Wednesday 29 December 2021

Input 14 ice bucket, Martin Roberts, 1973

I love the vibrant green colour of this ice bucket (AIBDC : 008800), a rather appropriate object for this time of year as we get ready to toast in 2022.

Image ref: The ice bucket, showing the white, removable liner (right).
Image credit: Katherine Pell

I also love the design of the lid. It has three indented circles for finger grip and reminds me of a button.

Image ref: External and internal view of the lid.
Image credit: Katherine Pell

Designed by Martin Roberts for Conran Associates and manufactured by Crayonne Ltd, the ice bucket was part of a range of 21 brightly coloured, heavy-duty plastics containers sold through Habitat. First launched in 1973, the Input series was created to be interchangeable, with the same height and diameter used throughout, and included trays, bowls and vases with an assortment of lids and insulating liners.

Image ref: The Input series consisted of 21 different numbered, interchangeable, containers.
Image credit:

Originally available in red, yellow, green or white, additional colours were added later and none of the pieces were named but instead given a number. The ice bucket was referred to as Input 14 and is made from polished acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS), chosen for its scratch and shatter resistance, with a polyethylene (PE) liner. Injection moulded, the bucket wall was designed to be almost twice as thick as comparable products on the market (refer image below).

Image ref: The robust wall of the ice bucket (left) and the manufacturer’s mark on the underside (right).
Image credit: Katherine Pell

Crayonne was a subsidiary of Airfix Plastics, set up in 1972 to try to improve the image of the plastics material. They approached Conran to apply high design principles to everyday homewares with the successful Input range going on to win the 1974 Design Council Award for Contract and Consumer Goods – the entry description is provided below.

Image ref: 1974 Design Council Awards, Containers by Numbers.
Image credit:

1974 Design Council Award for Contract and Consumer Goods.

Containers By Numbers Input Range heavy duty abs resin containers. Made by Crayonne Ltd, 81 Windmill Road, Sunbury-on-Thames, Middlesex. Designed by Conran Associates. Approximate retail price: 85p to £4 05 ex VAT.

Two years ago, Airfix Plastics, one of Britain's biggest injection moulding companies, initiated a design programme aimed to give plastics the kind of improved image already well established on the continent. The company approached Conran Associates, design subsidiary of Habitat, with a view to jointly producing a range of products for the home or office. A happy association between the two companies was soon formed and in May 1973 the Input range was launched, designed by Conran Associates for Crayonne, a newly formed division of Airfix.

Research had shown that everybody needed 'something to put things in' and these things could be anything from fruit and flowers to pencils and paper clips. The Input range consists of 21 such 'containers', all made from heavy duty abs plastics. This material was chosen for its strong, solid finish and its scratch and shatter resistance. A particularly low-rate injection moulding cycle enabled the units to be made nearly twice as thick as other abs products, adding to the impression of solidity.

The range is built up logically, all units being based on the same diameter and height ratios, which gives them an integrated quality. There are bowls, dishes, trays, vases, pots, and an ice bucket; some have lids and some are open; they are fitted with different ceramic, melamine and insulating inserts. None of the units is named; each is simply given a number, so that the buyer can use it for whatever purpose he wants. Colours are bright red, yellow, green or white. All items are packaged for the gift market: each one comes gift-boxed, according to the corporate image created for Crayonne by Conran Associates, which includes packaging, graphics, point-of-sale and catalogue material.

One order of which the company is very proud came from the Royal Free Hospital which wanted a large supply of Inputs to be used as vases to brighten up their wards. The Input range is only the first of a series of products planned by Crayonne. Soon to be launched is a range of bathroom fittings this time in pastel colours. Input has already won the Living Award for Good Design (sponsored by Living magazine in conjunction with the Design Council).

Image ref: The launch of Input, left to right: Ralph Ehrmann (Chairman and Chief Executive, Airfix Industries), Terence Conran (Chairman, Habitat) and David Sinigaglia (Managing Director, Airfix Industries).
Image credit: Forty Years of Airfix Toys by Jeremy Brook

MoDiP has another example of this ice bucket in
red, a smaller container, the Input 10 (essentially the Input 9 vase/storage tub with a lid), a bathroom jar that was part of the second range of colours introduced by Crayonne, as well as some of the bathroom fittings referred to above. These were all recently donated to MoDiP by Zack Wyse and I shall be including other objects from his collection in future blog posts soon.

Image ref: Other MoDiP examples of the Crayonne Input series.
Image credit: Katherine Pell

Katherine Pell
Collections Officer

Wednesday 22 December 2021

Christmas closure

The museum will be closed from Thursday 23rd December, opening again on Tuesday 4th January.  Our team will be taking a well earned break and will not be available during the closed period.  Find out more about our opening times on our visiting us pages. 

Bulb holders
1930s bulb holders, PHSL : 340

We would like to wish you all a restful Christmas break, and hope you have some jolly lights up to bring cheer to these dark evenings.

Louise Dennis (Curator) and the MoDiP team - Susan, Katherine, Pam, and Reanna

Wednesday 15 December 2021

Friend and Faux

We have just opened our latest exhibition Friend and faux, which explores both the historical and contemporary use of plastics materials in replacing animal products.

Right from the beginning of the story of man-made plastics, this material group has been used to imitate the natural world. Because plastics have no intrinsic colour, form or texture, they can be made to replicate precious and expensive materials such as ivory and tortoiseshell, both looking and feeling like the ‘real’ thing, but at a fraction of the cost.

As a consequence, plastics have played a positive role in the conservation of both wild and farmed animal populations. They have also had an impact on conserving resources such as energy and water, with manufacturing methods often providing a lower environmental impact than that needed to process the natural materials they are seeking to emulate.

Left to right, AIBDC :
008788 and 008815
Image credit: Katherine Pell

One of my favourite objects from this exhibition is this CC41 Utility slip in Celanese (cellulose acetate). Dated to 1942-1952, it is a good example of a synthetic silk and was widely available throughout that period of austerity when real silk was in short supply. Other examples of artificial silk on display include the sports hijab, which can be seen in the bottom, right corner of the image above. Made of a Tencel/polyester/elastane mix, Tencel is a brand name for Lyocell, first developed in the 1970s, that uses a more sustainable way of producing wood-based semi-synthetic fibres with non-toxic chemicals that are recovered and reused.

Left to right: AIBDC : 006045 and 008798, PHSL : 258
Imager credit: Katherine Pell and MoDiP 

I also love the embossed detail in this M&S bag which imitates the colour and texture of snakeskin. It is made from polyurethane and offers a way to respond to fast changing fashion trends in a more accessible and considerate way. It looks very realistic and the graduated size of the ‘scales’ provides a convincing, cruelty-free copy. It is displayed alongside some examples of real skin objects, for comparison, as well as other synthetic imitations such as the Pinguin K55 radio and the umbrella handle.

The Islander Uke, AIBDC : 007874.1
Imager credit: Katherine Pell

This ukulele, designed and developed by Mario Maccaferri in 1959, was extremely popular in 1960s America (more than nine million were sold throughout that decade). The Islander Uke uses DuPont nylon strings that were first introduced in 1948, providing an effective alternative to catgut which would have been traditionally used. Gut strings produce a warm, rich tone but are expensive and affected by changes in humidity. To counter this, Maccaferri launched his instrument at a trade show, displayed in a water-filled glass case to demonstrate how the polystyrene body and nylon strings were unaffected by moisture!

Left: AIBDC : 008819, right: AIBDC : 008818
Imager credit: Katherine Pell

These objects illustrate two different approaches to the problem of how to replicate a feather. The t-shirt on the left hints at the concept by using a translucent polyester material that has been cut into feather shapes, each then having a silver vein printed down the centre. It certainly conveys the appearance of feathers in movement. The dress on the right mimics ostrich feathers using polyester again, but this time as a shiny yarn with each ‘feather’ consisting of a plaited core from which individual threads have been teased out, at interval, to protrude and drape downwards. It provides a great texture and is very tactile.

Cooper desert boots, AIBDC : 008812
Imager credit: Katherine Pell

These lace-up boots are made from a vegan leather called AppleSkin™, a bio-based alternative made with waste recovered from the fruit juice industry. Essentially, leftover peel and pulp is dried and ground into a powder which is then mixed with pigments and binding agents. The mix is then spread out onto a canvas and dehydrated, resulting in the apple fibre drying into a leather-like sheet. Finally, this is combined with polyurethane and coated onto a polyester/cotton backing to create a very soft and supple material. There are also some samples of Pinatex on display in the same case, made from the waste leaves of the pineapple plant mixed with polylactic acid and, again, polyurethane.

The Friend and faux exhibition is open until 11th March 2022 and does contain some objects and descriptions which some may find distressing.

Katherine Pell
Collections Officer

Wednesday 8 December 2021

MoDiP's new Museum Assistant

Hello, you may be wondering who I am. So, first a bit about me…My name is Reanna, I grew up in a relatively large family and I went to college and studied photography for 4 years. I joined MoDiP in November 2021 as Museum Assistant. I decided to join MoDiP to develop my knowledge on everyday plastics and because of my general curiosity with this material.

When most think of plastics the first thing that might spring to mind could be crisp packets, water bottles, yoghurt pots and many more food packaging products, right?

Image ref: clockwise from top left: AIBDC : 005662, 007994.1, 007145 and 005677
Image credit: MoDiP

Well, what if I was to tell you that the clothes you are wearing could be plastic? Mind boggling! How can clothes be made of plastics? These are the sorts of things I would like to learn more about.

Image ref: clockwise from top left: AIBDC : 003686, 005965, 004256 and 001720
Image credit: MoDiP

So many of us lack a real understanding of plastics and that’s why I am here, to broaden my knowledge as well as my workplace experience. I am positive that during my time here I will learn many new things and I hope that by reading this post you might be inspired to find out more too.
Reanna Butcher
Museum Assistant

Wednesday 1 December 2021

MoDiP’s letter to the UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson.

MoDiP’s letter to the UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, in response to the current government consultation on banning single use plastic cutlery and plates. 

A public consultation has recently been launched by the UK government to consider banning commonly littered single-use plastic items in England (the Devolved Administrations are also considering similar regulations). This is MoDiP’s response, which has been emailed directly to Boris Johnson:


Image credit: plastics by the numbers

Dear Prime Minister

It is certainly good to be thinking of banning single use plastic plates and cutlery but why just single use plastic things? Single use most things are unnecessary and therefore bad for the environment. Many, for example, paper cups and plates, consume more energy in their manufacture and transportation than their plastic counterparts. The problem with plastic things begins mainly when they are disposed of inappropriately.

Plastics are now essential materials in our lives that we will never again be able to do without. Indeed, in many ways, they make the world a better place. They have transformed healthcare: think of their impact on sterilisation, pill packaging or heart surgery; they make transport less damaging: over the lifetime of the average car, lightweight plastic parts save around 3,000 litres of fuel; and they have helped to democratise the world, transforming for example public engagement with photography, music, and sport. We need to learn how to live well with plastics, not denigrate them.

You have seemed to downgrade recycling, stating actually correctly, that every time a plastic is recycled it loses a bit but that ignores the fact that any plastic can be beneficially recycled, if only for its calorific value.

Plastics are too valuable to be disposed of carelessly. You need to lead on this. We need a proper recycling system - it needs to be global but we can start it off in the UK, built not, as we have now, on the commercial value of the particular recycled plastic but as part of the Government’s drive to create a carbon neutral world. Plastics are a material group that can help us achieve that. They are being blamed for something that we, all of us including you, as users of plastics, are doing: that is not disposing of them appropriately. We are all at fault but mainly because the facilities to enable us to do so do not exist. You can change that. I would welcome the opportunity to talk to you about this in more depth.
Professor Susan Lambert
Chief Curator, Museum of Design in Plastics:
Arts University Bournemouth

If you would like to take part in this consultation, visit the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs website to complete the online survey. Closes 12th February 2022.