Wednesday 29 January 2020

Student Creative: Judith Allen

We are now half way through the MoDiP creative bursary and it’s been incredibly exciting to see how my project has changed and grown. I applied to the bursary with the goal of wanting to use my practice as an illustrator to tell the stories behind the objects within the museum, drawing on my academic background as an anthropologist. 

Over Christmas I found the project quite challenging and I have to admit I was struggling to find a way to create imagery that told the stories behind the objects in a way that added to what MoDiP already had on offer. However after experimenting with different ideas, making initial sketches of the objects within the collection, and getting feedback from other people on the MA illustration course, I decided to go back to my roots and take a narrative driven approach. 

Initial sketches and ideas for illustrations based on the poems 

I started writing poetry for each decade from the 1920s to present day inspired by objects from those decades within the museum. I wrote my poetry from the perspectives of the people who may have used the objects, exploring what the objects meant to them and the symbolism the objects had in peoples lives. I’ve been particularly interested in exploring the  ideas of collection, kinship and memory, and how the objects we choose to collect and hold on to, may continue to connect us with significant moments in our lives. 

The poems I wrote have then inspired images that show the objects within the museum in use, rather than just being static still life studies – something I was previously doing and wanted to move away from. 

 A work in progress photo of a more developed illustration showing someone using a comb and mirror from the 1920s from the museum collections

I have also drawn on patterns and motifs found on the objects which I have incorporated throughout  my images. For example, for one of my illustrations of the poem, I have incorporated the Art Nouveau floral motif found on one of the hand held mirrors, and the Art Deco shape of several of the combs from the museum collections from the 1920s, throughout the image.
Two of the Art Deco combs from the 1920s from the collections at MoDiP that have inspired this piece
Art Nouveau hand held mirror from the 1920s - also an inspiration for this illustration 

Using this new approach, I am also exploring things I am learning on my masters, using this image as a chance to experiment with different media, collage and  mark-making. 

I’m excited to continue to take this project forward and see how it develops over the next two months!

Student Creative

Judith Allen - MA Illustration

Wednesday 22 January 2020

Seaweed (algae) Plastic

Over Christmas, my daughter and I had a go at making some seaweed (more accurate to call it algae) plastic as part of her GCSE Graphics project work. She had been inspired by a news story referencing the 2019 London Marathon, where runners had been given edible seaweed pouches filled with Lucozade instead of plastic bottles. The intention was to replace 200,000 bottles with the Ooho pouches, produced by Skipping Rocks Lab, a UK based, sustainable packaging start-up company.

The Oohopouch

Whilst acknowledging the limitations of the idea as a solution to reducing single-use plastics, my daughter was particularly interested in the fact that the pouches are marketed as being edible, compostable and will naturally biodegrade in four to six weeks.

She found a recipe online and we bought in the ingredients we needed: essentially agar and glycerol. We mixed the correct quantities with water, stirred the solution and heated it to boiling point, constantly stirring to prevent the formation of lumps. The liquid was simmered for about 15 minutes with any ‘froth’ that developed being scooped out. Then, after cooling, we poured the mixture into an ice cube mould and an upturned lid. It dried very quickly but we still left it for several hours before we dared to remove the plastic from the moulds.

'Our Attempt'
By Lauren Pell

The image shows (from the top): the plastic material cast into an ice-cube mould, cast into the lid mould and the ‘froth’ that had been removed from the solution during heating, all melted together. The material felt slightly wet (although it wasn’t), robust (being surprisingly difficult to ‘squash’), was tasteless (definitely edible) and we were confident that it would work well as a container. We thought we would like to repeat the experiment using a bowl-shaped mould so that we could test the material’s ability to hold and store liquid without leakage.

After 3 weeks, the samples had begun to dry out a little and mould spots had started to appear so, without the addition of preservatives, it is clear this recipe produces only a short-term material. However, for the storage of food/drink with a limited lifespan this bioplastic would certainly seem to have potential.

Already, an Indonesian start-up company called Evoware have started to produce single-serving sachets made out of seaweed plastic and, using similar technology, Loliware are selling seaweed straws, available to purchase later this year. Skipping Rocks Lab have developed the Ooho pouch into their own version of a single-serving sachet that food delivery company Just Eat is currently trialling.

We ended up throwing our efforts into the compost bin and intend to have a go at producing casein next.

Katherine Pell, Museum Collections Officer.

Wednesday 15 January 2020

We’ve Got a Fuzzbox Picture Disc and We’re Going to Display it!

We’ve Got a Fuzzbox and We’re Gonna Use it! were an all-girl English alternative rock/pop punk band from Birmingham who formed in 1985 and after shortening their name to Fuzzbox, recorded 6 UK Top 75 hits during their career (to date).

Fuzzbox  AIBDC : 0_2235 

The Top 75 Singles Chart now utilises a combination of CD and vinyl sales, audio and video streams and downloads to measure success - but during the halcyon days of the sensational seventies and stylish eighties, only actual physical product sold was used to compile chart placings. So, picture discs of singles were often utilised as a canny method of obtaining additional sales to bump a record further on up the charts (as fans would often want to buy multiple versions and formats of the same song).

Sadly this quirkily designed picture disc wasn’t enough to power the single up the charts on release, as it only managed to spend a single week in the UK Chart at 100 on 09.06.90 and then disappeared into the ether the following week. The band disbanded due to ‘musical differences’ shortly afterwards in the same year but happily have subsequently reformed in 2010 and then again in 2015 and are still going strong today:

Fuzzbox  AIBDC : 0_2235

Interestingly enough, even though the record is labelled as needing to be played at 33 and a 1/3 RPM the disc actually plays at 45 RPM according to the vinyl gurus at Discogs and any canny investor buying it for £1.99p on release might be sitting on a profit of £4 for a cut copy like the one shown here from MoDiP's collections (where the original circular unused bits of vinyl have been disposed of). Uncut versions being rarer are worth more to collectors.

Fuzzbox  AIBDC : 0_2235

Luckily enough for you though, you won’t need to take out a mortgage or contact the Doctor, enter the Tardis and set the time dials to return to 1990, as MoDiP has the picture disc available in the collection for you to view and admire in all its glory.

Groovy baby!

Dr Andrew Pulman

Wednesday 8 January 2020

Charles Jencks

Charles Jencks (1939 – 2019)  Architect, garden designer, critic and theorist

Vacuum flask, designed for Bodum, designer unknown, AIBDC: 000746

Charles Jencks, who died in October, is remembered as the writer who announced the death of Modernism and was the catalyst for Postmodernism.  His book, The Language of Post-Modern Architecture, was first published in 1977 and ran to seven editions. It identified and articulated the significance of postmodernism before it had become a recognised style and thus he helped to bring the movement into existence.

Mary biscuit box, designed by Stefano Giovannoni for Alessi, AIBDC: 001227

Postmodernism was a repudiation of Modernism. Modernism was characterised by a search for universal truths, embodied in art and architecture by a rejection of traditional styles and a predilection for abstraction. By contrast Postmodernism was characterised by a distrust of theories, a self-conscious use of earlier styles, a penchant for contradictory layers of meaning and a love of irreverent irony. It collapsed the distinction between high and popular culture and challenged established definitions of ‘good’ art and design. As an architectural style, Postmodernism was relatively short lived. However, its plural character is especially in tune with the infinite transformation to which the plastics material group lends itself. Accordingly, it has continued to exert influence on product design. 

Diva watering can, designed by Eero Aarnio for Alessi, AIBDC: 006739
A small display has been curated in the cases outside MoDiP on the 1st floor of the AUB library as a homage to Jencks. The objects chosen have been designed by three different companies, all of whom have embraced Postmodernism: the Italian company, Alessi; the Swiss company, Bodum and the German company, Koziol. The exhibition will run until the end of January 2020.

Ahoi juicer, designed by Paolo Pedrizetti for Koziol, AIBDC: 002209

Eve fruit bowl, designed by Robin Platt for Koziol, AIBDC: 006731

Professor Susan Lambert,

MoDiP Chief Curator