Discover more from FOR SCALE
LIFE IN PLASTIC
What to admire from the past of this now-dubious material
IN THIS ISSUE:
Aspects of (old) plastic to celebrate
WARNING: a more “Here is covetable furniture” focus than usual, including excellent entry-level High-Brow plastic
Why we owe all incredible plastic design of the 20th century and beyond to THE HOUSEWIFE
A very straightforward reading list of two books
A report by Instagram’s @not_only_pizza on critical Plastic in three new furniture categories: FISH, EGG, and BREAD
Some good sellers in Los Angeles who reliably have PLASTIC
Today, we spend in Barbie’s world. Life in plastic, as they say, is fantastic.* (But let’s find out WHY.)
… SO LONG AS, dear readers, the plastic in question is NOT NEW. Old plastic is what we’re here to praise.
What makes OLD PLASTIC home goods so worthy is that they are both mega plentiful (because humanity has really gone full throttle on plastics), and also totally finite (because new plastic is ethically questionable so ALL GOOD PLASTIC HAS ALREADY BEEN MADE, which is unlike any other material – probably).
A BRIEF COMMENDATION FOR (OLD) PLASTIC:
The more old plastic we can rehome, the better
Plastic is really at the core of 20th C. domestic history and so if you just have woods and metal you’re, like, way missing out
The absolute AUDACITY of plastic to be The Cheapest and also Wildly Fancy with basically no difference in material or process - just looks. A lesson to us all: JUST SET YOUR OWN WORTH.
“PLASTIC IS RESPONSIVE TO HUMAN FANTASIES”, says expert [A READING LIST OF TWO BOOK]
We’re going to introduce you now to ANDREA DINOTO, whose book “ART PLASTIC” we’ve been staring at for many months. And, she introduces us to the year 1982. According to she, it was in 1982 that we entered the so-called PLASTIC AGE.
The Year 1982, An overview on a scale from “Des Moines, Iowa” to “the World”
Des Moines; 1982 is angry: Ozzy Osbourne chomps off a bat’s head on stage
United States; 1982 is “mass” and narcissistic: Diet Coke bursts onto the scene, eventually capturing the American psyche to such an extent that diametrically opposed figures such as Kate Moss and soon-to-be-convict Donald Tr*mp are both committed fans
The World; 1982 fills emotional hole with cheap plastic stuff: Global plastic production surpasses steel production for the first time AND WE’VE NEVER LOOKED BACK*. STEEL IS DEAD, LONG LIVE PLASTIC. THE PLASTIC AGE IS UPON US.
*Humanity is really f*cking looking back
The point DiNoto makes in ART PLASTIC, though, is really this: plastic is very thrilling, totally everywhere, ended up really inspiring a lot of people to do both practical and demented-fun stuff, and has evolved from “mere substitute” to that of essential ingredient – one “responsive… to human fantasies.” And that, folks, is pretty much the highest praise.
Really too bad it’s so horrible for Earth.
A book that really speaks for itself, PIN-UP’s insane and instantly out of stock BARBIE DREAMHOUSE: AN ARCHITECTURAL SURVEY. [From which this week’s cover image was drawn.]
CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE, AN OVER-SIMPLIFIED GEOGRAPHY (PLASTIC EDITION)
1. ITALY: THE SHEER INSANITY OF FORM
Though we appreciate the Italians as, like, “quite classy”, in fact they are in the habit of really pushing the boundaries of taste, mainly towards Celebratory Tackiness.
The hero of this is GUFRAM, which is a brand, and very avant-garde (quite into ILLUSIONISM, which is a topic for another week), and their whole entire catalog is really a celebration of the SHEERLY INSANE CAPABILITIES OF PLASTIC. Some examples:
And, still in Italy: We have often praised GAETANO PESCE, the octogenarian Italian designer who is having a super moment right now, with a thrilling exhibition (that just ended) at THE FUTURE PERFECT.
And, despite being fancy, Gaetano provides one of the best entry points into Absurd Italian Design, with the very affordable TRY TRAY, which has a whole in the middle (that’s the absurd part):
2. SWEDEN: TIDY, FUNCTIONAL, DURABLE STUFF WITH A PLASTIC-ENABLED PSYCHO-PERKY TWIST
Exhibit A, the Best of IKEA. (Our whole post on IKEA here.)
Exhibit B, the works below of design duo Tom Ahlström and Hans Enrich:
We’re gonna say GET YOUR LUCIFER NOW (we are), because this kind of robot-functionalist vibe (very Dieter Rams For Braun) will surely return when we’re in Fifth Element / Blade Runner era and for now this this is a kind of off-radar number.
A good SWEDISH plastic entry point is the IKEA PS watering can (2002) by Monika Mulder (who herself is actually Dutch). It’s so fucking cheap, and in fact, few watering cans are actually attractive. This one is.
3. UNITED STATES: THE BANAL
CRUCIAL PLASTIC HISTORY / FOR SCALE PHILOSOPHY:
If FOR SCALE wants to communicate one thing, it’s that really there can be delight found in ANYTHING. And we must appreciate Tupperware, because Earl S. Tupper walked so that Gufram could run. The explanation:
Who were the early adopters of plastic, you might ask? Housewives. Because the kitchen was already rife with industrial materials (e.g. brass, iron, whatever) so housewives were like, not snobby about plastic when it came onto the scene. So, Housewives basically built the industry that eventually would give us Corinthian Column As Chair.
TO MAKE YOU FEEL BETTER ABOUT YOURSELF: A FAIL
It’s satisfying to know that all of these covetable-stuff-making legacy designers are also fallible. This is a “DESIGNERS, THEY’RE JUST LIKE US” moment, i.e. they make some dumb mistakes. And, this one being in plastic, we can include it here.
PICTURE THIS: you fill the cup up to the top, as we are wont to do, especially with CRUCIAL morning coffee. The Max II is a complete fucking HIGHWAY TO SPILLAGE, as you can see.
Chic anyway, though. And absurdly, people kind of covet mistakes-design more?
A SPECIAL REPORT FROM PLASTIC CORRESPONDENT SE-LIN CHIANG of @NOT_ONLY_PIZZA (IG)
In delightfully FOR SCALE form, Italy-based NOT ONLY PIZZA IN ITALY (plastic collectors and experts) and Plastics Correspondent Se-Lin have offered THREE UNMISSABLE PLASTIC DESIGNS in the categories of FISH, EGG, and BREAD. (We are so thrilled by that.)
1. FISH 🐟
‘Let’s start with FISH: Gaetano Pesce. [PESCE translation: FISH] One of our favorite designs by GP is the ‘Broadway’ chair, manufactured by Bernini in 1993. The very elegant form with spring feet on each leg = extremely interesting. And also we like the idea that he keep the craft spirit, with the resin making all the copies different and unique. Especially under in mass production world, something like that is very special.’
TAKEAWAY: PLASTIC CAN BE ARTISANAL
2. EGG 🥚
‘Another object related to food popped up in our mind: THE EGG. An egg cup with a candle stand on the reverse side [FOR SCALE NOTE: WHY THE HECK NOT, RIGHT?], designed by Enzo Mari for Danese Milano in 1972. Such a small cylindrical object that can be so daily or so romantic raises the level of our dining table.’
TAKEAWAY: PLASTIC HAS RANGE
3. BREAD 🍞
‘There’s one chair looks very much like BREAD*, the Jumbo chair designed by Alberto Rosselli for Saporiti Italia in 1968. It was the innovation in the use of the plastic materials, and the concept of modular industrial production realized the fluent and yummy shape’.
*AKA WHITE, FLUFFY, VERY BAO
TAKEAWAY: PLASTIC CAN ACHIEVE “FLUFFY” WITHOUT INFLATION
ASIDE FROM NOT ONLY PIZZA, another good plastic-ogling Instagram we adore is that of ARTHUR HAN in New York.
FINALLY, AND OLD EXHIBITION YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT
THE “VISIONA” STUFF THAT BAYER (as in the chemicals company) DID FROM 1968-1972 (more here) which were held on a boat in Cologne.
Childless Joe Colombo designed the above for a hypothetical CHILDLESS COUPLE, showing that even though plastic is durable and wipeable doesn’t mean it’s just for kids. Adults also want to tumble and spill.
L.A. sellers that reliably have good plastic:
FORMAS, well they have that I SASSI rock
We’re thinking PLASTIC may be a good conversation for this week’s Passover seder, for those that observe. Just a thought.
ALSO: welcome to the many new subs who came via the generous recommendation of!
Util next week,
LOVE AND GOOD LUCK
And here’s a super New Yorker article about the whack-jobs that loved Diet Coke and its decline, which was weird timing because it was published the same month that Diet Coke sales overtook Regular Coke sales for the first time.