Wednesday, 12 May 2021

Shopping Bag 329/Hinza Bag

From a collections care perspective, it is always great to welcome a brand-new object into the collection. That way we can be relatively certain the material will behave in the way we expect it to over time, when we display and store it.

A lovely, brand new object in the collection.
Image credit: Katherine Pell

Most objects, however, have had a life before they join us and exhibit signs of use and wear. From an interpretation perspective this is extremely valuable information in helping to tell that object’s story.

A lovely, worn and used object in the collection.
Image credit: Katherine Pell

What gets really interesting though, is when you have the rare opportunity to study the same design in both an old and new object. This was recently made possible for MoDiP when we received a Perstop bag and a Hinza bag through a generous donation from Karin Bachstätter, the CEO of Hinza AB and great granddaughter of Perstorp founder Wilhelm Wendt.

The Perstop bag (right) and Hinza bag (left)
Image credit: Katherine Pell

I first became interested in this bag after reading an article in
Plastics Today in 2019. I thought it would be a perfect addition to our collection as it tells an interesting story about changing perceptions of the plastics material.

AIBDC : 008597, Shopping Bag 329, c.1950s.
Image credit: Katherine Pell

The Shopping Bag 329 (also known as the Perstop Bag) was created in the 1950s by Perstop AB, a Swedish plastics manufacturer, and designed in-house.

Shopping Bag 329 with original label from the personal collection of Thomas Lindblad.
Image credit: Thomas Lindblad

The ergonomic shape was both durable and sturdy, retaining its form, and was made available in a variety of colours with a glossy, wipe-clean surface and stylish moulded-in stripes. The bag quickly became very popular in Sweden but fell out of favour during the 1960s when supermarkets started to give away free plastic carrier bags. Coincidentally, these were also invented by a Swede (Sten Gustaf Thulin, in 1959) although they were never intended to be a single-use product:

The Shopping Bag 329 is considered a Swedish design classic.

Image credit:

However, with more recent environmental concerns, in 2006 Karin Bachstätter decided to re-introduce the bag, still manufactured in polyethylene but this time using sugar cane as the raw material, a renewable resource, instead of oil.

AIBDC : 008598, Hinza Bag, 2020.
Image credit: Katherine Pell

The bag is considered so original and distinctive that it has been granted copyright protection as an article of Applied Art by the Swedish Society of Crafts and Design and in 2019, Perstorp AB transferred the intellectual property rights to Hinza AB: the design is now officially recognised as the Hinza bag.

Moulded-in maker's mark, AIBDC : 008598.
Image credit: Katherine Pell

In use it is a lovely size and shape with a secure, comfortable LDPE shoulder strap, it can be stacked if you want to store several at the same time and easily wiped clean making it extremely versatile. In addition to being used as a practical bag, I have read about people using them as bicycle baskets, for general storage around the home as well as in the garden. The design is original, sleek and modern, despite being seventy years old, and the Hinza has now been made available in two sizes, in a range of bright and cheery colours, with accessories such as cool-bags, covers and linings. I particularly like the large, bioplastic version in olive green and have already put in a request with my family for my next birthday!

MoDiP’s examples can all be viewed on request.

Katherine Pell
Collections Officer 

Wednesday, 5 May 2021

EasyRoller 2 wheelchair

I have recently been in the position of caring for someone whose mobility has been somewhat compromised and consequently I have discovered some of the ‘delights’ of using a wheelchair to help with this. I appreciate that there are a lot of wheelchairs available for a whole range of different needs and uses, but the ones I have been using have been either the 'fold it up and put it in the boot of the car' sort for those times when it is just too far to walk for the person I have been assisting, or the 'one-size-fits-all' porter style, helpfully provided by the NHS to assist with getting from A to B down the miles of hospital corridors. Neither of these two options are an enjoyable experience either for the chair user or for myself, having to cope with somewhat basic design and function. Nevertheless, the wheelchair has proved to be an invaluable aid and we are grateful for having access to one when needed. 

There is, I have discovered, a rather more swish model on the market, specifically for use in hospitals, airports, pools etc, less institutionalised in appearance and one that offers a thoughtfully designed user experience for those occasions where materials from which wheelchairs are usually made just won’t do. It has been on the market for over a decade now and has had remarkably few problems or faults in that time. 

The EasyRoller 2, AIBDC : 008620
Image credit: Pam Langdown

The EasyRoller 2 is made completely from plastic materials. It is intended for use in situations like MRI scanning rooms in hospitals and airport security where metal framed chairs could be a problem. It is also perfect for assisting those with mobility difficulties to get into a swimming pool. For pool use, the chair is available without seat and back padding to avoid buoyancy, and to stabilize it in the water there is a mounted weight under the seat. Cavities in the chair quickly fill with water which drains away easily and there are no metal parts which might be affected by chlorine or corrode, so the chair can be wheeled directly into the pool. Every part is water resistant, including the padding on the seat and armrests, so the chair can be wiped or hosed down to clean. 

The wheel tubeless tyres are puncture-proof.
Image credit: Pam Langdown

As far as wheelchairs go, it is rather elegant. It has a supportive high back and a wide comfortable seat and is designed to offer a better user experience. It is very easy to manoeuvre. The handle, for someone pushing, is integrated into the back rest, the breaks are easy to access and the footrest rotates backwards when not required. There are no extra bits which need clipping on: its all there ready to go. OK, so its not suitable for putting in the boot of the car, and it isn’t intended for someone who uses a wheelchair all the time, but that’s not what it was designed for, and if I needed a wheelchair to help me negotiate airport security, hospital corridors or into the pool then I think this is the one I would want to be offered. …….and MoDiP now has one in its collection.

Detail of the wheel.
Image credit: Pam Langdown

The EasyRoller 1 began development in 2000 and was first introduced for sale in 2001. The EasyRoller 2 was developed in 2009. It was designed and developed by Eker Design in Norway and is produced in Germany. In July 2011 Eker Design was awarded the Red Dot design award for the Easy Roller, recognising its outstanding design and engineering, with the jury highlighting 'functional elements such as the steering handle, armrest and tipstop (which) are intelligently integrated into the design, lending the wheelchair an overall welcoming appearance'. In the same year it also achieved an Honours Award for Design Excellence from the Norwegian Design Council. 

I think this is a great example of the choice of the best materials for a particular application. In the current climate, where some plastics have a bad reputation, this wheelchair exemplifies why designers choose to work with plastics over other materials and why, in this instance, they really are the best material for the job.

Pam Langdown
Documentation Officer

Wednesday, 28 April 2021

Elephant stool, Sori Yanagi, 1954.

MoDiP has been fortunate enough to acquire two versions of Sori Yanagi’s Elephant Stool (see image below), a renowned example of Japanese post-war design and believed to be the world’s first completely synthetic stool.

Image ref: MoDiP’s Elephant Stools, manufactured by Habitat (left) and Vitra (right).
Image credit: Katherine Pell

Originally designed by Yanagi in 1954 as a work chair for his studio, the stool was commercially released by Japanese manufacturer Kotobuki two years later, after the company had developed the technology for mass producing glass-reinforced plastic (GRP). This material was first introduced into furniture through the launch of the Eames’ chair in 1950, a one-piece, moulded seat shell which could be combined with a variety of bases. By utilising GRP’s strength and rigidity, Yanagi was able to achieve the stability he required for his sculptural, curved-leg design. In 1960, it won the gold medal at the 12th Triennale di Milano, in a display showcasing Japanese plastics manufacturing and mass production capability.

Image ref: Can you see the elephant?
Image credit: Katherine Pell

The unique design quickly became known as the Elephant Stool because the form evoked a stylised trunk when viewed head-on and, because the material was waterproof, it soon became popular for use outdoors: it is quite common to find Japanese examples that have had holes drilled in for extra drainage. Kotobuki continued production until the late 1970s, then only making stools to order until 2000.

Image ref: Habitat advert for the stool, retailing at £39 (AIBDC : 003087, p. 97).
Image credit: Katherine Pell

That same year, Habitat, as part of its 20th century classics range, collaborated with Yanagi to re-release the stool in GRP with a small, rubber cushion added underneath the seat to protect the furniture when stacked. Unfortunately, quality issues caused production to cease after only a few years. In 2004, it was re-engineered by Vitra, alongside Yanagi, to create a model in polypropylene that was still faithful to the original design. It is these last two examples that MoDiP has now added to the collection, both in white for ease of comparison.

Image ref: The GRP material of the Habitat stool (left) and Yanagi’s logo on the polypropylene Vitra model (right).
Image credit: Katherine Pell

Sori Yanagi (1915 – 2011) was successful in combining his own cultural upbringing with ideas of Western Modernism. He fostered a deep appreciation of Japanese folk art and craft processes through his father, who had founded the mingei movement in the 1920s. He studied at the Western Painting Department of the Tokyo Fine Arts School, graduating in 1940. He then began working with French architect and industrial designer Charlotte Perriand, who was acting as an advisor to the Japanese Ministry of Trade and Industry, where he became interested in product design. Between 1942-1945 he worked as a researcher at the Junzo Sakakura Institute of Architecture and, after a period of military service, returned to Japan in 1946 to begin research into industrial design, opening the Yanagi Industrial Design Institute in 1950.

Image ref: A selection of Yanagi’s designs.
Image credit:

In addition to the Elephant stool, his body of work includes the iconic Butterfly stool, another celebrated furniture design, as well as a range of porcelain, various kitchenware, an Olympic torch (twice), a bridge and even a motorbike! He also wrote and presented widely on the subject of design, taught at several universities, was appointed director of the Japan Folk Crafts Museum in 1977 and received numerous awards throughout an illustrious career. At the age of 89 he was still advocating designing in traditional ways, starting with pencilled drawings and then sculpting prototypes; a philosophy he called ‘thinking by hand’

Image ref: Sori Yanagi with an early hand sculpted prototype of the Elephant stool.

Image credit:


Wednesday, 21 April 2021

Classic design: Panton chair

In March, MoDiP was invited by the BPF to provide a short series of webinars about classic design inspired by objects in the MoDiP collection. 

One of these talks was inspired by the Panton chair which was designed by Verner Panton in 1960 but the example we have is much later and I will explain a bit more about that shortly but let’s start by looking at the designer and his style.

Verner Panton was born in Denmark in 1926, he trained as an architectural engineer at the Odense Technical School and studied at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen. In his early career, he was employed by John Tommerup, Poul and Simon Henningsen, and Arne Jacobsen, before starting his own design studio in 1955.

Initially he fitted out a Volkswagen minibus as a mobile studio and drove around Europe to visit designers and manufacturers.  This gave him an international outlook.

Below on the right at the bottom you can see his first ‘plastic’ chair (click on the image to make it bigger) – the first of a series of ‘Plexiglass’ chairs 1960, and at the top his inflatable stool from 1961 both from Plus-Linje.

Panton was known for bold, cool, fun interiors which you can see him and his family in here.  These are sculptural, experimental and sensational.  The image on the left of the screen shows his living tower from 1968 with multiple sitting positions.   He wanted to provoke people into using their imagination and to make their surroundings more exciting.

By reimaging ‘the chair’ with its four legs Panton opened up design for others, he took risks and created emotive products.

Colour was important to Panton – he said ‘choosing colours should not be a gamble. It should be a conscious decision. Colours have a meaning and a function.’

Panton was particularly interested in experimenting with the new industrial materials and technologies that emerged in the post-war period. He developed a cantilever chair in wood during the 1950s but was interested in creating a similar seat in plastics.

Apparently, a stack of plastic buckets in a factory inspired Panton to design a stackable chair made using plastic. He was now moving away from wood which was one of the materials favoured by his contemporaries.

By 1960, Panton had designed a chair that could potentially be mass-produced in a single piece, but due to technical difficulties arising from the use of the chosen material, rigid polyurethane foam, it was not successful.  He worked closely with Danish plastics manufacturer Dansk Akrylteknik who created a prototype in 1962 but not ready for mass-production

The chair was not adapted for commercial production until 1967, when an injection moulded glass-reinforced polyester version was marketed in six colours applied after moulding, this chair was very heavy with high production costs due to there being lots of finishing required.

In 1970, the material was changed to Luran-S, a trade name for ASA (Styrene Acrylonitrile Copolymers), an injection moulded, non-reinforced thermoplastic. There was then a long break in production when the chair fell out of favour in the 1970s. Only to be reissued in the 1990s and is still in mass-production today with new colourways, including a recently introduction glow in the dark version, however, this is achieved by applying 5 layers of phosphorescent varnish by hand to the moulded chair so not really in the spirit of the design.

Panton was quoted as stating in 1969 that he believed that the status of objects would change and be questioned, seeing individual pieces become less important and that he was ‘certain that within five to eight years’ time suites of furniture will be made in one piece.’

Ironically, his own chair has become important and iconic, stylish and desirable.

If you look closely on the underside of this black version you can see the structural ribbing which was used in earlier Luran S versions to provide strength in a vulnerable part of the chair – this is not needed in later iterations.

There are a number of ways in which we you can tell when a design has become an icon, one is when it is used in other art forms: 

The photographer Brian Duffy used the chair in 1971 in this provocative photo sequence “How to undress in front of your husband” which was published in Nova magazine.  In the 1990s the model Kate Moss was photographed naked on a Panton chair for the front cover of Vogue magazine.

Of course, there should be a nod towards the objectification of women, but that it is for another day. But from the chairs point of view it is still being seen as sexy over period of more than 20 years.

In 2010 Vitra launched a national Panton Chair Competition. In the search for the best customized Panton Chair, architects and designers were asked to present their unique idea for the classic design piece.

All 31 entries were auctioned after the competition and the proceeds went to the charity Shelter.

Here are the top 3 from Jump Studios, Ben Adams Architects and Maris Interiors.

The chair is still produced today and used in a variety of settings.  As we look at this white interior, I want you to think back to Panton’s own interior style – they couldn’t be any more different and yet what links them is the classic, timeless chair.

In contrast I would like to share some of the other chairs we have in the MoDiP collection. The chair at the top is the E Series chair was originally designed by Robin Day in 1971 and was based on his Polypropylene chair from 1963. The polypropylene chair was the first mass -produced injection moulded polypropylene shell chair in the world.  The same seat could be used with different legs or mounted in stadium terracing.  This particular form of the seat was created for the educational setting.

The Hembury chair is designed and made by Solidwool, a company based in Buckfastleigh, Devon. The company was conscious that sheep farmers were struggling with a diminishing market for the coarse fleeces of hill and moorland sheep, and they wanted to bring industry back to the area. They now produce hand crafted furniture using a bio-composite material, developed by them, which uses wool as the reinforcing ingredient in a bio-based resin. 

The Flux Junior is a child's version of the one-piece folding Flux Chair. This innovative design started off as a graduation project of Douwe Jacobs. It is made from a single piece of flat polypropylene which is then folded up and slotted together.

The chair at the bottom is made in five blow moulded parts.  After blow moulding the legs and seat, the hollow space is filled with high pressure air which creates strong, structural components. This method of production means the use of the PET it is made of is kept to a minimum and the total weight of the chair is only about 1kg.


The last two that I would like to show you are these stools

The Oneshot is 3D printed in one piece – not as separate pieces that are then assembled. From a folded position, a gentle push on the central handle makes the piece untwist and unfold into a stool. From an open position, the stool can be returned to its storage position by lifting the handle.

Tom Dixon’s Fresh Fat chair is interesting because it is made of extruded PETG, which is extremely glossy.  The material is then hand-looped meaning that each chair is different with the style of the looping being like an individual’s handwriting.  The image on the left shows where the material has been cut at the end of the process, which I think is a really special feature showing the chair’s handmadeness.  

 Louise Dennis, Curator of MoDiP