Book Review: Bakelite Style

Yesterday's product of tomorrow

Bakelite and the Machine Age were meant for each other. This wonderful material (and I think plastic really should included also) allowed manufacturers to easily create all kinds of products for industry but especially for everyday items that could be found in every home.

Tessa Clark has written a lightweight review of Bakelite but I think it is the photos that make the book come alive. Two chapters: Radios and Jewelry take up about half the pages. Radios are divided into countries. Those from America have been well covered in other books but the pages on radios from Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Czechoslovakia I found fascinating. European designers mixed Streamline with their own countries inherent design traits to create a wonderful collection of offbeat shapes. On page 123 there is an amazing looking sleek German DAF 1011 tuner/amplifier made from 1935 to 1938, it wouldn't look out of place in a home today though the giveaway is the Nazi swastika embossed on the front.

The jewelry pages are a cornucopia of colorful shapes and textures which could be produced in the millions. What's interesting here is that so many of the items couldn't be made from anything else though there are plenty of examples of Bakelite that has been produced to look like more natural materials like wood, pebbles or ivory.

The rest of the book's visual content have examples of household items: kitchenware; tableware; cameras; telephones; office equipment. There are several spreads that cover individual subjects like: Functionism; Modernism; Plastics and color; Collecting; Care and maintenance. The back pages have a (reasonably) bibliography and index. The Bakelite Jewelry Book looks at this in detail with plenty of examples.

Though the book was published in 1997, so the design is a little staid, I think the wealth of photos definitely makes it a worthwhile buy.

Bakelite Style is available at Amazon (US | CA | UK | DE | FR | IT | ES | JP | CN) and Book Depository

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Title spread.

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Right: a Thirties streamline, multi-voltage travel iron. Makes an ace paper-weight in my study.

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Predictably the section on radios is the biggest in the book. This spread features them from France.

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Other books related to Bakelite and bottom left my own bit of Thirties bakelite.

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