Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Metaphorically speaking - the results

A creative writing workshop

As with air to breathing, metaphors are an essential part of all creative expression – they help bring writing alive, adding texture and nuance, allowing images to leap off the page.

On Saturday 21st March, I was joined by a wonderful group of creative writers for an exciting workshop that explored metaphors and poetry. We used the Museum of Design in Plastics as a starting point, exploring the exhibition – Is that plastic? skeuomorphs and metaphors in design – to unearth prompts and inspiration from the diverse range of objects. 

We developed techniques for improving tired metaphors and similes before discussing the poetry of Kapka Kassabova and the lyrics of Radiohead’s Thom Yorke, both of whom use plastics and metaphors in their writing.

Following this, the participants chose an item from the museum’s collection as inspiration for a poem which was then written up on plastic acetate – the results of which are show below. I was impressed by such a diverse range of writing styles and the participants produced some powerful work.


Dr James Cole 
AUB’s Writer in Residence

Monday, 27 April 2015

BXL photographic archive #0083

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 washing up bowl being made.

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, 24 April 2015

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, 22 April 2015

Plastics Spotting – in the most unexpected places

On a recent lovely, sunny Saturday, I took my family to visit Explosion! Museum of Naval Firepower in Gosport. I duly brought along my camera to do some plastics spotting, not knowing what I might find, and actually ended up bringing some home with me!

Can you guess what this is?

It is the nose cone from an artillery shell. The museum gift shop were selling a variety of Bakelite souvenirs – little shell relics that had been recovered from the former armaments depot of Priddy's Hard. I would never have guessed that plastics have been used in this way so I thought I would buy a piece and bring it into MoDiP to see if my colleagues had ever seen anything like it before. 

It turns out they had because we actually already have two in our collection - PHSL: 14 and PHSL: 122! I have been working at MoDiP for six months now and am constantly amazed at the variety and breadth of the objects in our care - there is still so much for me to learn!
Getting back to the visit…

We spent an entertaining afternoon walking round the exhibits, learning about the development of naval warfare. My favourite part was The Locker Room where each locker contains an object with an accompanying information panel or oral history sound recording that tells a personal story. For example, did you know that some of the Priddy’s Hard workers would suck nitro-glycerine to avoid conscription in WWII? Apparently it raises the blood pressure! 

Photo courtesy of Explosion - Museum of Naval Firepower © 2013

My children thoroughly enjoyed the interactives, especially experiencing the sensation of being on a moving ship, and spent some considerable time dressing up as the Home Guard, pirates and laboratory workers. 

Afterwards we went for a long walk along the harbour, admiring the stunning views, marvelling at the size of the ships and trying to spot HMS Victory in the distance. It was a really good day out and I would recommend you visit.

Katherine Pell (MoDiP Administrator)

Monday, 20 April 2015

A different view #11

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: Portadyne transistor radio
Designer: Illes Hofmeister
Manufacturer: Dynaport Radio and Television for Portadyne
Object number: AIBDC : 0_2180

Louise Dennis (Assistant Curator)

Friday, 17 April 2015

Threads: plastics wearing well

17th April - 4th September 2015

The word threads has been a slang term for clothing since the 1920s. It also describes the extraordinary variety of textile fibres from which our clothing is made.

From the development of the earliest semi-synthetic fibres in the second half of the 19th century, manufacturers have continued to create and improve the threads from which garments are made. The ability of plastics based fibres to insulate, protect, shape, and enhance the human form is a significant characteristic of the many man-made textiles that exist today.

This exhibition looks as some of the uses of semi-synthetic and synthetic fibres over the last century in everyday and specialist clothing.

Louise Dennis (Assistant Curator)

Friday, 10 April 2015

MoDiP closed

The Museum will be closed next week (13th -16th April) whilst we change our exhibition.  If you need any assistance during this week please send us an email.

Our new exhibition Threads: Plastics wearing well will open on Friday 17th April.

Louise Dennis (Assistant Curator)

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Pater Noster


I am often asked what is there to say about a chair made of plastic.

In the past I would probably have done what many people do, that is to ignore it, walk on by or take it for granted. My association with the Museum of Design in Plastics has changed all of that. I now look at the chair of plastics in a new light, it has become my friend and in a way my muse. I see a plastic chair everywhere and record its existence in image and verse, placing it centre stage in an inescapable relationship with all of us.

My latest contribution as student-writer-in-residence to MoDiP was conceived from a humble plastic chair observed with thousands of its comrades in a most extraordinary place. It is a place that is not normally recognised for its plastic chairs but other things entirely.

A trip to Rome is sure to be filled with art, architecture, history, pasta, coffee and colour. It assaults the senses and leaves its mark on most of those who travel from all over the world to visit its sites, ancient and new. It is also home to many plastic chairs, at the caf├ęs, bars, and restaurants where detached, imperious staff are eager to draw in the many visitors who have come to share Rome’s colourful way of life, for a few days, a week, perhaps. Many travellers are just passing through on the eponymous ‘European Tour’. I keep coming back because I have family there and a more than useful excuse to visit this eternal city.

The Vatican is at the heart of Rome and for many Catholics, it is seen as their spiritual home. The journey of Christianity has seen many a scene played out within its boundaries and in Rome itself. The presence of the Pontiff makes it a place of pilgrimage and brings with it all the trappings associated with a place of special religious interest.

Having been raised an Irish Catholic, I am very aware of its role in my life, having had its doctrine implanted firmly during my childhood and early adolescence. Regardless of my current lack of religious enthusiasm, I was, like many drawn to the weekly Papal audience in St Peter’s Square, a ‘must-do’ on the tourist list.

It was a square filled with upward of 30,000 human beings and thousands of grey chairs. The counterpoint of Bernini’s warm and glowing architecture was in marked relief against a swathe of grey plastic chairs set-out in row upon ordered row, all anticipating the arrival of thousands of visitors, some there for their immortal souls, some for the satisfaction of having been there, witnesses to something unique. 

'Anticipation' by Kate Hall 2014, St Peter's Square, Rome.
The chairs, whose maker I was unable to establish at the time were distinctly based on a British design by Robin Day. One of the most celebrated, pioneering modern designers, he transformed the face of furniture with his innovative designs and application of technology. This poem is in part an homage or reference to him and his contribution to art and design. He could well be the ‘Father’ in Pater Noster.

'Abandonment'. Image courtesy of Rose Marie Peake, 2014, St Peter's Square, Rome.
The Vatican chairs may be ‘copies’ but they seemed to represent or epitomize so many different aspects of the human story combining them in a visual metaphor.

With no real sense of what to expect, I was open to the experience and its impact on me. ‘Pater Noster’ is a poem that was an immediate creative response to this brief visit, but one, which would remain with me through its images and language.

I chose to play with the contrast elements of art and design, of materiality, colour, individuality and collectiveness, of religion, of good and bad. Though the creative process of making this poem, I found it touched me on a deeply personal level, tapping into my own personal story as well making connections with my work and in particular my research activities.

Pater Noster
(Our Father)

Who came to see these grey chairs?
A holy sea of grey in a golden glow.
Thousands on a pilgrim’s path,
following in the feet of thousands gone before.
Now casualties of zealous crowds who long to glimpse St Peter’s heir.
They will make their offering again, without question, Day after Day.
Collecting stories from the multitude of Babel’s Tower,
they continue to bear the weight of the hoards,
swelling the ranks of those who share the passion and the pain.

From on high the saints look on with nonchalant regard.
The grey against the golden glow, the flashing scarlet of the guards, a tiny white figure emerges to a roar of thousands in the square.
Contained and cheery chatter transforms into the cries of ecstasy and madness, as chairs are pushed and dragged and toppled against the human rush to reach the boundary and glimpse the simple man,
elevated to greatness by his peers, carrying the weight of a church on his small shoulders,
a church sitting at a crossroads.

Mothers reach towards the little man as he passes by.
Their babies thrust before him for his kiss, a blessed kiss.
Frightened, crying children thrown toward the cavalcade with little care for the precious bundle.
The chosen child is greatly blessed, its tears and fear ignored by an exalted parent.
Forgive our foolishness.

Who came to see these grey, unnoticed chairs?
Battered, bruised and weather-aged.
Honoured guests at lofty celebrations,
welcoming the new and bidding farewell at many passings.
Do they sit at the right hand of the Father?

Ordered and disordered.
Marking time, safe behind the Vatican line,
ignorant of a world beyond,
eyes closed to horror and betrayal,
keeping secrets through years of silence and duty.
Who came to see these grey chairs?
Will their Kingdom come?
Their sins be all forgiven?

Kate Hall (Student Writer in Residence)

Kate Hall is a Doctoral Student at the Arts University Bournemouth. She writes across a range of contexts and publishes her work online. She uses creative writing as her art practice and an anthology of creative writing will be part of her Doctoral output. With support links to the Museum of Design in Plastics, she will draw on objects from the collection to inform her work. The chair made of plastics will feature as the central object around which a literary narrative will be created alongside the critical component of the thesis.

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Bank holiday closure

As with the rest of the AUB campus, MoDiP will be closed from Friday 3rd April and re open on Wednesday 8th April.

We wish you all a happy Easter break.

Susan, Pam, Louise & Katherine