Wednesday, 29 April 2020

Eat in or take out

With the lockdown taking hold and working from home, I am finding that snacking has become a real personal issue for me. I am up and down from my computer looking in the cupboard to see if there are any biscuits, of course there aren’t any because I have eaten them all. However, it has made me think about one of the earliest MoDiP exhibitions, Eat in or take out, which looked at eating away from the table. The exhibition featured some fabulous objects, I have selected a few below which I am particularly fond of. 

Banana Guard – AIBDC : 005527

I hate bananas. I hate their texture, their flavour, and the way they smell, yuck. There is nothing worse than a banana, other than a squished banana. The Banana Guard was designed to house the fruit and keep it safe whilst in a bag. It has holes in the sides for good air flow keeping the fruit fresh, and the strange shape can accommodate most bananas.

Noodle Pot – AIBDC : 005711

The Pot Noodle pot was quite a controversial object to put on display. Some of our visitors couldn’t understand why we were displaying such a boring, everyday object, whilst others enjoyed having the opportunity to really look at the design and the work that had gone into making something that they had not particularly considered before. 

Funny Bunny Pot – AIBDC : 005619

People who know me, know that I am bunny mad. This little rabbit once contained chocolate eggs and would have been given to someone as an Easter gift. He seems like such a happy bunny. 

Guzzini Pic Bol – AIBDC : 005561

This modern version of Guzzini’s Pic Bol along with its 1970’s ancestor was one of the first objects that I acquired for the museum, so I have quite a special attachment to it. The two salad bowls forming the outer sphere conceal a picnic set for up to six people.

Now I wonder if there are any biscuits in the cupboard, I’ll just go and have a look…

Louise Dennis
Curator of MoDiP

Wednesday, 22 April 2020

The Bioform bra

MoDiP’s current exhibition, Being me: plastics and the body, contains one case focusing on shaping the body looking at some of the ways in which plastics have been used to change the appearance of the human form. As an example, we chose to feature the Wonderbra, an instantly recognisable and iconic bra that was designed to create a deep plunge cleavage whilst at the same time providing good support. It was invented by Louise Poirier in 1964 for the Canadian Lady Corset Company and was originally named the 1300.

Another revolutionary bra in MoDiP’s collections that did not make it into the exhibition is the Bioform bra. What is particularly interesting about this object is the inclusion of a plastics armature to provide the support, which is just visible in the image below.

The story behind this revolutionary new design began in 1997 as a result of a series of programmes made for Channel 4 following two product designers: Richard Seymour and Dick Powell. Looking at everyday design, one of the challenges was to consider the complex engineering problem of the bra. UK lingerie manufacturer Charnos set the brief to create a bra for the larger sized bust that would be supportive and comfortable but also attractive – something they felt was lacking in the designs available at that time.

The aerobie flying ring.
                   Picture credit:

After considerable research, including user experience workshops, the designers chose to focus on improving the underwire; the thin strip of rigid material sewn into the bra fabric, beneath each cup. Inspired by the aerobie flying ring (seen in the image above), which has a polycarbonate inner core with softer rubber moulded either side, Seymour and Powell thought they could replicate this idea within a 3-dimensional plastic support. They produced a prototype comprising a polypropylene rigid core over-moulded in a soft and flexible TPE (thermoplastic elastomer), perforated for breathability.

The illustration above references the shape of the Bioform armature: part 22 is the rigid, inner core, part 28 the soft, flexible outer.

By June 1998, when the programme was first broadcast, Charnos had, up to that point, invested £2.5 million, but the bra was still only available in one size in either black or white. Contrasted against typical development costs of £0.5 million which could produce 25 bras in a variety of sizes and colours, it was the largest investment the company had ever made on research and development for a single product.

After continued extensive testing including tool moulding trials, load and stress performance, creep measurement, durability, consumer opinion as well as constant refinement in response to all of the research generated, the Bioform was finally launched in October 2000. Available to buy in all major UK department stores in a full range of sizes, it quickly became a best-seller. Prior to the launch, Charnos had received £3 million worth of advance orders, interest from manufacturers wanting to licence the product and a contract with Marks and Spencer to create their own branded version.

Unfortunately, despite this early success, the cost of production became so high that within three years Charnos had been bought out, the organisation restructured and the Bioform gradually phased out so that now it is only available to buy in online shops. Having read favourable user reviews, I am interested to acquire one to try for myself. Apparently, it takes some time to get used to wearing as the design is so radically different to anything that has been available before. But the story helps to demonstrate how we often perceive plastics to be a cheap material because the end product we can access is made available to us at such a reasonable cost. What we do not see is the hidden price of the concept, design, research, development and testing, which in this case amounted to several millions of pounds.

Katherine Pell, Collections Officer

Wednesday, 15 April 2020

Horn (part 2) My Latest Hornware Find

I go to car boot sales a lot - there are plenty in Cornwall in both the summer and the winter. I do see a lot of 'tat', but I try not to be too distracted or disheartened by it. 
Sometimes, however, I find something that is interesting. This I got for £1…

It’s a paperknife, made out of horn in the shape of a sword and hot stamped TENTH WORLD POULTRY CONGRESS.

And on the back it is hot stamped EDINBURGH 1954.

So here is a particularly rare item, a horn artefact which can be (mostly) provenanced. We have a location (Scotland) and a date (1954).
The paperknife itself is 6.5 inches long (160mm) and slightly asymmetric, evidently made by hand. It is polished and the inscription has been branded upon it with a custom made stamp which begs the questions;
- Just how many of these artefacts were made to justify the making of not just one but two metal stamps?
- Did they also do a range of Tenth World Poultry Congress beakers? Combs? Heaven forbid, keyrings? Or other horn artefacts?
- Were the paperknives made for the conference or did some later worker buy up a load and turn them into conference merchandise?

The handmade concept brings to mind the Scottish Tinkers who often worked in horn, as well as metal. Was it their work? Or that of a more settled horn workshop? The conference aimed to take delegates outside, not just to places of poultry keeping interest, but to local cultural attractions. Perhaps an item of Horncraft was of Scottish interest.

Looking online it seemed the Tenth World Poultry Congress ran from the 13th to the 21st August 1954. There were 100 papers delivered in both English and French. This was just before mass air travel took off (unlike the poultry) and though some delegates may have arrived by air, I imagine most, including the New World and Australian visitors, (there were a lot from the US and Canada), would have come by sea. It must have been an exciting event.

I think my pound was well spent and this artefact will grace my collection.
I’m just wondering what breed of Chicken they got the horn from…

Rebecca Davies, Guest Blogger.

And here is a link to MoDiP's online Worshipful Company of Horners collection

Wednesday, 8 April 2020

Student Creative - Jak Hansford

These past 20 weeks of the student creative project with MoDiP has been a journey of exploration and transformation from museum artefact to finished fine art piece.
I started my journey through proposing my idea of machine tufting. I had planned to take it in this direction from the very start. However, through the methods and perspective gained from my current MA Fine art studies, I was influenced in applying my strengths of experimentation as seen in a selection of thumbnail ideas (See Fig1&2). This pathway led to me examining alternative methods, mainly digital, while keeping the colour schemes and key theme of shape abstraction. I utilised a mixture of computer software and drawing to help make this possible.

Figure 1 Thumbnail Sketch of tufting 
Figure 2 Thumbnail sketch of sculpture

While enjoyable, I found myself at the stage where I could look at this digital direction subjectively. I decided that the work fell somewhat flat and did not fully represent myself or how I envisioned my interpretation of the MoDiP objects. The 3-dimensional elements and presence of texture were both more significant than I had originally realised when taking this digital detour. I felt it was now time to go full circle and return to machine tufting in order to complete this project (See Fig 3&4).

Figure 2 Digital drawing of Eve 
Figure 4 Digital Drawing of Juicy

Though I have now reached the end of the project having used techniques I had originally planned, I feel the piece embodies the experience. The previously mentioned digital detour has helped inform the style of the piece significantly. 
My work showcases the energetic and playful attributes that the artefacts I chose hold. While I started focusing on one MoDiP object at a time, the project developed, and I began seeing the potential of the objects together and intermingled especially through collage (See Fig 5). The still life imagery I created could offer more than my singular drawings could (See Fig 6). By this I mean the space around and interaction between each object and how this provides intrigue and interest. This was reinforced by taking the time to source a variety of yarns and making sure colours reacted a similar way.

Figure 5 Final decided collage 
Figure 6 Still life with all artefacts

Translating the work from small to large scale was a learning curve. I had to allow minute details to change to suit the form of the piece, while still maintaining the feeling of my initial collages. The act of collage making itself was time consuming, however it allowed me to experiment with abstract shapes and colours in order to create a vast range of compositions (See Fig 7&8). There were so many possibilities to try out!

Figure 7 Puzzle pieces! 
Figure 8 Some of the collages that were made

The final piece is 180cm x 40cm and is one of the biggest tufted pieces I have ever produced. This presented its own unique set of challenges, mostly practical, but with the freedom of the project this could all be overcome (See Fig 9&10). I found this aspect of the project allowed me to really pull on all my strengths, both mentally and physically, to really enjoy the piece I have produced.

Figure 9 Image showing start of the process
Figure 10 Showing last stages of process through colour and texture
               Figure 11 Final piece

I have thoroughly valued my time as a student creative and working with MoDiP. I would highly encourage any student to apply for this opportunity in the future and to just let go and have fun. I feel this tufted piece I have produced really embodies these elements and shows that inspiration from plastics really does not need to be translated with plastics. There are a multitude of ways I can now see this could have gone which only makes me wish I could have this opportunity again. Going forward with my studies and further on I will continue to build upon this experience and the knowledge and will certainly be coming back for more inspiration.
In conversation and working with the MoDiP team, I have also been able to learn more about the museum, artefacts and exhibitions. This experience has been very rewarding and enjoyable. I would also like to say a huge thank you to all of those at MoDiP for giving me this opportunity. 

Jak Hansford - MA Fine Art

Wednesday, 1 April 2020

Student Creative: Judith Allen

My time making my project as  MoDiP student creative has sadly come to an end, but It has been such an enjoyable and exciting experience. 

Over the course of my time as a MoDiP Student Creative my project has evolved and developed a lot. 

I was first drawn to the MoDiP Student Creative project due to my background in anthropology and my interest in how the objects we collect tell stories that connect us to our past and to each other. 

My focus for the Student Creative project was wanting to find a way to show the stories behind the objects in the collections and how these objects create us to memory, whilst also using different materials and skill sets to those I normally use within my every day illustrative practise. 

My original idea was to create a plastic shadow box showing both objects within the museum and the stories behind them. 
After realising that this idea might be quite difficult to execute with the time, budget and experience I had, I took some time to experiment with creating a book of illustrated poems, looking at specific objects from each decade from 1920s until present day. 

Whilst this was an exciting way to react with different objects from the museum, after feedback from my tutor I realised I wasn’t experimenting enough with materials and techniques and as a result my MoDiP project work wasn’t as strong as some of the other work I was making for my MA.

I decided to revisit the idea of creating a 3D art piece streamlining my project so I focused solely on one object in the museum - for this I chose the GPO746 telephone from the 1960’s as this was the first object that interested me in the museum. 

I decided to craft a sculpture of the telephone using masking paper and news paper cuttings from the 1960s.

I chose to cover it in paper flowers to illustrate how objects can connect us to our roots. I made my flowers inspired by other floral motifs on other 1960’s objects in the MoDiP collections. 

This project has been a really exciting opportunity to learn different skill sets whilst drawing inspiration from an amazing collection of objects from within the museum.

Judith Allen - MA Illustration