Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Plastics: Common objects, classic designs | Sylvia Katz | Harry N. Abrams, Inc., publisher | 1984

Plastics: common objects, classic designs Plastics: common objects, classic designs with collector’s guide at amazon.com.  This hardcover book is a steal at $1.99 plus shipping.  Six copies are available at under $5.

Katz’ work is 160 pages in length with 190 illustrations and 110 color plates.  It is broken into 8 chapters that cover the birth of plastics, and each decade from the 1920s to the 1980s.  The collector’s guide follows.

The dust jacket offers Katz’ biography (1984):

Sylvia Katz has a degree in art history from Bristol University in England and was later awarded first class honors in furniture design at the Hornsey College of Art.  Well known for her own collection of plastics and for her articles on the subject, she is also the author of Plastics: Designs and materials (1978).  She is currently with The Design Council, London.

While there’s not much pre-1940 or so that I’m hugely interested in from a collecting perspective, seeing these objects in historical context helps me to better understand the things I am drawn toward.  Without a doubt, this book is very well done.  It leads the reader chronologically through the development of plastic materials up to and through the modern era.  It begins with amber and shellac, then celluloid and proceeds through Bakelite, Lucite, ABS and the explosion of plastics in the 1960s and beyond.  It is inspiring in that the items featured run the gamut from mundane (the travel toothbrush) to extreme (the Mirizzo sofa).  I like this type of book, filled with both pictures and content, in that it provides ideas as to what to seek out and collect.

The objects in the book I like most (and neither of which I have but are shown below) are the Beetle Melmex melamine cruet set on p. 61 designed by A. H. Woodfull and manufactured by BIP, Ltd. (1946 original in urea formaldehyde, melamine in the early 1950s) and the radio with components cast in acrylic designed by David Watkins and manufactured by Clarity Plastics in England (1973) on p.116.

Woodfull cruetWatkins radio

The 15 page collector’s guide is useful as well, offering care guidelines, identification techniques, a glossary, a list of museums, and a list of trade names amongst other information.

Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data
Katz, Sylvia, 1944-
    Plastics: common objects, classic designs
    1.  Plastics – Collectors and collecting. I. Title.
NK8595.K37 1984    681’.7668’075    83-26661
ISBN 0-8109-0769-0

APA Citation
Katz, S. (1984). Plastics: Common objects, classic designs. New York, NY: Harry N. Abrams, Inc.. 

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