Wednesday, 18 November 2020

My plastics at home: part 2.

As we are now in the second coronavirus lockdown, I thought it would be interesting to re-visit the My plastics at home blog series. The MoDiP team are all working from home for some, if not all, of the week (staff involved in tasks that require access to the collections continue to come onto campus), so I decided to ask everyone to contribute. The brief was to send me a picture of a favourite plastics object from home, with a brief description of what the object is and why they chose it. This is what we came up with:

Professor Susan Lambert, MoDiP’s Chief Curator


I have known this little swan all my life. It is a soap dish that floated in my bath when I was a small child in the late 1940s. I re-met it when I was clearing out my mother’s house some fifteen years ago and now it puts a smile on my face every day. It appeals to me because it provides such a succinct lesson in plastics manufacture. It was made in England for Gantoy and is a relatively early example of injection moulding. The gate – the point at which the plastics enter the moulding tool – can be seen clearly on the back of the swan’s head. And, manufactured in three parts with the wings snap-fitted to the body, it demonstrates an early example of a form of fixing unique to the plastics materials group.

Doctor Louise Dennis, MoDiP’s Curator


My object is an acrylic desk sign given to me by my colleagues. The sign is made up of three sections: a base with a stepped slot cut into it, a wide opaque black back panel, and a smaller clear front panel. The front panel has the words ‘Dr. Louise Dennis, Museum of Design in Plastics’ laser etched into it so that the semi-translucent, almost white letters stand out against the black back drop. The sign means a lot to me because it represents a long journey and a lot of hard work, which all came to a conclusion during lockdown when I have not been able to celebrate my achievement. Being called Dr. makes me giggle every time, it seems so surreal, I must learn to get used to it and this sign will help me do just that.

Pam Langdown, MoDiP’s Documentation Officer


During lockdown, in particular, I seem to have spent quite a lot of time in the kitchen, trying to come up with something interesting for dinner. One of the things I use almost daily is this green colander, made from injection moulded polypropylene by Mepra of Italy. I bought it some years ago and I have the feeling that it will be one of those kitchen tools that will be with me for many years to come. I have three colanders in my kitchen cupboard but this is the one I prefer. I like it for its simple, uncomplicated design. It is the one I pick up in preference to the others. The choice of material means that it doesn’t require ribs for strength, so there are no nooks and crannies created in moulding that hold onto stray soap bubbles and make it difficult to dry after washing, and the drain holes are small enough that strands of spaghetti don’t sneak through. Its’ tripod arrangement of feet means that it is stable and, coincidentally, they are spaced just the right distance apart that it fits into the half sink and stays put without toppling over when I drain vegetables or pasta. It has frequently been used to transport freshly picked tomatoes, raspberries, herbs, and salad leaves etc. from the garden to the kitchen. And, inverted, I think it has even been used for kid’s dressing up as some sort of head gear. I predict that it will be in my kitchen cupboard long after other things have fallen by the wayside, and all for the price of a couple of cups of coffee. What a bargain.

Julia Pulman, MoDiP’s Digital Communications Officer


This Elizabethan collar (the cone of shame) that my dog is seen wearing in this picture is made from low-density polyethylene. It is flexible enough for him to lay his head down and sleep whilst being stiff enough to restrict his range of movement so that he is unable to worry his bandaged foot. It has air holes to help with ventilation, is transparent to aid vision and navigation and wipe-clean for hygiene purposes (especially useful after meals!). Despite the fact that my dog looks a little unhappy wearing this plastics object, it really did help with his recovery and he has now returned to his normal self.

And, as for me…

Katherine Pell, MoDiP’s Collections Officer


As Bakelite was once marketed as the material of a thousand uses, I feel this object should be promoted as one that will save a thousand arguments. Certainly in my house anyway. I bought this Tangle Teezer hairbrush for my daughter about ten years ago and it is still going strong, albeit a little battered. The soft polyester ‘teeth’ are arranged in alternate rows of longer and shorter lengths, which bend and flex to detangle the hair without pulling or tugging (or screaming!). The injection moulded, polypropylene body is ergonomically shaped to fit comfortably in the palm of the hand. It was designed by a British hairdresser, is made in the UK and has won numerous awards since its launch in 2007. I have calculated that ours has so far been used over 7000 times!

Katherine Pell, Collections Officer, MoDiP.

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