Monday, December 27, 2010

Mottled Plastic, End of Day, Confetti and Swirled Melamine Designs Debunked by Melmac Central

Gorgeous swirls encompass this noteworthy poker chip holder as offered by AuRevoir of Seattle.
Ahhhh, look at the pretty plastics!   I love the beauty of the mottling or swirling together of the plastics during the vintage plastics molding process.  Not only are the below items fully functional, but the epiphany of good design!  I'm glad I have no more room for plastics, or my home would be full of these great items!  These next two items are exquisite.

The shakers are bakelite and I've seen them in every possible color except blues and whites.  A real steal from Australia , the original design probably dating to the 1930's era.  The seller's shop has great modern plastics design and should be looked at.   Below them is a cool retro desk organizer with metal teeth to cut your tape, that dates the items and to be honest, I've never seen anything like it.  Would be great for an artist to put their paint brushes in.
These old stacking bakelite shakers are from TheStyleCommandos.

A huge steal for $20 is this vintage desk organizer from Caraway Cache.
The item below is from NecktieParty at Etsy, and are the hard plastic type (bathroom cups), probably polystyrene--functional and no two alike none the less. These would be great at a summer picnic on the desk or lawn. This polystyrene is the same hard plastic which some of the old picnic plate sets were made of, the old Burrite pitchers and cookie jars, kitchen canisters, and even some salt and peppers.
Above and below mottled cups all for $22, a huge steal from NecktieParty shop in Philadelphia!

The cups were thin, so were most polystyrene items...but once in awhile you will find that polystyrene came in enter thicker plastics...I was shocked to find this huge salad bowl which I now have for sale in my Etsy store.

Large and sturdy mottled salad bowl in  Retro Chalet shop!

Gorgeous thick plastic bangle offered by ArtistiekEndeavors

Keep in mind the factories when swirling or mottling had to way to get the designs perfect.  This is so common with Bakelite jewelry, and you will find a plethora of it and still readily available for purchase.   Therefore, the imperfection often meant pieces not matching --this also meant that there are NO TWO ALIKE.  Isn't that awesome?  To know that these earrings below, if you owned them, are the only two of this particular kind of mottling in the entire

Vintage bakelite earrings from PrettyVintageJewelry are beautiful and functional.

Perhaps my love for mottling is why I have such a penchant for Russel Wright melmac and melamine dinnerware. For it was he who encompassed so many new techniques in the plastics way back when--in the Residential lines of the early 50's his standard colors were mottled, as shown in the aqua creamer below. Additionally he experimented with adding real "aluminum dust" to "Black Velvet" and "copper flecks" into his "Copper Penny" to enhance this process.

Molly's Closet is the place to go to get this great Russel Wright creamer.
Of course the mottling effect could happen a lot of ways.  Russel Wright's archives in Syracuse showed that he worked with the factory to show exactly how much white to add to the batch and at what thickness or gauge to do it.  This would allow for smaller or larger chunks of white showing in his designs, like above.  Rumors often circulating about the "end of day" designs have proven true in my research. Plastic factories first hand remember when at the end of a workday, the factory would try to use up the leftover molding colors. Such is true in some off-color designs that became quite popular by Russel Wright.  It is these accidentally-on purpose feats that have put some designs into play.
Take for instance these "end of day" Russel Wright designs, probably not approved by him, they were sold by Northern for quite some time due to their accidental popularity.  You will find them in blues, greens, and these tans.   I just acquired this great set as pictured by Ken Whittington, of North Carolina, who sells unusual plastics on HERE.
Often times there was more than one color incorporated in, and how much of what to add was a trade secret. I am quite sure TexasWare had their own recipes for their mixing bowls, often referred to as Confetti bowls because they contained so many different colors.   Each manufacturer experimented with the amount of stippling, mottling, and look of the plastics.  Take the example below, the Kysite company of Maine used to mold pulp, cellulose and paper into their dishes.  Nine out of ten will appear to have the same overall look and finish, this is because they knew exactly how much to add--that trade secret was priceless.

The Kysite factory had the process down to make all their dishes have this same stippled effect, this offered by vintagecreekside.

Then you have the pure and happy accidents, that never make it into production. Perhaps they are an artistic creation of an employee, a test design, or just a way of avoiding unused stock.  The production of these extraordinary found items exist and are often scoffed at by collectors.  However, I think they are even more rare because they weren't included in the original line. 

What the heck was this?  I may never know!  Offered by Marianne Clare Shop on Etsy.



  1. Thanks for this wonderful post about vintage confetti plastics and for the feature of an item from my Etsy shop. Much appreciated!! :)

  2. Oh! I was surprised to see a piece I own's the divided bowl you have pictured, captioned "What is this?" My mom gave it to me after having had it since she was first married in the early 1960s. There is a platter that goes with it. It's great for serving two types of veggies, or chips & dip. We use it a lot for nuts (nuts on one side, shells on the other).

    Thanks for sharing all these wonderful pieces!

    cheers ~


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