Monday, December 31, 2012

Italy: The new domestic landscape | Press release | Museum of Modern Art, New York | 1972

Here is a May 26, 1972 press release from the Museum of Modern Art, the first day of the seminal “Italy: The new domestic landscape” exhibition.  It is a great read that gives a taste of what was seen as the most mentionable aspects of Italian interior, furniture, and architecture design at the show.  Today is the last day in the 40th anniversary year of the exhibition.  Happy new year 2013!

Click for an alphabetical listing of artists represented at the Italy: The new domestic landscape exhibition.  About the book Italy: The new domestic landscape. Achievements and problems of Italian design.

Italy: The new domestic landscape, press release

NO. 26
MAY 26, 1972

ITALY: THE NEW DOMESTIC LANDSCAPE, one of the most ambitious design exhibitions ever undertaken by The Museum of Modern Art, will be on view in the galleries and garden from May 26 through September 11. Directed and installed by Emilio Ambasz, Curator of Design in the Museum’s Department of Architecture and Design, the exhibition reports on current design developments in Italy with 180 objects for household use and 11 environments commissioned by the Museum.

The exhibition is presented under the sponsorship of the Ministry of Foreign Trade of Italy and the Italian Institute of Foreign Trade (I.C.E.) and the Gruppo ENI, with contributions from ANIC and Lanerossi (companies of Gruppo ENI), Fiat, Olivetti, Anonima Castelli, Alitalia, and Abet Print and with the collaboration of a large number of Italian industries.

Italy, Mr. Ambasz says, is not only the dominant product design force in the world today but also illustrates some of the concerns of all industrial societies. Italy has assumed the characteristics of a micro-model where a wide range of possibilities, limitations and critical problems of contemporary designers throughout the world are represented by diverse and sometimes opposite approaches. These include a wide range of conflicting theories about the present state of design activity, its relation to the building industry and to urban development as well as a growing distrust of objects of consumption.

The exhibition will be organized into two parts: Environments and Objects. The objects were selected and the environments were commissioned because of their relevance to particular current attitudes toward “the task of design.” The exhibition therefore devotes major areas to audio-visual presentations explaining the purpose of the exhibits, and a concluding audio-visual section in which the director of the show, Mr. Ambasz, gives an analysis and critique of the problems raised. In addition, most of the environments contain a TV screen on which is shown a three- to four-minute film made by the designer to explain his environment.

Made in Italy and shipped to New York, the environments are intended for two modes of contemporary living — the permanent home and the mobile unit. Four illustrate the counter-design approach of designers who believe no more objects should be added to our cluttered consumer-dominated culture and that social and political changes are needed before we can change the physical aspects of our society. Seven pro-design environments were made by designers who believe it is possible to improve the quality of life by improving our physical environment.

The pro-design environments pay special attention to new forms emerging as a result of changing patterns of life style: more informal social and family relationships and evolving notions of privacy and territoriality, as well as the exploration of new materials and production techniques. Each environment occupies a 16 x 16 foot area in the galleries. Among them are Ettore Sottsass’ micro-environments in plastic, each on casters so occupants can easily re-arrange them to fit their needs; Joe Colombo’s fixed plastic units for bath, kitchen, sleeping, and storage that can be put into any existing space; Gae Aulenti’s molded plastic elements which can be combined to form architectural multi-purpose environments; Rosselli’s aluminum mobile house which expands from 7 x 14 feet to 20 x 29 feet; Zanuso-Sapper’s house, an aluminum container from which two plastic molded shells housing bedroom and bathroom/kitchen units telescope; and Mario Bellini’s glass-walled “exploration” car can also expand when stationary. La Pietra’s environment suggests a bridge between the pro-design and counter-design proposals; he believes we can liberate ourselves from present conditions by better use of the communications network.

As a prologue to the environments section, and functioning as an ironic commentary on the present, there is Gaetano Pesce’s “underground room.” It represents the remains of a habitat of the year 2000 as found in the year 3000. The counter-design environments consist of Superstudio’s 6 x 6 foot box of polarized mirror glass with a grid in the floor through which tubes project bringing air, food, water and communications to the occupants, who can also watch a film on TV that describes the designers’ vision of the world and see pictures of clouds projected on the ceiling; and Archizoom group’s empty room containing only a microphone over which come harsh words about the destruction of objects and institutions, followed by a pleasant voice describing a Utopian world. Derossi, Ceretti, and Rosso, a group of young designers from Turin who believe there is no point in designing any objects or environments until the entire urban policy is redirected, wrote three pamphlets which are given to visitors, describing the present and the future.

Complementing the environments, there will be a display of 180 objects produced in Italy during the last decade by more than 100 designers. These examples of product design (furniture, lighting fixtures, flatware and china) were selected for their design quality and to illustrate the various intellectual design positions which have evolved in Italy in the last 10 years.

The objects section illustrates three prevalent attitudes toward design in Italy today: “conformist,” “reformist,” and “contestatory,” Mr. Ambasz says.

Most are by conformist designers who are concerned with exploring the aesthetic quality of single objects such as chairs, tables, bookcases, which answer the needs of traditional domestic life. Bold use of color, imaginative utilization of the possibilities offered in new hard and soft synthetic materials, and advanced moulding techniques characterize this work. About 60% of the objects on view are in this category, including Joe Colombo’s “Poker” table (1968) in laminated wood and steel; the “Soriana” lounge chair (1970) by Tobia and Afra Scarpa, in polyurethane and dacron covered with fabric; the “Arco” floor lamp by Achille and Piergiacomo Castiglioni (1962) in steel with a marble base; and the “Giunone” floor lamp (1969) in lacquered metal, and the “Selene” stacking chair (1965) in reinforced polyester, both by Vico Magistretti.

Describing the reformist designers, Mr. Ambasz observes that they do not invent substantially new designs but rather re-design known objects with new, ironic and sometimes self-deprecatory socio-cultural and aesthetic references. Examples are the “Donna” armchair with footstool (1969) shaped liked a woman, by Caetano Pesce in polyurethane; the “Sassi” stones, different size seats by Piero Gilardi, in polyurethane; and the “Joe” sofa (1970), designed to look like a baseball glove in polyurethane and leather by De Pas, D’Urbino and Lomazzi.

While the “contestatory” designers believe that an object can no longer be designed as a single isolated entity, their reaction is to conceive of their designs in terms of environments and to propose objects that are flexible in function and permit multiple modes of use and arrangement. The results of this mode of Italian design do in fact seem to correspond to the preoccupations of a changing society, Mr. Ambasz observes. Among the examples on view are “Tavoletto,” (1967) a low table on casters with folding bed inside, by Alberto Salvati and Ambrogio Tresoldi in lacquered wood; “il Serpentone” (the jumbo snake), a settee of unlimited length that can be bent into concave or convex curves of any radius to suit the user’s needs, designed by Ms. Cini Boeri (1971) in polyurethane; the “Sacco” or bean bag chair (1969) by Gatti, Teodoro and Paolini in polyurethane filled with little balls; and the “Ghiro” mattress-lounge chair (1967) in polyurethane and fabric by Umberto Catalano and Gianfranco Masi.

The objects will be exhibited in the upper and lower terraces of the Museum’s Garden in containers especially designed by Mr. Ambasz.

An accompanying publication* edited by Mr. Ambasz, and published by The Museum of Modern Art illustrates the environments and objects shown in the exhibition, and includes a series of historical essays and critical analyses of Italian design written by major Italian critics and historians.

*ITALY: THE NEW DOMESTIC LANDSCAPE edited by Emilio Ambasz. 432 pages; 380 illustrations (110 in color); clothbound $15.00; paperbound $7.95. Published by The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Clothbound edition distributed to the trade by New York Graphic Society Ltd. in the United States and Canada.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Additional information available from Elizabeth Shaw, Director, Department of Public Information, The Museum of Modern Art, 11 W. 53 St., New York, NY 10019. Phone: (212) 956-7501, -7504.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

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Saturday, December 29, 2012

4702 and 4703 wall clothes hook (gancio) | Olaf von Bohr | Kartell, Italy | 1970 | UPDATE

Olaf von BohrOlaf von Bohr
Kartell, Italy

Olaf von Bohr is a prolific designer who has done a lot of product design work for Kartell.  Here is a brief biography of Olaf von Bohr.  My original post about the 4702 and 4703 wall clothes hook (gancio) showed it in red, orange, green, brown, and chrome.  Here is the hook in yellow.  Image source:  eBay.

Olaf von Bohr 4702 clothes hook for Kartell, yellow

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1476 carpet beater | Gino Colombini | Kartell, Italy | 1960 | UPDATE

Here is an update to my post of March 6, 2012, the 1476 carpet beater by Gino Colombini for Kartell.  Here is the carpet beater (Battipanni) in green.

eBay item 121043848137 ends January 3, 2013 at 8:00:20 PST (Italy).

Gino Colombini Kartell model 1476 carpet beater (Battipanni)

Gino Colombini Kartell model 1476 carpet beater (Battipanni) Gino Colombini Kartell model 1476 carpet beater (Battipanni)
Gino Colombini Kartell model 1476 carpet beater (Battipanni)

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Thursday, December 27, 2012

Kartell catalog | Kartell, Italy | 2012

Numerous new items and old items in new colors have been added to the Kartell catalog for 2012.  The most notable is probably the reissue of the 4801 chair by Joe Colombo (in transparent, white, and black, it is shown on p. 54). Click here or the page below to read the 2012 Kartell catalog.

2012 Kartell catalog

Original Joe Colombo 4801 chair

Reissue Joe Colombo 4801 chair

Left:  An original 4801 chair made from three interlocking pieces of plywood.  The 4801 chair is famous for being the only Kartell item to be produced entirely of wood.  Image source:  1stdibs.  Right:  Reissue of the 4801 chair.  The reissue is produced from transparent or batch dyed PMMA.  Image source:  hivemodern.

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Monday, December 24, 2012

green Endura alarm clock | West Germany

Inspired by a recent comment, I decided to revisit the orange Endura alarm clock and see what else I could find out about it.  Here is the Endura triangle alarm clock in green.  It measures approximately 5-1/2” in height by 4” in width.  The round base is approximately 3-3/8 inches in diameter.  Image source:  etsy.com.  The clock sold on December 16, 2012.

Endura alarm clock, greenEndura alarm clock, greenEndura alarm clock, greenEndura alarm clock, green

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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Polycarbonate (PC)

Polycarbonate plastics, abbreviated PC, have chemical formulae that contain carbonate groups (–O–(C=O)–O–). They are covered by the trademarked names Lexan, Makrolon, and Makroclear. Lexan is the registered trademark for the polycarbonate produced by SABIC Innovative Plastics (formerly General Electric Plastics) by reacting bisphenol A (BPA) with phosgene. Alternatives to this synthesis method exist that do not employ BPA (because of possible health and safety effects in humans, depending on how the PC product is used) or phosgene (because of potential deleterious effects on the environment).

Dr. Daniel W. Fox from General Electric invented Lexan polycarbonate in 1953 and applied for a patent in 1955, after conducting a series of experiments while working on a project to develop new wire insulation material.  A result of independent research, Dr. Hermann Schnell from Bayer Germany also applied for a patent on a nearly identical molecule that same year.  Dr. Schnell was ultimately awarded the patent, when it was established he made his invention a week before Dr. Fox.  The two should rightly share the honor of being the “fathers of polycarbonate.”   

bisphenol A bisphenol A, (CH3)2C(C6H4OH)2

phosgene  phosgene, COCl2

polycarbonate polycarbonate (Lexan), [OC6H4C(CH3)2C6H4OCO]n

Polycarbonates are thermoplastic, meaning that they are easily worked and formed. A thermoplastic is a polymer that softens and turns to liquid when heated and conversely solidifies to a glass-like state when cooled. These materials are ideally suited to injection molding. Polycarbonates have a melting point of approximately 155 °C (310 °F). Polycarbonates are frequently employed in electronics, building materials, design and signage, and data storage. CDs, DVDs and Blu-Ray discs are made of polycarbonate. They have outstanding mechanical, optical, electrical and thermal properties and can be easily dyed.

polycarbonate raw material Polycarbonate raw material.  Image source:  tradeKorea.

Resin code 7

For the purposes of recycling, PC is in group 7. Click for more information about plastics recycling codes, published by the American Chemistry Council.


Daniel Fox (chemist). Retrieved December 12, 2012 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daniel_Fox_(chemist).

Lexan resin innovation timeline. Retrieved December 12, 2012 from http://www.sabic-ip.com/gep/Plastics/en/ProductsAndServices/InnovationTimeline/lexan.html.

Polycarbonate. Retrieved December 12, 2012 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polycarbonate.

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Monday, December 17, 2012

Speed read cube lite flip clock, model 0854-000 | Seth Thomas, Talley Industries | United States of America | ca. 1972

While we’re on cube clocks by Seth Thomas, this is another that has retro written all over it.  Here is a plastic cased flip number clock named “Speed read cube lite”. I have found the clock in four color finishes.  A vintage advertisement for the clock lists three of these four. Blue is catalog number 854, white is catalog number 855, wood grain is catalog number 856, and yellow is catalog number 857.  If there are any more colors you happen to know about, please comment!

Color Catalog number
Blue 854
White 855
Wood grain 856
Yellow 857
The clock is given model 0854-000 and is approximately 4-1/2” on a side. It operates on AC and must be plugged in, it is not battery operated.  A large dial on the left side of the cube is used to set the clock.  The yellow and blue cubes have a dial that matches the dial.  The white and wood grain cubes have a black dial.  I like the sunshine yellow color best, so it’s coming first in the post.

Seth Thomas was born in Wolcott, Connecticut in 1785. He went to work for clockmaker Eli Terry in 1807 and together with Silas Hoadley bought out Terry’s factory in 1810. In 1930 a holding company named General Time Instruments Corporation was formed to unite Seth Thomas Clock Company with Western Clock Company. In 1968, General Time was bought by Talley Industries, and in 1979 their headquarters was moved to Norcross, GA. In June, 2001, General Time announced that it was closing its entire operation.

From the November 26, 1972 issue of the Reading Eagle, Reading, PA. 

Seth Thomas Speed read cube lite flip clock, advertisement

Not for Squares!

Seth Thomas logo
Today’s new-style time– in high fashion colors, smart cube shape. Easy-read numbers even from a distance. Lighted dial, quiet electric powered. Very modern touch for any room. Blue, yellow, or white–only 4 1/4” space.



Seth Thomas Speed read cube lite flip clock, yellow

This clock was sold from etsy.com on May 24, 2011. The Speed read cube lite is a relatively common clock that can be had for a reasonable price.

Seth Thomas Speed read cube lite flip clock, yellowSeth Thomas Speed read cube lite flip clock, yellowSeth Thomas Speed read cube lite flip clock, yellow


A Seth Thomas Speed-read cube lite clock in a blue case. It is given catalog number 854. From eBay.

Seth Thomas Speed read cube lite flip clock, blueSeth Thomas Speed read cube lite flip clock, blue


A Seth Thomas Speed-read cube lite clock in a white case. It is given catalog number 855. From eBay.

Seth Thomas Speed read cube lite flip clock, whiteSeth Thomas Speed read cube lite flip clock, white

Wood grain

A Seth Thomas Speed-read cube lite clock in a wood grain finish case.  It is given catalog number 856.  From eBay.

Seth Thomas Speed read cube lite flip clock, woodSeth Thomas Speed read cube lite flip clock, wood with boxSeth Thomas Speed read cube lite flip clock, wood with box

More views of the Speed read cube lite clock box.

Seth Thomas Speed read cube lite flip clock, wood


New speed-read cube lite clock advertisement. (1972, November 26). Reading Eagle, p. 53.

Seth Thomas company history.  Retrieved December 15, 2012 from http://clockhistory.com/sethThomas/company/index.html.

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Friday, December 14, 2012

Minicube alarm clock, model E043-000 | Seth Thomas, General Time, Talley industries | ca. 1970s

Here is a yellow plastic alarm clock by Seth Thomas called Minicube.  The clock is given catalog number 557 and model E043-000. Seth Thomas is a division of General Time, a Talley Industries Company. The clock is approximately 3-3/4” on a side. It operates on AC and must be plugged in, it is not battery operated.  On the label is stamped “8 77”, probably indicating a manufacture date of August, 1977.

Seth Thomas minicube alarm clock

eBay item 140897196400 ends December 16, 2012 at 16:04:39 PST (United States).

Seth Thomas minicube alarm clockSeth Thomas minicube alarm clockSeth Thomas minicube alarm clock, labelSeth Thomas minicube alarm clock, label

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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Lumitime clock model C-41 | Various designers | Tamura Electric Corp., Japan | ca. 1970

An update to my post about Lumitime clocks from March 23, 2009, specifically the model C-41. Click for other posts I’ve made about Lumitime clocks.  The model C-41 has “Tamura” in raised letters on the front bottom and a dimmer at the back.  Note the numbers are pixels on this model instead of the digital-like LCD style readout.

Lumitime C-41 clock

Lumitime C-41 clock controls

The panel in the front flips down to reveal the clock setting and alarm controls.  (This image from a different auction on eBay, to show the detail of the controls).

Still in the box and in practically new condition, this clock generated the most interest I’ve ever seen for a Lumitime.  eBay item 261137541864 ended December 10, 2012 at 20:58:49 PST (United States).  It sold for $159.49.  There were 6 bidders who placed 29 bids.

For information about other Lumitime clocks that have been previously featured, click a model below.

Lumitime clock model C-11
Lumitime clock model C-21
Lumitime clock model CC-24
Lumitime clock model C-31 (script)
Lumitime clock model CC-33
Lumitime clock model C-61
Lumitime clock model CC-71
Lumitime clock model CC-81
Lumitime clock model C-101

Lumitime C-41 clock with boxLumitime C-41 clock with boxLumitime C-41 clock

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Monday, December 10, 2012

Ball O’Tissue tissue dispenser | Joel and Nancy Aronie | Aronie Galleries, United States of America | 1979, 2010

Joel and Nancy AronieJoel and Nancy Aronie
Aronie Galleries, United States of America

1979, reissued 2010

The story of how Joel and Nancy Aronie arrived at the Ball O’Tissue (also known as the BOT) tissue dispenser starts all the way back in 1968.  At the time, Nancy was teaching and Joel was a nuclear engineer with Pratt and Whitney, working with acrylic.  The pair began by making tables and moved into bedrooms and bathrooms, later adding lamps and home accessories made from acrylic.

Ball O'Tissue

The Ball O’Tissue brought runaway success to Aronie Galleries.  It came in a huge array of colors.  Joel Aronie describes that he “had seen a concept like the BOT and did a design, made a mold, and began manufacturing it in 1979.”  It sold for $10. Some 350,000 of them were manufactured and sold in the first five-year run of the Ball O’Tissue, which lasted from 1979 to 1984.  Their timing was right, as the object has the look of a whimsical Pac-Man, and Pac-Man was big in the early 80s.  It should be noted that the Ball O’Tissue predates Pac-Man, which was first released in Japan in May, 1980 and hit the United States in October of that year.

Success drew to a rapid close, though.  Nancy Aronie explains, “Really, three things happened: knock-offs (products exactly like yours but made overseas with huge economies of scale), the oil crisis raised our costs, and crack cocaine came to Hartford. The crack epidemic was the worst part. It just decimated our workforce.”

In 2010, Joel and Nancy began thinking about the Ball O’Tissue again. “We discussed doing it again, but we needed the mold. I found Alan Chapman, who bought the company from us. He had sold it to somebody else. Somehow, he found the mold, nearly 20 years later, in a warehouse in New Jersey, and just gave it to us. Alan Chapman, God bless him.”

Most of the colors available today were also made in 1979.  Brown seems to be unique to the original issue, though.  The Ball O’Tissue is 6” in diameter and comes in two parts, which separate so that a stack of tissues or small tissue b0x can be put inside.  Or, just squeeze to refill.  The base is weighted so you can reach from afar to grab a tissue and the Ball O’Tissue will right itself.  It works equally well in bathroom, bedroom, and other settings.  It rocks, it rolls, it wobbles, and BLESS YOU!!


Ball O'Tissue, brown

Ball O'Tissue, brown

Ball O'Tissue, brown

Ball O'Tissue, brown

The Ball O’Tissue tissue dispenser, in brown.

Ball O'Tissue, brown imprint

The imprint reads in a circle, “© 1979 ball o’ tissue™ BY ARONIE – GARMENT”

The Ball O’Tissue tissue dispenser was reissued in numerous colors including red, green, blue, ivory, yellow, lime, pink, black, glow aqua, white, and purple.

Ball O'Tissue, reissued color options

Image source: zerotoys.com

The Aronie’s two sons, Josh and Alan, distribute the Ball O’Tissue and other neat stuff on zerotoys.com.  It can be purchased for $13.95 there.

Nancy Aronie describing the Ball O’Tissue.


Belt, M. (2011, January 28). Weekend update: Music all over town; pressing tissues. Retrieved from http://concord.patch.com/articles/pressing-tissues

Shea, J. (2010, December 22). Joel and Nancy Aronie reprise unusual tissue dispenser. Retrieved from http://www.mvtimes.com/2010/12/22/joel-nancy-aronie-reprise-unusual-tissue-dispenser-3905/

Pac-Man History.  Retrieved December 8, 2012 from http://pacman.com/en/pac-man-history.

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