Wednesday, 22 March 2023

Margrethe mixing bowl, Jacob Jensen, 1954.

Given that it is Nordic Day tomorrow, Thursday 23rd March 2023, I thought it would be apt for this blog to celebrate a lovely piece of Danish design from the MoDiP collections.

AIBDC : 008850 and 008849
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The Margrethe mixing bowl was originally designed by Jacob Jensen in 1954, whilst working at the design studio of Bernadotte & Bjørn Industridesign A/S, Denmark’s first industrial design studio. It was founded by Swedish silversmith and industrial and furniture designer Count Sigvard Bernadotte and Danish architect and designer Acton Bjørn in 1949. Jensen worked with the company from 1952-1958.

Left to right: Bernadotte, Bjorn and Jensen.
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(left) and

Rosti, manufacturers of melamine tableware, first began looking to add a mixing bowl to their product line in 1947. Over several years they undertook research, asking groups of housewives to test a series of competitors' bowls and rate them for their positive and negative points. They found that their customers wanted a bowl that had high sides to enable activities such as stirring and whipping without spillage, but that also had a pouring lip and a handle. Furthermore, it needed to be lightweight, durable and robust. The company approached Bernadotte & Bjørn with the design brief, which was handed over to Jacob Jensen, a newly qualified industrial designer from the School of Arts and Crafts (Denmark).

Compression moulded in melamine formaldehyde, the bowl was named by Bernadotte (who was the brother of Queen Ingrid of Denmark) after his niece who would later become Queen Margrethe II of Denmark. Launched in time for Christmas 1954, it was made available in three sizes that could stack inside one another, in the colours red, white, blue, yellow and green. It proved an instant success and has gone on to become a design classic with over 25 million sold worldwide to date.

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The rubber anti-slip ring around the base was added in 1966, and matching lids in polypropylene followed along with additional bowl sizes and colours. The Margrethe has won numerous awards such as the ID Classic Prize for designs that have been in production for over 25 years, and it has even appeared on a stamp (refer image above). There are examples in many different museum collections and it is regularly featured in exhibitions.

On display in the ‘Design: the problem comes first’ exhibition, V&A, 1983.
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At MoDiP, we currently have two examples: a 3 litre capacity bowl in white dated to the 2000s and a 4 litre capacity bowl in red dated to the 1970s. We also have some other objects designed by Bernadotte and Bjørn such as the Roda Clara can opener and the Taffel picnic set. All of these can be viewed in the museum on request.

I want an oversized Margrethe bowl to use as a planter too!
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Katherine Pell
Collections Officer 

Wednesday, 15 March 2023

Our latest exhibition - Reuse.

This week we have been busy taking down our last exhibition, Endurance, and installing our new exhibition, Reuse. We have been joined by one of our volunteers, MA Fine Art student Sourabh Sharma, seen in the images below emptying the cases and wrapping objects for their return to storage.

Although MoDiP often refers to plastics recycling initiatives through our ongoing interpretation and engagement programmes, the Reuse exhibition was an opportunity to examine industry responses to recent legislation.

In 2019, the EU published a directive that aimed to promote circular approaches to manufacturing in an attempt to reduce quantities of generated waste. For similar reasons, in 2022, the UK Government introduced a tax on plastics packaging, and in the same year the UN adopted a resolution to end plastic pollution.

As consumers, we should take responsibility for the purchases we make and consider the environmental impact of those choices. However, these laws will help to encourage designers and manufacturers to take their share of the responsibility through, for example, using materials effectively and efficiently.

Pam (left) and Louise (right) installing objects.
Image credit: Katherine Pell

The objects on display will demonstrate ways in which the reuse of raw materials, as well as products, can help to reduce our reliance on single-use plastics. They will also show how products can be created to support recycling at the end of their useful life, and provide a variety of ways that a single recycling resource can be used.

In light of the subject of this exhibition, we also wanted to re-evaluate the sustainability of our own practices. For example, several years ago we made the decision to avoid using foam core board in our exhibitions because it is difficult to recycle, favouring in-house printing of text on paper placed in reusable acrylic mounts. This year we have made the decision to stop using non-recyclable vinyl lettering for our case headings. The image above shows Pam scraping some of this off of one of the glass doors, with the used film being either sent for landfill or incineration through normal waste. To counter this we have chosen to incorporate each case theme within the paper text panels. It may not be as immediate visually but it is certainly more sustainable. 
The Reuse exhibition will officially open on Friday 17th March and will be on display until 8th September 2023.

Katherine Pell
Collections Officer

Wednesday, 8 March 2023

Endurance: out at sea

This is the final blog post relating to our current exhibition, Endurance, which closes at the end of this week. 

Every year, an estimated 236,000 people drown, making drowning a major public health problem worldwide[1].  This figure includes in rivers, pools and at sea.  The best way to prevent drowning at sea is to avoid entering the water, some of the ways to do this are featured in the exhibition. This is not always possible and so the object I am featuring in this blog post is the Fibrelight Self-Recovery Ladder.

 Fibrelight Recovery Ladders, AIBDC : 009366

Fibrelight Recovery Ladders, AIBDC : 009366

Fibrelight Recovery Ladders, AIBDC : 009366

This ladder is a rescue device designed for fishing boats or similar craft with solo or limited crew.  The rope-style ladder is rolled up and contained within a bag which would be attached to the side of the vessel.  This bag has a ‘burst-zip’, this is a mechanism which remains closed when the ladder is not needed, however, as the cord is pulled down through the middle of the closure, the zip bursts open and releases the ladder.  The adjustable cord allows the ladder to be pulled from the bag by a user who has fallen overboard, the bottom of the ladder falls into the water and the casualty can climb back into the vessel without any further assistance.

The ladder in use

The ladder in use

The ladder in use

The ladder has been designed for use by a single person and can be deployed in seconds. The ladder has a width of 600mm and is manufactured in half metre lengths from 1-3 metres, this example being 1 metre long. It has no mechanical moving parts and as such requires no maintenance other than visual inspections. The rungs are made of carbon fibre composite other than the bottom rung which is made of stainless steel in order that the ladder sinks to a level in line with the user's foot.

The ladder in use

The patent for the design of the ladders was applied for in 2007 by Fibrelight Developments Limited with the inventors listed as Anthony James Patrick Hobbs and David Allan Taylor. The ladder is produced and distributed by CQC Ltd under contract from Fibrelight Developments Ltd and a white bagged version is available for super yachts. With most super yachts being white in colour this version will fit in more tastefully, but the bright yellow will be visually easier to see and manoeuvre to once in the water.

Louise Dennis, Curator of MoDiP


Wednesday, 1 March 2023

Is it ever too cold for ice cream?

Short answer: no, certainly not in my house! And certainly not in MoDiP either as we have some great objects linked to this tasty desert which I would like to share with you here.

Image credit: Katherine Pell

First up is this child’s toy in the shape of a football (refer image above). What does that have to do with ice cream I hear you ask? Well, it is a Tonibell Miniball and originally contained the vanilla flavoured sweet treat. Available in red, white, blue, green, yellow and orange colours with a removable lid, it sold for one shilling in 1968 and, once consumed, the plastics packaging could be used as a ball.

Manufactured for Tonibell, a company founded in 1937 by Toni Pignatelli (then called Tonis) which made, sold and delivered icecream, the name change occured in the 1960s, combining the name Toni with the Italian word Bellissima. As the business expanded a fleet of icecream vans was acquired, first branded in blue but later pink, that operated throughout the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s in the Kent, London and Surrey areas. This object was donated to MoDiP by Abergavenny Museum who were originally gifted the ball by Llanover School in 1978. It will feature in our next exhibition, Reuse (opens 17th March 2023).

Image credit: Katherine Pell

Next up is a similar tub but this time in the shape of an orange (refer image above). Once again blow moulded in polyethylene, it was manufactured by German ice cream maker Scholler. The skeuomorphic design has an injection moulded, lift-off lid in a slightly darker shade and the injection gate has been cleverly hidden amongst the 'peel'. We think it dates to the 1990s, but it could be earlier. Apparently, these were delicious. Yum!

Image credit: MoDiP

These oversized Big Love vibrant bowls (refer image above), designed by Miriam Mirri for Alessi in the 2000s, are always a popular choice for object inspiration amongst the students at AUB. They are made from injection moulded acrylic with a stainless-steel removable liner and a long handled, heart shaped spoon. Believe it or not they are intended for sharing – whoever heard of such a thing?

Image credit: MoDiP

Finally, this rather endearing I Scream ice cream scoop, designed by Orange of Darmstadt for Koziol in 1997. Injection moulded in polystyrene, the transparent handle is filled with static bubbles and the anthropomorphic figure’s wide opened mouth cleverly acts as the spoon. Currently on display in the ‘Three Collections’ case outside the museum, it does seem to generate mixed reactions. Personally, I think it looks like it is singing, not screaming.

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If you would like to see any of these objects, please contact us.

Katherine Pell
Collections Officer 

Wednesday, 22 February 2023

Latrine slab, Oxfam, 2022

My favourite object from the ‘In a crisis’ case within MoDiP’s current exhibition, Endurance, is the rather plain looking latrine slab. Easily overlooked, it is actually a very important structural design solution to the problem of providing toilet facilities for the humanitarian sector.

AIBDC : 009124
Image credit: MoDiP

Designed by Oxfam's WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) team, circa 2000, in collaboration with manufacturing partner K.K. Nag Pvt. Ltd, in India, this self-supporting latrine slab was considered to be revolutionary at the time and has subsequently been adopted by aid agencies across the world.

2005 image of the latrine slab in use.
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MoDiP’s example is manufactured by Dunster House (Bedford, UK), Oxfam’s current official supplier. It is rotationally moulded in high density polyethylene (HDPE), thin and lightweight to allow for efficient stacking in order to reduce shipping costs and ease user handling. It is also very tough and strong, reinforced so that it can be placed over a trench or pit without the need for additional support from below.

Efficient stacking and lightweight.
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It has a key-hole shaped lid with a small lip that can be opened and closed with the foot, ensuring minimal contact, engraved with a 'Wash your hands' symbol to promote good hygiene.

Moulded detail on the key-hole lid.
Image credit: MoDiP

There are raised, non-slip foot plates to keep the user elevated from draining fluids and the material is less permeable to chemicals and moisture with an easy-clean, low maintenance finish. Ready to use, it is easy to install and can be adapted to incorporate a pour flush if sufficient quantities of local water are available.

Latrine superstructures need to consider both local materials and cultural preferences.
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Intended as a temporary toilet during the first phase of an emergency, to be housed within a superstructure for privacy, security and dignity (refer image above), one slab is recommended per 50 people, gradually reducing to 20 people per latrine over time.
Endurance is on display in the museum until 10th March 2023.
Katherine Pell
Collections Officer 

Wednesday, 15 February 2023

A pair of celluloid heels, part 1.

We recently acquired this lovely pair of celluloid heels (refer image below).

Image credit: Katherine Pell

They consist of a wooden heel that has been covered by a thin layer of black coloured cellulose nitrate (celluloid), which has then been decorated with paste stones and metal granulation/picotage. The heels are slightly different in height, and both have stones missing but this shows us how they were attached originally, ie. glued into a pre-drilled hole.
Cellulose nitrate had many uses and MoDiP has a great collection of decorative hair combs, billiard balls and table tennis balls (the material is still used today for the latter), smoking accessories, various tokens, ornamental boxes, and lots of other small housewares. British Xylonite Ltd were reportedly manufacturing celluloid covered boot heels in 1896 but surviving examples of the elaborately decorated women’s evening shoe heels seems to originate predominantly in France and the US. The Met Museum reports that ‘plain black celluloid-covered heels appeared in the late 1910s’, with jewelled versions becoming all the rage around 1925.

As hemlines became shorter, attention turned to the feet.

French wooden heel manufacturer Fernand Weil, Emile Petit & Co.was awarded
a gold medal at the International Exhibition of Industrial and Decorative Arts in 1925.
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The advantages of celluloid as a heel covering material were its affordability, consistent quality and availability, water-resistance and non-scuff qualities, as intimated in the advert below. Additionally, it could be produced in a variety of colours and finishes that imitated expensive natural materials such as tortoiseshell, ivory and mother-of-pearl.

Illustration from ‘The Shoe Buyer’s Manual’ 1933.
Image credit: Mustafaev, 2018, p.22.

To make the heels, first the celluloid sheets would be cut to the required size and shape – to demonstrate this, the image below is a 1932 patent for an efficient design to limit waste when covering Louis heels. Next, the individual covers are softened to make the material workable and when ready, a wooden heel blank would be clamped in a jack and the celluloid stretched around it and glued into place. Once cool, the decorative design would be laid out and holes drilled in the appropriate places for the insertion of paste stones etc.

Here are some great contemporary reports, courtesy of Nazim Mustafaev’s 2018 book ‘Celluloid heel’:
“Jewelled heels, which have been a Parisian specialty for some time, will become more and more popular. Nothing can look richer than a black celluloid heel, studded with imitation diamonds. There is infinite scope here for the decorator.” 
(Shoe and Leather Reporter, 1921, cited in Mustafaev, 2018, p.47).

“One great objection there was to the forerunners in celluloid heels; the possibility of them catching fire when the fair wearers happened to be toasting their feet, on a winter evening, before an open grate. This danger did indeed exist in some countries, although not in France, where we use stoves and central heating, nor in any part of the United States. Conservative England was the market where the danger was rife. However, British ladies may now choose celluloid heels without the slightest fear, for the substance is not inflammable, and dress materials will blaze up much more speedily than these new celluloid covered heels from our Parisian manufacturer, who … has his eye on the British and Colonial markets.” 
(Shoe and Leather Reporter, 1921, cited in Mustafaev, 2018, p.49).

“Black celluloid covered heels are also in large demand… They are so hard that a person can strike them with a hammer and they won’t chip or peel. Nor will they burn as will a celluloid collar.” 
(Boot and Shoe Recorder, 1912, cited in Mustafaev, 2018, p.50).

There are some amazing examples of these beautiful heels and we would love to acquire a more colourful pair but, sadly, these are rare to come by and very expensive. For now, we will have to stare longingly at those belonging to other museums and in personal collections.

Image credit: Mustafaev, 2018, p.86.

Image credit: Mustafaev, 2018, p.97.

Katherine Pell
Collections Officer

MoDiP would like to extend our thanks to Nazim Mustafaev for sending us a copy of his book and for allowing us permission to reproduce images in this blog.

Cruse, J. (2007). The comb: its history and development. London: Robert Hale.

Kaufman, M. (1963). The first century of plastics. London: Council of the Plastics Institute.

Mustafaev, N. (2018). Celluloid heel. Moscow: Shoe Icons.

Wednesday, 8 February 2023

WaterWheel, Wello, 2022

Water is an essential requirement for all life, but it is estimated that over two billion people live in areas where there is no access to clean water. Across the world many women and children travel long distances each day to collect water for drinking, hygiene and crop irrigation, affecting life chances for themselves and their families.

AIBDC : 009138
Image credit: MoDiP

MoDiP’s current exhibition, Endurance, looks at the ways in which plastics materials have been used in a variety of situations and environments to support life, including in areas of drought. It explores how plastics have been used to ease the burden of carrying clean water long distances, showcasing the Wello WaterWheel (refer image above), the brainchild of Cynthia Koenig. She was inspired to develop something to help alleviate the difficulties of collecting and carrying water which she had observed when living and working, for almost two decades, with communities throughout Central America, Southern Africa and South and Southeast Asia. She is a ‘firm believer in the potential for business to alleviate poverty in the developing world’ and has helped launch a range of ventures, of which the development, manufacture and distribution of the Wello WaterWheel is one.
It was the result of a series of pilot projects across India by a team who engaged with thousands of potential users, its shape inspired by the matka, an earthenware pot traditionally used in India for water storage in the home (refer image below).

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The drum, made from high density polyethylene (HDPE), is rolled on its side, with the help of a metal handlebar, rather than carried. It has reinforced axels that protect the outer skin of the WaterWheel from wear and tear and handholds on either side provide better handling. The balanced shape is designed to increase performance over rough terrain, and it can be managed easily by a child. Its 45 litre capacity enables more water to be transported at once, meaning fewer trips, resulting in more time to spend on childcare, school work or employment. Produced and distributed within India, it retails for an affordable price. 

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The Wello WaterWheel is on display in MoDiP until 10th March 2023, and here it is on the left, below, drawn by one of our talented MA Fine Art students who was sketching the museum back in November.

Image credit: Sourabh Sharma, November 2022.

Pam Langdown
Documentation Officer