Thursday, 4 March 2010

Plastic Fantastic! jewellery made of plastic.

I tend to get side-swiped with jewellery. I enter shops determined to buy that much needed skirt, or if I feel really motivated a pair of trousers. The problem is that subconsciously I cannot escape a basic physiological anomaly:the possession of a waist. It is a truism that in Britain dietary changes mean that the differential between hips, bust and waist is rapidly evaporating. However it hasn't in my case, additionally I am cursed with child- bearing hips and a more than ample prow. This means that finding clothing can be a tiring and lengthy experience. The presence of revolving towers of glinting glass, winking brass and frilly ribbons that wait to tempt me in nearly every store is an irresistible distraction. Even Sainsburys sell jewellery, although as they compete with cheese, wine and chocolate the temptation is easier to resist. Nonetheless I have a lot of jewellery, particularly earrings. I am also indiscriminate in my taste. Ethnic beads, pearl studs, dangling stones and gem encrusted skulls all find a place in my jewellery box;although I seem to wear the same pairs repeatedly. And there seem to be a remarkable amount of single ones, they are like socks and mysteriously resistant to staying in pairs!

My little ghosty Tatty Devine necklace.

I do have a few distinct preferences. One is for plastic, as a fan of vintage naturally I hanker after bakelite bangles, 1940's fruit brooches and 50's clip-on disks. However it is a material that has become popular again in terms of contemporary design. This is largely, I suspect, the result of the efforts and popularity of Tatty Devine's pieces as she seems to me to have championed the use of plastic as a fun, creative jewellery medium. This company has a couple of shops including one centrally in Covent Garden and also sells on-line. I had been after their ghost pendant for a while having seen a friend wearing it. Fortunately I received one for Christmas and it garners comments every time I wear it, children are particularly intrigued which means they shut up which is a good thing. The company has certain motifs they continue to produce but they launch sporadic new collections. I was very taken by a range based on those most monochromatically stylish and maligned birds: the Magpie. I luckily also received a pair of magpie stud earrings for Christmas from the same jewellery fairy. The stuff seems expensive considering the perceived cheapness of the material. Indeed cheaper items which are obviously inspired by this company's designs are available from Topshop and other fast fashion outlets. However these lack the wit and the originality of Devine's designs. A new range, based upon paper parasols is particularly stylish because they offer a great combination of retro-verve and contemporary design. Colourful, they have a summery vintage feel and will compliment 50's dresses and rockabilly styles such as the clothing produced by Vivien of Holloway. The barrette in particular is going to look superb fastened to the side of an up do and I expect to see lots this summer.

Magpie Earrings.

Hair Barette (current collection).

Another company similarly utilising plastic and new materials is Paraphernalia. They produce pieces based on a seemingly simple material, images laminated within plastic. These, however, are real conversation pieces. Anatomical drawings of hearts hang from throats, Marmosets peek from brooches and Galleons set forth to explore the new world. I expect their Alice collection to do particularly well in the light of 'Alice fever'. Again this stuff is not cheap but it is original and the price very reasonable for its striking qualities. The look can be challenging but it fits in particularly well within a nouveau-Victorian, steam punkish look. My personal favourites are the brooches which are based on Ernst's illustrations from his famous revolutionary graphic books. This are sinister but appealing and I think 'deadlier than the male' is a fine theme for any feminine accoutrement.
Paraphernalia Brooch.

However the designs are not all as charmingly gothic, some are simply extremely cute. The animal items, particularly the bracelets (one of which is shown below )are lovely and likely to elucidate 'ooohs!' rather than 'oh!' . Another set of designs suitable for bluestockings are in the 'bon mot' range; charm necklaces which feature the portrait of a writer alongside a famous aphorism or quip.

Cute owl bracelet (I am buying this!)

Oscar wilde's words of wit dangling from your neck..

I have been talking so far about modern producers of plastic jewellery, but for those who want to spend a little more and get something special there is nothing more iconic than a Lea Stein fox. Lea Stein produced her most famous designs in the 70's and her company continues to manufacture high quality plastic jewellery to this day. They combine a mid century aesthetic with elements of fifties fun and more than a dash of 20's and 30's style. Although her dog and cat brooches are charming it is the fox that is collected,quite obsessively, by some. There are sought after colours and types of plastic, different coloured eyes and even patterns, such as the harlequin. All however conform to the classic Stein fox design. They look absolutely fantastic against a fur collar or a dark background. Really a Lea Stein fox is the only jewellery you need to wear, they are quite large. But be warned, someone is bound to wander up to you, jab at your breast and start conversations about it. Expect to pay any where between £80.00 -£150.00 but this is for a piece of named costume jewellery.

A selection of Lea Stein animal brooches.

One of the infamous foxes...

Tatty Devine homepage here:
Paraphernalia homepage here:
Info on Lea Stein and items for sale here:


Unknown said...

Great post as ever, Minn - and given me some fab ideas for a certain person's birthday that's coming up soon....

RedlegsinSoho said...

One of those Stein brooches would look great on you, do you have one?
Minn x

Unknown said...

I have coveted a Stein brooch for ages and now it's top of my mind. Darn you Minn. x

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