Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Towards a Plastics Research Group

A number of the Arts University Bournemouth’s Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture staff met with MoDiP staff over lunch for a preliminary discussion about the University’s Plastics Research Group. The meeting was convened by myself, Susan Lambert, Head of the Museum of Design. I set the Group in the context of the University’s research strategy and sketched out the extent to which plastics have infiltrated creative practice. Also, I clarified that the Group’s role was not specifically to champion plastics: exploration of their negative as well as their positive impact and potential is valid.

We were especially glad to have the Faculty Dean, Bryony Conway, with us. Her contributions were invaluable and led to the agreement that the Group aims to stimulate, enable and nurture people undertaking research in this subject area with a view to increasing published outputs.

The participants discussed how the Group could be relevant to and foster their work.

Will Strange, Senior Lecturer BA (Hons) Modelmaking, is currently applying to undertake an MA in creative thinking which will focus on issues raised by a unit he teaches involving the laser cutting of acrylic sheets into intricate shapes. There was synergy between this research area and that of Russell Gagg, Course leader BA (Hons) Interior Architecture and Design, who is interested in the exploration of form that is achievable uniquely through 3-D printing, essentially a polymer technology. A discussion about plastics as simultaneously enablers and disablers and their influence on maker culture, venturing at times into pedagogical territory, ensued.

E-J Scott , Lecturer BA (Hons) Fashion, was previously Assistant Curator of Costume at the National Trust and has a passion for collecting and collections. He is interested in undertaking a PhD with a curated output. Currently he is writing a paper to be delivered to the Costume Society on Crimplene, a polyester yarn developed by ICI in the 1950s, and its role in the democratisation of fashion. He argues that the reproduction in Crimplene of Mary Quant’s A-line mini-skirts was crucial to the wide-adoption of that fashion.

Kirsten Hardie, National Teaching Fellow and Associate Professor who was instrumental in setting up the Museum, has a three-fold interest in plastics: as a teaching resource, in the forms of food packaging and in their relation to popular taste, currently as embodied in plastic flowers. Her use of the word ‘stigma’ in connection with the latter rang a bell with E-J Scott and led Elena Crehan to reflect that the stigma associated with synthetic textiles up to about ten years ago has gone. She believes this is because synthetic textiles are being used less to imitate more expensive natural materials and more to create effects not possible with their natural counterparts: that is for their own properties and their specific contribution to design.

Before joining the Arts University Bournemouth, Elena Crehan worked as a freelance designer for Alexander McQueen and Tom Ford, where she was involved with all aspects of design and make. She also designed and made textiles to create extraordinary couture shoes for Georgina Goodman. She specialises in hand embroidery, stitching and developing textiles for Fashion show garments and accessories. She is currently Lecturer for Fashion BA (Hons) and is specialising in textiles development and techniques with a special interest in the combination of hand and digital methods of making embroideries. This links to the interests of Will Strange and Russ Gagg.

Louise Dennis, Assistant Curator MoDiP, talked about the PhD she is undertaking at Brighton University. Her subject is the value of museums focused on single materials with MoDiP as a case study. One area of her research involves how attitudes to a plastics museum differ from those showcasing traditional materials.

A recurring topic through the lunch was the relationship between everyday classroom activity and research: how the former differs from the latter and also how it can become the latter. A requirement for guidance on mechanisms for the publication of work and clarification about intellectual property in relation to the reproduction of images of designed objects also became apparent.

The need for a statement of intent for the group including targets in terms of outputs and frequency of meetings was raised. People liked meeting over lunch but would have also liked it to be possible to have objects present. We thought we should not be too ambitious but also that momentum should not be lost. Perhaps we should aim to meet once a term and to publish one or two papers annually. A statement of intent for the group will be prepared in time for discussion at the next meeting.

Channa Vithana, Senior Lecturer BA (Hons) Architecture, and Iain Archer, Senior Lecturer BA (Hons) Fashion, had been interested in attending but had other commitments. We hope they may join the group in the future and also that we will gather additional participants from the Faculty of Media and Performance.

Susan Lambert (Head of MoDiP)

Monday, 21 March 2016

Bank Holiday Closure

MoDiP will be closed from Friday 25th March along with the rest of the AUB campus for the Easter Bank Holidays.

We will reopen Wednesday 30th March.

Happy Easter from the team

Susan, Pam, Katherine & Louise

Friday, 18 March 2016

Did you know? #39

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

Eat in or take out: plastics for portability

When it comes to snacking and eating on the move, you cannot beat plastic. The nature of the material means that it is cheap to make, highly disposable, light to carry, durable and insulating.

Food and drink have always been consumed away from the dining table; from tin miners eating Cornish Pasties and farm workers in the fields drinking cider from a crock; to pop corn and giant fizzy drinks in the cinema and ready meals in front of the TV.

With the invention of plastics, and subsequent advances in technology, munching away from the table has never been so simple.

So, the choice is yours do you want eat in or take out?

Louise Dennis, (Assistant curator)

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Sian de Jong - Student Creative

This is my second blog post for the student in creative position with the Museum of Design in Plastics. Throughout the project I have been constantly reflecting on the interviews I conducted with the museum team and the selected objects that arose from these discussions.

I have ordered the exact replica of these objects in order to handle and use in my project. The classic green garden chair, Hazel the rabbit napkin holder and shower cord from Sarah Bayley’s plastic handbag. I was unable to find a Ming vase or an object of similar shape to use, instead I will be taking inspiration from its 22.2cm diameter and its seven tiers. 

Garden chiar - AIBDC : 007140
Hazel - AIBDC : 006667

Sarah Bayley' Rhoda bag - AIBDC : 005902
My piece seems to be revolving around math calculations to work out circumferences of the various sized circles to create a tiered effect sculpture. These tiers are inspired by the Ming vase that is in the museum collection.

Ming vase - AIBDC : 007036
Ming vase - AIBDC : 007036

I will be working with clear perspex acrylic material to create a final piece to exhibit in the middle of April. I will be using processes such as the vacuum former, line bender and plastic fusing. I have ordered five sheets of perspex casting plastic sized to fit the vacuum former.

This week I am going to begin constructing the rings of the tiers, the smallest ring being 6cm and the largest 50cm. I will also start experimenting with the vacuum former to recreate features of the selected objects in the clear Perspex acrylic. These features or particular areas of the objects will be integrated within the piece on display. Parts of the objects will be recognisable to the audience and encourage them to try figure out which object it has come from.

Below are some images of my sketchbook and the making process:


Sian de Jong (Student Creative)

Sian de Jong is a final year BA (hons) Fine Art student at the Arts University Bournemouth.

Monday, 14 March 2016

A different view #30

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: Red pepper cruet
Designer: Unknown
Manufacturer: Unknown
Object number: AIBDC : 0_6541

Louise Dennis (Assistant Curator)

Friday, 11 March 2016

Guess the object

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, 9 March 2016

Sarah Wilson - Student Creative

Object selection

As I wanted to focus my project on 1950’s domestic plastics, I carefully selected ten items on the MoDiP website search from the era that I felt had the most interesting shapes and could work together in a printed design. There were 777 plastic objects to choose from so it was challenging to narrow it down to such a limited amount, however the colours of the plastics were also something I wanted to take into consideration and this made the decision a little easier. 

To begin with, I went into the museum and observed the ten objects that I had chosen, drawing out the smaller details and general shape of each one. As well as this I photographed them, making sure that I could recall colour information and any other necessary details later on.

Milk Aid - PHSL : 198
Quickmix Major Manual Food Mixer - PHSL : 137
Midwinter Modern Cup - AIBDC : 005394
Tupperware Juicer - AIBDC : 002942
Pink Cheese or Butter Dish - AIBDC : 06481
Triangular Combined Salt and Pepper Pot - AIBDC : 0_6442
Large Isovac Vacuum Jug - AIBDC : 0_6444

Cream and Red Jug - AIBDC : 003557
Measuring Spoons - AIBDC : 006343sa
Acrylic Dish - AIBDC : 006311sa
Colour Palette

I created a colour palette by picking out colours from the photographs of the objects that I took when observing them in the museum. From these colours I picked six that complimented each other and would work well together. 

Sketchbook pages

At this point I began to recreate some of the objects by collaging their basic shapes and playing around with the different colours chosen and seeing how they worked together in smaller groups.

Sketchbook pages
Colour palette
CAD Embroidery

After establishing some colours and creating some basic designs, I was able to scan these and put them into a program where I can transfer them to stitch designs that are sewn by a computerised machine.

CAD Embroidery
CAD Embroidery

I plan to continue with my digital print patterns and get them sent away for production soon, on their return I will be stitching into them using CAD embroidery (as above) and hand stitch methods.

Sarah Wilson (Student Creative)

Sarah is a final year BA (hons) Textiles student at the Arts University Bournemouth.

Monday, 7 March 2016

BXL photographic archive #0100

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 a decorative concrete panels that were cast in a GRP mould.

To get a better view of the image and find out more have a look at it on our website

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, 4 March 2016

Did you know? #38

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

Ways of seeing plastics

This was the first exhibition to be mounted since plastics became the museum's focus.
The exhibition presents different approaches to the study of products made of plastic. We hope it will fuel discussion about what does and does not work and thus contribute to the content of exhitions in the future.

The artefacts in each group are presented together in order to encourage you to think about them in a specific way, each group addressing a different approach.
The areas the groups of artefacts explore are:

  • the materials of which they are made
  • the methods of their manufacture
  • the decade of their production
  • the subject of which they are a part
  • a design principle they have in common
  • a form they share
  • the context of their use
  • the characteristics of a single product
  Louise Dennis (Assistant Curator)