MoDiP’s latest pop-up exhibition is entitled ‘Women in plastics’, taking its name from the professional initiative that recognises achievement, encourages development and supports diversity and equality across the industry. The exhibition is an opportunity for the museum to celebrate some of the women who have and still do use plastics in their work.
Here are some of my favourites.
AIBDC : 008607
Belle Kogan (1902 – 2000) is credited as being one of the first prominent female industrial designers in the US and also one of the first in her profession to design with plastics. In 1934 she designed the Smug electric alarm clock, model no. 8F01, seen in the image above. It is almost identical to the more recognised Quacker alarm clock, model 7F63.
Kogan designed this pelican/duck shaped novelty clock for Henry Warren who founded Telechron in 1912. He built a self-starting synchronous motor for his company's range of electric clocks and employed notable designers to produce the cases that were then made affordable to all through mass production. The yellow Smug with orange beak featured in the Telechron catalogues between 1935-1939 and is compression moulded in Plaskon (trade name), a urea-based plastics material with a cellulose filler, that could easily take colour.
Libuše Niklová (1934 – 1981), a globally renowned Czech toy designer, readily exploited new plastics materials and manufacturing technologies. In 1963, she introduced the first of her accordion toys (refer image above), made of blow moulded polyethylene with a whistle incorporated into the body so that it would emit a noise when stretched.
Niklová believed that children should not be static observers when playing and so designed toys that would engage with all of the senses, offering tactile, olfactory, optical and acoustic development. This is particularly evident in one of her most notable inventions, the PVC inflatable toy seat (see image above). Deliberately designed in a move away from children’s furniture being simply a scaled down version of the adult model, the toy was intended to be sat on and bounced around the room. The Buffalo was designed in 1971, joined in 1976 by a calf (MoDiP’s example).
Inspired by a de-constructed Union Jack, Stella McCartney acted as the creative director in collaboration with Adidas to design a 590-piece collection for the Team GB 2012 Olympics. This was the first time a leading fashion designer had been involved in the creation of sportswear for the Olympic and Paralympic Games and McCartney continued her role for Rio 2016. The women’s swimsuit on display is one of five pieces from the accompanying fan wear range held by MoDiP and incorporates 80% recycled nylon (polyamide).
Spanish-born, Milan-based, Patricia Urquiola established her own studio in 2001 and is both an architect and designer. She has worked with a broad range of manufacturers and materials throughout her career and this Jelly plate, a 2013 design for Kartell, is a beautiful example of her experimentation with plastics. Batch dyed in acrylic (polymethyl methacrylate, PMMA), the texturisation of the surface creates the appearance of jelly and it was the piece that inspired one of MoDiP’s Student Creatives who recreated the shapes within a garment to represent the feel and movement of the plate.
Bathsheba Grossman is an American artist who creates sculptures using computer-aided design and three-dimensional modelling. 3d printing technology is her main medium, working predominantly with metal and glass, although she occasionally experiments with plastics. This small table light entitled Quin, was designed in 2005 for MGX by Materialise. It is based on the twelve sided dodecahedron and is created as a single object, without joints or seams, in sintered nylon (polyamide, PA).
Women in plastics is currently on display at the Museum of Design in Plastics (MoDiP), on the first floor of the AUB Library.