have to carry a tent or bedding as these were all provided as part of the package – the tent was even put up for us.  The nylon tent did a great job keeping us dry as the rain came down over night but did nothing to mask the sound of the cars on track, which actually became quite soothing, or our neighbours snoring, which did not.

 Our pre-erected Thomas Cook orange tent.

Some, but not all, of the cars had bodywork made of carbon-fibre composite which helps to keep the weight as low as possible.  Being lightweight means the cars can run faster and use less fuel but because they are so light they tend to want to take off so they need to have rear wings to help keep them on the ground.  The rear wing works in the opposite way to that of an aeroplane which uses the higher air pressure directed below the wing to lift the plane.  On the car the higher pressure is directed above the wing to push the car down so that it remains in contact with the road surface.

A rear wing for one of the LMP1 cars waiting to be put back on the car.
The weave of the carbon fibre can be seen here clearly.

With the cars being lightweight, it is easy to lift them off the track when they crash or break down. For the safety of the volunteer marshals, all the drivers and the other cars, it is vitally important that cars can be removed from the track as quickly and as safely as possible.  The efficiency of the actions of the marshals and safety crew was demonstrated in front of where we were sitting during one of the qualifying races.

Lifting the car by two points on the roof.

Right next to the track, and open all year round, is a fascinating museum full of amazing historical cars and objects relating to key drivers.  One car that caught my eye was the little 1967 British Mini Marcos which has a fibreglass body.  In 2013, I came across a bright yellow Mini Marcos from the 1980s and wrote a blog post about it. 

A 1967 Mini Marcos, a similar car came 15th in the 24hour event in 1966.

The grandstand seats were made of a plastic material which is probably something like polypropylene although some spectator seats are made of high density polyethylene.  What was interesting is how the seats have degraded outside in the elements and how they are only replaced when they really need to be.

The new green seats stand out against the different degrees of faded yellow.
The degradation takes its time to run across the whole seat.
The seats looked like they were crumbling but still had a useful life in them.
Even with a hole in it this seat can still take the weight off your feet.

Not-plastics spotting

When at a race track full of fuel-guzzling cars it might seem strange to find small environmentally friendly activities, but the quiet way some of the food stalls were moving away from wasteful single-use plastics was commendable. We were charged an extra Euro for souvenir cups which could then be reused (saving you that extra Euro on your next beer).  There were different cups with a range of sizes including pint, half pint, espresso, and champagne.

The reusable cups were too good to throw away.

Where there could have been plastic used to serve food, some stalls used paper plates or trays.  I had a delicious waffle covered in Nutella which could have proved disastrous on this flat card tray, I am so glad I didn’t drop it.

You will have to take my word for how delicious my waffle was.

To counter the quiet environmentally-friendly activity, was the shocking number of unnecessary give-aways that were thrown to the crowds during the drivers’ parade.  The streets were scattered with wrist bands, flags, hats, toy figures, keyrings, and frisbees that the people in the crowds called out for but then discarded.

Drivers handing out give-aways
The crowds grabbing for goodies that they probably won’t keep.

I am not sure what the outfit this poor person had to wear was made of but it was a warm afternoon and they must have been rather hot, I hope it was breathable.

The Michelin Man offered high-fives and hugs for all.

Louise Dennis (Curator of MoDiP)