Wednesday 27 October 2021

Popcorn 26 sunglasses, Patrick Kelly, 1987

We have just put these wonderful Patrick Kelly sunglasses out on display as part of the About Plastics case in the museum.

Image ref:
AIBDC : 008474
Image credit: Katherine Pell

Made in France in the mid to late 1980s, the frames are made from cellulose acetate with acrylic (polymethyl methacrylate) lenses. On either side there are four buttons glued into (not onto) the temples. We have not yet been able to identify the precise material that these are made from (possibly polyester), but I love the colours because they remind me of MoDiP’s logo!

Patrick Kelly showed his first collection in Paris in 1985 and became the first US member of the Chambre Syndicale du Pret-a-Porter des Couturiers et des Createurs de Mode in 1988, France's prestigious association of fashion designers. 

Image ref: Patrick Kelly (1954 – 1990)
Image credit:

One of his trademarks was to customise his designs with multi-coloured and mismatched buttons, a style he attributed to his grandmother's influence from childhood clothing repairs. MoDiP also has an oversized button pin badge kit in the collection, complete with its original packaging, released by Streamline Industries under licence (refer image below). 

Image ref:
AIBDC : 008555
Image credit: Katherine Pell

Sadly, Kelly's
career only lasted eight seasons through four years, as he tragically died of AIDS-related complications on 1st January 1990, aged 35.
One day we hope to be able to acquire one of his dresses but in the meantime, both of these lovely objects can be viewed online or in person at MoDiP.

Katherine Pell
Collections Officer

Wednesday 20 October 2021

Object Analysis sessions

As term begins and the Arts University Bournemouth continues to welcome back students, we are beginning to return to some kind of normality. Over the past couple of weeks, we have been having zoom conversations with courses, introducing and reintroducing them to the museum and how they can use the collection, and welcoming small groups of students into our space to explore objects in greater depth. It is so nice to have this activity back on campus.

One session we have been doing over the past few days is that of ‘Object Analysis’ with two costume courses: BA Costume, and BA Performance Design and Film Costume.

In these sessions, students develop skills that enable them to gain information about the objects in front of us. We started the session with an introduction to MoDiP. We then looked at the objects on the table, without picking them up, to see what we could glean from them. Next, we had a quick session on how to handle museum objects, followed by time to explore the objects in more depth to see if that provides additional information. We used an object analysis form which can be found on our website with a series of questions. Those question include:

  • What was the object’s likely purpose?
  • How was it used?
  • Consider size, weight, portability, ergonomics etc
  • When might the object have been made or used?
  • Why do you say this?
  • What is it made of?
  • How was it made?
  • Who was it made for?
  • Who would have used it?
  • Are they the same?
  • What was the appeal of the object?
  • Consider its desirability / aesthetic appeal / use.
  • Has the object won any awards?
  • Can it be attributed to a particular designer or manufacturer?
  • Does this object demonstrate any significant developments in design or technology?
  • Does it represent changes in social or political attitudes?

The selection of objects.  Image credit: L Dennis 

Each group were asked to select three objects out of the eight that were on the table. I specifically selected objects that might be new to the students but would have tell-tale clues that could lead to further information.

The Cameras Image credit: L Dennis

I chose the cameras because I thought that film cameras would not be something that all of the students had encountered. We spoke about what they looked like and what they reminded us of. Suggestions included disposable cameras and waterproof GoPros. They are quite unassuming, simple objects but with a bit more research we found that they were designed by Sebastian Conran for SupaSnaps.

The Shoes Image credit: L Dennis

The shoes proved to be an easy identification for most of the groups. They could obviously see that they were shoes without picking them up, they also figured out that they were for use in water and they might have something to do with sports. Despite reading out the label on the box - ‘Algae Green’ - no one clocked that the shoes were particularly interesting because they were made using algae as a feedstock for the plastic material.

The Pink Thing Image credit: L Dennis

The pink thing was selected by nearly all of the groups. Without picking it up, for the most part they couldn’t identify its function – the first question on the object analysis form. Without knowing its function, the groups struggled with any of the questions that followed. Once they were able to handle the object they discovered so much more about the ‘pink thing’ because it has a label on the side that contains so much information. It is a bin designed to collect waste chewing gum (rubber) which is then recycled, with the contents, to create more bins and other products.

The cream coloured block Image credit: L Dennis

This block was chosen a couple of times by the students but because it didn’t look very interesting compared to the other things on the table it was overlooked by most. The groups that did choose it discovered there was more to it that meets the eye. They thought it might be old but hadn’t anticipated that it would date from the 1870s and made by Daniel Spill.

The Green Thing Image credit: L Dennis

This object caused a little confusion with students seeing that it might be used for mixing something but they didn’t know what it could be. It reminded some of a dog treat toy, others were expecting that it might be squeezed to dispense the contents. It was not until they picked it up that they found it to be made of a very rigid material. They also discovered a patent number and additional information on the base which could have been used to find out more about the design developments that were on display here.

The Bag Image credit: L Dennis

The bag was laid down on the table and it wasn’t clear how you would carry it. Once the students started to handle it they found it to be a rucksack or backpack and they could see the continued use of seatbelt material on the back panel. By exploring the catalogue record the students also discovered that the bag itself is made from airbags. We thought about who the bag might appeal to with one group describing some very specific characteristics of the kind of individual who would use it.

The Hat Image credit: L Dennis

The helmet looks like a classic steel helmet from the 2nd World War. It is, however, made of phenol formaldehyde and has a lovely moulded inscription showing the manufacturer’s name not seen until it was lifted. The weight of the hat was also a surprise being much lighter than the students had anticipated.

The Cassette Image credit: L Dennis

Poor Elkie Brooks. No one chose to look at the cassette. I am not sure if this is because they knew what it was or because they didn’t. I included it because it is full of information that can help to start a thread of research that will tell us more about the object itself, as well as the time period it has come from.

These sessions help participants to foster research skills into objects. If you would like to bring a group to explore objects in MoDiP, whether you are part of the AUB or not, please do get in touch.

Louise Dennis, Curator of MoDiP

Wednesday 13 October 2021

AUB Materials Library

As you may know MoDiP is situated in the AUB Library, what you might not know about is another fantastic resource that resides in same building, the Materials Library 

The Materials Library. Image credit: Louise Dennis

You can find out more information by scanning the samples. Image credit: Louise Dennis

The drawers of intrigue.  Image credit: Louise Dennis

The AUB Materials Library is a collection of new and innovative product samples including ceramics, plastics, glass, paper, metal, timber and much more.  The purpose of the collection is to inspire and offer ideas in support of creative practice, as well as providing a knowledge of materials, their properties and applications. Each material sample in the Library features a unique QR code that can be scanned into the software. Scanning the QR code opens an information data sheet for the material, including its location within the Materials Library and links to the manufacturer’s website.

A few of the materials samples. Image credit: Louise Dennis
A glittery acyrlic sample.  Image credit: Louise Dennis

A selection of samples. Image credit: Louise Dennis

It is easy to get lost down a rabbit hole of curiosity just by pulling open a drawer and having a rummage.  For obvious reasons I gravitate towards the plastics materials but you soon drift away to something else.  If you are visiting MoDiP, I would heartily recommend a wander to the far corner of the ground floor of the building and having an explore.  

Louise Dennis, Curator of MoDiP

Wednesday 6 October 2021

Telescopic water suit, Martin White, 1937.

This bright, cherry red swimsuit never fails to make me smile and it is one of my favourite objects from our current exhibition, Beside the sea. It was designed by Martin White in 1937 as a ‘telescopic’, one-size-fits-all, swimming costume, which is essentially achieved by shirring with an elasticated thread on the sides and rear (refer detailed image on the right, below). 

Martin White telescopic swimsuit, AIBDC : 008463
Image credit: MoDiP

Versatile in its styling, the swimsuit could be worn in various ways, as illustrated by the 1951 advert from the film magazine, ‘Picturegoer’, below right. 

The fabrics used in early swimwear were commonly dark coloured, as this was considered less revealing when wet, and predominantly made of natural but restrictive materials such as wool, which could provide some stretch but was particularly heavy and uncomfortable when wet. As swimming as a sport and sea bathing as a leisure activity became more popular, there was demand for improved fit and practicality in the associated clothing. Influenced by mainstream fashion, changing societal attitudes to body exposure and advancements in synthetic textile technology, designs became smaller and more streamlined. 

Lastex™, first released in 1931, helped to revolutionise swimwear. An elastic yarn consisting of an extruded rubber core covered in cotton, rayon, wool or silk thread, Lastex™ could be knitted or woven into a variety of fabrics to produce one-way or two-way stretch, depending upon how it was used. It enabled the mass production of lightweight garments that would mould to the body, providing fit, freedom and control, first appearing in corsetry. 

Sears catalogue, 1932.
Image credit:

In 1937, the British swimwear company Martin White utilised the Lastex™ thread on its own to create shirring in their telescopic water suit. The patent, filed by Jack French White the year before (refer image below), shows how this was realised. Proposing the use of a material with little or no inherent stretch, the elasticated thread would be inserted into the fabric in widely spaced intervals and in two directions, at right angles to each other. Applied in tension, once released the fabric would draw up into a honeycomb structure, resembling smocking. It was suggested that cutting or fashioning a garment into a large number of sizes and fittings would no longer be necessary as this method would achieve a one-size-fits-all form. 

Illustration of how Martin White proposed to use Lastex™ yarn in forming the telescopic swimsuit.
Image ref:

Other manufacturers also adopted Lastex™ in a variety of ways, as can be seen in the 1952 advert below, although it was not long before this innovative yarn was superseded. Lycra™, available from the 1960s, was a lightweight polyurethane elastomeric fibre that provided four times the stretch as well as enhanced resistance to oxidation and oil. Lastex™ had been found to lose elasticity as the rubber deteriorated from UV exposure and/or through contact with the chemicals found in suntan lotion and chlorine. 

A range of swimwear manufacturers also used
Lastex™ in their designs.
Image credit:

Luckily, MoDiP’s example is in a very good condition and I particularly love the low cut back, removable straps and side cut-outs that all reflect the trend for sunbathing that was fashionable at that time. 

Martin White telescopic swimsuit, AIBDC : 008463
Image credit: MoDiP

And finally, a glamorous 1946 film clip advertising some of Martin White’s latest telescopic swimwear designs. Note the first two-piece has a rather attractive wrap-over pareo (pāreu) skirt in white plastic! 

You can view the Martin White swimsuit and many more objects exploring the subject of plastics Beside the sea until 3rd December 2021.

Katherine Pell 
Collections Officer