Thursday, March 22, 2012

Plastics (March 1940)

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Good morning! It's almost photo Friday, but to get us through this dreary Thursday morning in Nashville, I thought I might share with you guys a little pop of C-O-L-O-R. These technicolor dream products are from a 1940 Life magazine spread on the rising popularity of this new thing called plastics. You may remember my post a couple weeks ago about Andy Warhol's personal collection of early plastic and celluloid... THIS is the kind of wildly colorful, beautifully simple stuff he was picking up for next to nothing and hoarding in his upper East side townhouse in the 70's. Lucky. MAN!

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This table setting not only incorporates the kelly green, mustard yellow, and coral colors that I associate with a lot of color sequences in 1940's movies, but happens to have a scales-of-justice (or in this case, scales-of-fruit) centerpiece. We like, we like! The scales and the candlesticks are made of lightweight, unbreakable Lucite. So, when you're having the Bickersons over to dinner, and table setting pieces start flying, you don't even have to worry about them causing damage to each other OR the pieces themselves! Try that with crystal, and you're going to end up on Dateline. The dishes and glasses are made of the happily named "Beetleware", knife and fork handles are Catalin, and the mats are hand painted Plastacele. Have any of you heard of these things before? I'll have to look them up sometime.

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VERY. IMPRESSED. With this bed. At first, you'd think the photo above shows two different twin beds, but in fact, they are one and the same. Thanks to the magic of Plexiglass and specially made light rods, the edges of the headboard and footboard can change color depending on your mood. That's right; this is essentially a mood ring bed. Could you die? "Note how the color follows contour," the caption reads. Oh, I'm notin'. Santa, if you're reading, please add "Neon Dream Bed" to my Christmas list.

Here's a whole calvacade of materials made out of plastic:

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More Catalin in the handles at left ("Will not rot! Will not crack like wood does!" the caption boasts. The strainer at left and the phone at right are both made of Tenite, "the delight of decorators, because it can be made in unlimited colors".

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These cannisters are made of celluloid, in the popular, cheery red of forties' kitchens across the nation. The salt and pepper shaker is made of Beetle and Makalot. Check out how the single piece contains both salt and pepper, dispensing your choice by pressing the handle down at either side. Cle-e-e-ver.

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Two of my favorite things, contextless medical supplies and jewels, are also made of popular plastics.

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Look at the table pedestal! I don't know why we couldn't have skipped the orthodontics in full color. Everybody knows what color teeth are. We couldn't do these chairs in color? Still, I'm mesmerized by the shape of the chair at right's rattan frame, and can only daydream about the colorful plastic strips that make up the caning.

State of the art clothespins! State of the art baby-eatingware! The name of the latter is "Baby Dyner". Which sounds like a metal song from the 80's along the lines of "Holy Diver". Think about it.

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Ok, I am SERIOUSLY freaking out about this next one. For you midcentury rockabilly ghouls, you can (awesomely enough) combine your love of early plastics and graveyards with this Bakelite coffin. Ya heard right-- it's a BAKELITE. COFFIN. "Wormproof," reads the caption. "OHMYGAWD," reads the writer. While I understand its superiority to wood in terms of sealant-properties, wouldn't this thing crack all to pieces under the earth's pressure/movement over time? Not trying to be morbid, but is this really a good idea? Also, what colors does it come in, please.

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Last but not least, interchangable Lucite heels for women."They will not scuff and come in various colors". Can I get an amen.
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"There's a great future in plastics..."






Do you have any plastic collecting tips or stories? If you do collect, what's your favorite piece? Which one of these would you like to run into in a lonely, 50% discounted antique mall booth?

After this, I'm rarin' to get some cute little pieces off Etsy or SOMEWHERE. How can I live my life without the combined convenience and colorfulness of some of these items?

Read the article in its original issue HERE.

Til next time!

8 comments:

  1. Nice post. Thanks for the color, its raining in Kansas too! I really like the bed too and the heels are.... intresting.
    Beth

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  2. These are too neat!! Thanks for sharing. Gaudy midcentury plastics are the best; I'll take one of everything please!

    And that bakelite coffin is spectacular; of course I had to run a little search on it (thinking ahead and all), and it seems only 5 are known in existence. Darn, there goes that dream! ;)

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  3. I think the utensils match a cake comb I have with a yellow plastic handle, so I definitely wouldn't mind finding a set of those! The bed is pretty freakin' fabulous, too.

    Ugh--color is just what I needed. It's been raining all week. I thought I was coming down with SAD.

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  4. @Beth: Why does it have to rain, anyway?! We were having such nice weather up until now.

    @Dakota: Did you read this one? http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/3362256/Rare-Bakelite-coffin-part-of-collection-set-to-raise-thousands.html I don't know why I didn't think to follow up with that! I'll have to start sleuthing out some of these easier-to-find examples, stat!

    @Lauren: Lucky you with that cake comb! Also, SAD is a perfect excuse to geek out on an Etsy bakelite shopping spree, agreed? Agreed.

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  5. Oh heck yes, I love the vintage color palettes of old consumer goods. I'm so taken with some of those ice-cream colors of the 30's, I eat off of some antique Hazel Atlas Pastel Moderntone dishes that I'm only mostly sure are not giving me lead poisoning.

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  6. I think a bakelite coffin is a great idea! I mean, the formaldehyde is already baked right in! I was actually watching a film the other day...I can't remember which one (maybe Get Low?)...and they were telling a guy that by the time he needed a coffin, they'd be making them out of plastic! Anyway, I wonder if it comes in that lovely bakelite orange?

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  7. This entry is fabulous! I have a friend who is determined to be buried in a Bakelite coffin.

    I really love plastics when it comes to jewelry! I just adore the pieces that were made during the war, especially if they are military or victory themed. And western or Mexican themed plastic jewelry! LOVE!!

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  8. I wonder if any of those bakelite coffins are still around (above ground that is). Too weird!

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