Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Astrolite Products | Ritts Co., L.A. | Various designers | ca. 1970s

Astrolite label

Here are is an example of Astrolite bookends.  Produced in quantity, sleek and modern, but also visually very interesting.

Astrolite bookends

Description from seller:  Acrylic bookends with molded metal decoration by Ritts Co, Los Angeles, “Astrolite” (foil label). 6” tall.  Sold.  Image source:  modpie.

Astrolite bookendsAstrolite bookends

Astrolite bookends described as “Moonscape.”  6” tall by 4” long by 2 1/4” deep.  Excellent original condition.  Image source:  Tom Gibbs Studio through 1stdibs.com.  Price $850 (!)

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Friday, July 15, 2011

Astrolite Products | Ritts Co., L.A. | Various designers | ca. 1970s

Astrolite label

Astrolite is a trademark registered to Herbert Ritts, Inc. of Los Angeles, California.  The trademark trail for Ritts begins with the first use and use in commerce of “Astrolite” on June 2, 1969 for “Furniture-namely tables, chairs and sofas.”  The Astrolite name refers to items made of or featuring in large part high quality acrylic.

Shirley Ritts, born October 28, 1920, was an American interior designer. She married Herb Ritts, Sr. in 1950, a businessman who owned a furniture company at the time.  Their company popularized rattan furniture in the United States during the 50s and 60s.  Later, the company introduced a line of high end acrylics.

Shirley and Herb Ritts, Sr. divorced in the late 70s.  She never remarried and died February 24, 2008 .  They had four children. Herbert “Herb” Ritts (August 13, 1952 – December 26, 2002) was an American fashion photographer who concentrated on black-and-white photography and portraits in the style of classical Greek sculpture.

Astrolite labelAstrolite label on an acrylic sculpture.

While many objects from the 60s and 70s are in the style of the Ritts Company’s Astrolite, they can sometimes be hard to identify as there is no signature or mark in the plastic itself.  The signature is typically a small foil sticker that indicating “Astrolite / Products / Ritts Co. L.A.” Future posts will showcase some of the spectacular items made under the Astrolite name.

Astrolite Trademark

Soon after, the Astrolite  trademark was extended to other classes, where first use was on May 21, 1970, in commerce on June 2, 1970.

Statuary, figurines and sculptures
Plastic bowls
Candle holders
Paperweights and pen holders
Book ends

Astrolite Trademark
Astrolite Trademark
Astrolite Trademark
Astrolite Trademark


“Passings: Shirley Ritts, Designer, mother of Herb Ritts”. Los Angeles Times. 2008-03-01. http://www.latimes.com/news/obituaries/la-me-passings1mar01,1,3910608.story. Retrieved 2008-03-07 (dead link)

Herb Ritts, Retrieved July 12, 2011 from http://www.facebook.com/pages/Herb-Ritts/105671886133966

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Monday, July 11, 2011

Poly(methyl methacrylate) (PMMA)

There’s a bunch of things I’ve been meaning to post that are made of acrylic and an introduction is in order.  Check out everything with an acrylic label.

Poly(methyl methacrylate), abbreviated PMMA, has the chemical formula (C5O2H8)n and CAS Registry Number 9011-14-7.

PMMA repeating unitPoly(methyl methacrylate) (PMMA)

PMMA is a transparent thermoplastic, often used as a light or shatter-resistant alternative to glass.  A thermoplastic is a polymer that softens and turns to liquid when heated and conversely solidifies to a glass-like state when cooled.  PMMA has a melting point of approximately 160 °C (320 °F). It is sometimes called acrylic glass or simply acrylic.

Chemically, PMMA is the synthetic polymer of methyl methacrylate. The material was developed in 1928 in various laboratories and was first brought to market in 1933 by Rohm and Haas under the trademark Plexiglas.  Lucite is the brand name of the polymer developed by the DuPont Chemical Company and only items made by DuPont can be referred to as Lucite.  The development of special light-resistant dyes in 1946 allowed color to be incorporated into acrylic without detrimental fading.

In addition to Plexiglas and Lucite, PMMA is sold by numerous other trade names such as Limacryl, R-Cast, Perspex, Plazcryl, Acrylex, Acrylite, Acrylplast, Altuglas, Polycast and Oroglass and is commonly called acrylic glass or simply acrylic.  A more complete list of synonyms for acrylic can be found here.

Acrylic shapesAcrylics are available in a vast selection of different forms and colors, including sheet, rod, tube, and block.  Image source:  Interstate Plastics.

PMMA is an economical alternative to polycarbonate (PC) when extreme strength is not necessary. Additionally, PMMA does not contain the potentially harmful bisphenol-A (BPA) subunits found in polycarbonate. It is often preferred because of its moderate properties, easy handling and processing, and low cost.  However, the material behaves in a brittle manner when loaded, especially under an impact force, and is more prone to scratching than glass.Resin code 7

For the purposes of recycling, PMMA is in group 7.  For more information about  plastics recycling codes, click here for a pdf published by the American Chemistry Council.


Poly(methyl methacrylate). Retrieved June 30, 2011 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poly(methyl_methacrylate)

Rohm and Haas Innovation - Plexiglas Triumphs. Retrieved June 30, 2011 from http://www.rohmhaas.com/history/ourstory/innovation_plexiglastriumphs.htm

Vintage Lucite. Retrieved June 30, 2011 from http://www.ehow.com/about_6634319_vintage-lucite_.html

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Monday, July 4, 2011

Pavé Piuma, et al. | Piero Gilardi | Gufram, Italy | 1969 – 1972

Piero Gilardi was born in Turin in 1942. In 1963, he held his first solo exhibition “Machines for the future.” Two years later he produced his first works in polyurethane foam.  Gilardi was widely recognized in the early 60s for his experiments with unorthodox materials and sculptural forms that radically diverged from the avant-garde mainstream.

Piero GilardiPiero Gilardi.  Image source.

Gilardi was responsible for creating “Tappeti-natura” (Nature-carpets). They are floor installations and wall reliefs made of meticulously molded and painted polyurethane foam that take the form of rocks, plants and a wide variety of nature studies.  These objects brought Gilardi considerable critical and commercial success throughout the 60s.

Pavé PiumaPavé Piuma, 1967.  Image source.

The Pavé Piuma is one such example, executed for Gufram in 1967.  Other Tappeti-natura can be seen in the slideshow below.  

Gilardi grew disillusioned with the art world and by the early 70s, ceased making art, abruptly exiting the scene.  In 1981 he resumed his activity in the art world, exhibiting in galleries of installations accompanied by creative workshops with the public. To see some of Gilardi’s recent work, click here.


Retrieved June 21, 2011 from Art in America. http://www.artinamericamagazine.com/features/piero-gilardi/

Retrieved June 21, 2011 from Biasutti & Biasutti. http://www.biasuttiebiasutti.com/artists_nostri_dettaglio.asp?Nome=Piero+Gilardi

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