Wednesday, 10 March 2021

Neolite

When she was a young teenager my mum, now in her late eighties, was given a Christmas present of a hairbrush. Her memory of it is that it was her only present that year. It was just at the end of  World War II and there was little money to spend and not much about to buy, so she was grateful to receive anything at all, but she now confesses that it was a huge disappointment. She didn’t really want or need a new hairbrush and the tough nylon bristles were too harsh for her hair, so she put it to one side and didn’t think any more about it.  


Image ref: My Mother's hairbrush
Image credit: Pam Langdown


In the 1960s, mum still had the hairbrush and I remember seeing it on her dressing table. It is not a very remarkable design, quite plain really, but I was always fascinated by the way the light shone through the clear plastic back and handle (which I believe to be acrylic) highlighting little scratches and imperfections and making them glisten. It remained unused. 


Image ref: The light shining through the handle.

Image credit: Pam Langdown

Fast forward to today and that same hairbrush is sitting next to me on my desk. The light still glistens in the handle and I still associate this brush with my mum and she still doesn’t like it, which is why she gave it to me, knowing that I have an interest in such things. I agree with her, the bristles are way too harsh. I think they would tear at the hair, but at least not having been used much for the past 70+ years means that it is still in pretty reasonable condition, apart from a few scratches. 


Image ref: The tradename stamp.

Image credit: Pam Langdown

The handle is stamped with the trade name of NEOLITE. Interestingly, the only references to NEOLITE that I can find online are to that of an elastomer-resin blend material by the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company, which was used for the soles and heels of shoes in the 1950s. Clearly not the same material. Once the current lockdown restrictions are lifted and I am able to access MoDiP’s library again I will try to do a bit more research to see if I can find out more information, but for now, I am just happy to watch the light glisten in the handle of this poor old hairbrush that has always been a part of my life. 

All this nostalgia is quite appropriate as MoDiP is currently taking another look at its MyPlastic exhibition from 2013/14. The original project combined a physical exhibition with digital films highlighting the very personal connections and relationships we have with particular objects made of plastics. This reissue digital exhibition showcases those videos featuring stories from designers, humanitarian documentary makers, animators, monster makers, and academics. If you would like to share the plastics objects that have special meaning to you, join in by using #MyPlastic across social media and tag us in on InstagramTwitter, or Facebook.

Pam Langdown
Documentation Officer


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