Wednesday, 26 October 2022

Endurance - at high speed

When we curate an exhibition at MoDiP we not only create a physical display but also an online version too.  Part of this activity involves photographing objects that are to be viewed and getting intellectual property rights clearances from the designers and manufacturers involved.  Writing to companies and individuals also acts as a way of spreading the word about the museum and creates relationships with those involved.

In our latest exhibition, Endurance, we have a case, at high speed, which looks at the use of motorbike protective clothing and the pads that absorb the impact of a crash. One of these protective pads was made by SAS-TEC, a German company who create shock absorbing systems.  The manufacturer is an innovative producer of body armour founded in 2004. 

The piece we originally acquired for the exhibition was a pair of pads that can be used on the shoulders, elbows, or knees.  As per normal practice, I emailed SAS-TEC asking for permission to use images of these pads and to let them know that they were to be featured in the up coming exhibition.  Holger Hertneck, the Chief Operating Officer of the company, replied with some extremely useful information about the product, especially the fact that the polyurethane used is plant-based and not oil-based and as such the material is more sustainable than if it had been made with fossil-fuels. 

SAS-TEC. SC-1/42 for shoulder, elbows and knees.

Holger also very kindly donated to the collection a range of other pads that SAS-TEC supply:

SAS-TEC SC-1/KA2air for shoulders, elbows, hips and knees, SAS-TEC SC-5/01, SAS-TEC SCF-1 both for shoulder, elbows and knees.

SAS-TEC TF30 for shoulders, elbows, knees, shins, hips or ankles, SAS-TEC SC-1/74 for the hips, SAS-TEC SC-1/CP5 for the chest and SAS-TEC SC-1/B47-2 for the back.

SAS-TEC SC-1/AN for the ankle, SAS-TECSC-1/ECAair for elbows, and SAS-TEC SC-1/EVO1 for shoulders, elbows or knees.

SAS-TEC SC-1/31 for use on the shoulders, elbows or knees, SAS-TECSCA-400 for the back, and SAS-TEC SC-K101 designed to be worn by children on the shoulders, elbows or knees.

We would like to thank SAS-TEC for their support.

Louise Dennis, Curator of MoDiP

Wednesday, 19 October 2022

Anna Castelli Ferrieri

MoDiP has several pieces in the collection by Anna Castelli Ferrieri (1918 – 2006), the leading female industrial designer in Italy throughout the 1960s-1980s. She began as an architect, studying at the Politecnico di Milano and becoming its first female graduate in 1943. Her husband, Giulio Castelli, a chemical engineer, set up his own plastics manufacturing business in 1949 named Kartell, at first making car accessories and domestic products. Expanding into lighting in the 1950s and furniture in the 1960s, together they helped to shape the brand into a design-led, high quality, contemporary furniture company using plastics materials.

Castelli Ferrieri and Guido Castelli with the Round Table 4991.
Image credit: Storace & Holzwarth, 2013, p. 92.

Although Castelli Ferrieri chose to pursue her career in architecture alongside Kartell (working on more than fifty different projects over her lifetime), she began to contribute furniture designs in 1964 starting with the Round Table 4991 which she designed with Ignazio Gardella (refer image above). Three years later she produced one of her most well-known designs: the Componibili stacking storage unit, originally named mobili 4970/84. One of the first products to be made using injection moulded acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS), it was modular, colourful, lightweight, multi-purpose and, through mass production, accessible, and completely different to the traditional storage furniture available at that time. Still available to buy today, Componibili celebrated its 55th birthday this year with over 10 million sold across the world. MoDiP’s example (refer image below) dates to 2013.

AIBDC : 006878
Image credit: MoDiP

By the 1980s, Castelli Ferrieri had become Kartell’s art director, and it is during this period that she designed the side table, Style 4583 (refer image below, on the left). Intended as a set of three (below, on the right), each varying in size, the post-modern set was available to buy from 1985-1995. The square tabletop and circular shelf are injection moulded in polypropylene (PP) with ABS attachments that slot into the four metal legs. Also sold in white, the colour of MoDiP’s example and its proportions all remind me of furniture designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh but I can also see a Memphis influence in there too. It is surprisingly tall, standing at one metre in height.

AIBDC : 009337 (left) and the set of three tables (right)
Image credit: Katherine Pell and Storace & Holzwarth, 2013, p. 204.

Two ashtrays in the collection, both compression moulded in melamine formaldehyde (MF), were also completed during this period (refer image below). Style 4637 (on the left) and Style 4640 (on the right) were both designed in 1979 and sold until 1996. The black coloured example consists of two pieces that slot together with the cigarette ash collecting in the bottom tray. The red example is referred to by Kartell as an 'ecological' ashtray because the cigarette is stubbed out in the central section that extinguishes it due to a lack of oxygen, thus eliminating any smells. I think they are both very beautiful and distinctive designs, and luckily the 4637 is unused, complete with its original box.

AIBDC : 009336 and 009335.
Image credit: MoDiP

There are many other examples of Castelli Ferrieri’s work that we would like to acquire such as her 1979 designed stool 4822/4826, her 1982 designed 4300 table, her 1986 designed stacking chair 4870, her 1987 designed Stool-table 4810…. but for now, what we do have is always available to view in the museum, on request.
Katherine Pell
Collections Officer
Fiell, C. and Fiell, C., (2019) Women in Design. London: Laurence King Publishing Ltd.
Hall, J., (2021) Woman Made. London: Phaidon Press Ltd.
Katz, S., (2009) Anna Castelli Ferrieri. Plastiquarian. 41, 20.
Storace, E. and Holzwarth, H., (2013) Kartell. The Culture of Plastics. Cologne: Taschen. 

Wednesday, 12 October 2022

Endurance - in the air

Our current exhibition, Endurance, shows how good design and the right choice of plastics materials can play a part in reducing risk to life and help us to survive in a variety of situations.  The exhibition is made up of 11 cases the first of which, in the air, features a single object.

Gentex Alpha 900 flying helmet.

The Gentex Alpha 900 flying helmet is a 2021 model and has been designed for both fixed and rotary wing aircraft (fixed-wing aircraft include those that are propeller driven or jet engine powered and have wings that do not move; rotary-wing aircraft are those that are powered by rotating blades, such as helicopters) and is intended for both civilian and military use. The helmet system which is based on an epoxy resin aramid and a carbon fibre one piece shell, is modular so that it can be built or adapted to include the user’s specific requirements. It covers the full head; top, sides from the temple area down to below the ears, and the back, for comprehensive protection, and has specified communications, respiratory, hearing, eye and face protection with replaceable and serviceable parts that contribute to reduced costs and improved deployment time.

The exhibition is open until March 2023 and can be viewed in the museum or online.

Louise Dennis, Curator

Wednesday, 5 October 2022

Curator or Detective

There is no better feeling than finding an important nugget of evidence about an object, even if it proves we have got something wrong.

Ekco U122 radio, 1950.

Due to its age and colouring we had assumed, incorrectly, that the above EKCO U122 radio was made of urea formaldehyde. I was so pleased to have come across an advert placed by E. K. Cole Ltd, Plastics Division, in an edition of the trade journal ‘British Plastics’ from August 1950 which featured the very radio.  It proved to me that we had made a mistake - and that the case is actually made of polystyrene.

Advert for E. K. Cole Ltd, Plastics Division.  British Plastics, August 1950.

The text in the advert reads:

A good all-rounder
EKCO - pioneers of the plastic radio cabinet - design, tool and mould for many of the leading Radio Manufacturers. This particular example is a one-piece injection moulding in polystyrene, 1/8 inch thick, with a projected area of 72 sq. in. The carrying handle is moulded in, and conical tapered ribs are set in each corner for additional strength and rigidity. At the edge of each rib is a brass insert to take fixing screws. The all-round finish, colour and completeness of the cabinet is an excellent example of the moulder’s art - and further proof of our ability to serve industry.

Some additional points of interest

This polystyrene injection moulding is produced in three colours - ivory, green, and maroon on a 32-oz press, the minimum size required for a moulding of these dimensions. The apertures at the front, back and beneath the handle are for attachments of specially moulded lattice grilles which are permanently fixed into position by suitable solvents, this saving the incorporation of inserts or the use of fixing clips etc. When drilled, the injection port provides ideal location for the fixing of a boss carrying a trade mark.

In addition to the cabinet itself Ekco mould the lattice grilles, control knobs, daikon scale, trade mark and feet. The remarkably fine ‘all-round’ appearance of the receiver is due to a combination of brilliant design and technical skill.

E K Cole Ltd was obviously proud of their workmanship. The following edition of the British Plastics journal (September 1950) carries an article about the same radio with some technical details of how the case was moulded, taking care of how it cools after moulding. The details of both the advert and the article, which are contemporary to the radio itself, have now informed the catalogue record on our website which is more accurate.

An image from the MoDiP collection showing the case being drilled.

MoDiP has a number of radios of various ages in the collection along with an almost complete run of British Plastics magazines from 1931-1972 all of which can be viewed on request.

Louise Dennis, Curator of MoDiP