Bakelite perfume-holder

Bourjois bakelite owl perfume-holder
made in England, 1930s

I am very interested in bakelite, as you know: and blue bakelite is the rarest. I came across this owl-shaped perfume holder, and though it is a little time-worn, I had to have him.

The owl was made to open at the back to take a bottle of ‘Evening in Paris’ perfume. He would have been in every elegant ladies bag in the 30s. It’s made of ‘marbleised’ bakelite : and when you open it you can see the colour of the original [now eighty-year old] bakelite. But his eyes, hinges and feathery detail are all still intact.

The inscription on the back reads: ‘Bourjois, London-Paris, Reg No 825,003, Made in England’. I love the idea of a perfume-holder; no-one uses them these days. You are considered sophisticated if you walk around with perfume in your backpack. This owl harks back to the 30s- and days of glamour!

I’ve teamed the bakelite owl with a plastic telephone toy from the 50s. I kinda like the disparaging look on the owl’s face…

The bakelite perfume-holder is for sale: $AU40

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Bakelite picnic & measuring cups

Selex and Helix bakelite picnic and measuring cupsBakelite picnic and measuring cups
made by Sellex and Helix, in Australia c. 1940-1950

These bakelite pieces have retained their wonderful colour, and work beautifully as a set. The set of 5 nested picnic cups in green and the large red measuring cup have an ‘inverted beehive’ shape, and both were made by Sellex. The red measuring cup measures 1 cup on its upper rim, then ½, 1/3, and ¼ cups on the graduated rings of the ‘beehive’.

The set of blue measuring cups are by Helix, and measure ½, 1/3 and ¼ cups. I thought perhaps the larger 1 cup was missing from the set, but apparently Helix only ever made a set of three measuring cups, in this style. It was the 40s and bakelite was costly to produce- it was considered an extravagance to make a 1 cup measure when you had a perfectly good ½ cup measure that could be used twice!

I recently found another set of Helix graduated measuring cups in red- they fit right in with this colourful kitchenalia set of bakelite pieces.

This collection is for sale: $AU95 [and another set of red Helix measuring cups available upon request.]

Australian bakelite bits ‘n’ pieces

Australian bakelite: Nally, 40s Nally bakelite pieces c.1940s

These are the odds and ends of my Nally bakelite collection. Nally first started bakelite production in 1923 and was one of the first in Australia to do so. The factory was in Glebe, in inner-city Sydney – where I once lived as a student, when it was grittier with light industry, warehouses and terraced housing.

I became interested in bakelite when I started making my own resin jewellery. Bakelite was the first stable plastic compound ‘discovered’ by one Dr. Baekeland in the 1907. It was – like many discoveries – a complete accident- he was trying to find a synthetic alternative to shellac. A million and one things went on to be produced in bakelite…see quite a bit of evidence in previous posts on this blog… … …

Anyhoo- in researching resin I looked at early polymer precedents and then became fixated on bakelite. Australia was just coming of age in the 20s and bakelite was taken up with great fervor- it was the modern, new era- cheaply produced alternative to timber, iron, steel and ceramic- you name it.

This set comprises:    4 end-of-day egg cups
blue nested salt and pepper shaker, with cream screw ends
green lidded ‘cloves’ canister.

I’ve teamed the Nally bits ‘n’ pieces with an old battered red aluminium canister lid, much splattered with paint. It’s had a hard life and has lost its companion piece and now must do duty as a background element. Still- that’s upcycling at its best!

This set is for sale: $AUD45

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Blue bakelite collection

Blue bakelite collectionBlue bakelite collection
made in Australia, c.1940-1950s

Bakelite could be produced in almost any colour, but was most widely produced in white, brown, green and red. It is a relatively stable product, but can be damaged by sunlight and over time oxidisation can cause colours to deteriorate. Blue bakelite can become a muddy green colour, and for this reason, blue bakelite that has retained its original hue is both rarer [and more expensive in vintage terms] and more collectible.

From the top left in the image, clockwise the blue bakelite items are:

a Marquis lidded butter dish
an Eon screw-top canister
nested Helix measuring cups [1/2 cup, 1/3 cup, 1/4 cup]
‘atomic’ salt and pepper shakers, made by ‘D’.

There is very little space on the base of the S and P shakers for the manufacturer’s cast name, so all we know of the maker is the initial ‘D’. At lot of S & P shakers made in the 50s had this ‘atomic’ shape. The swirling blue colours in the bakelite is typical of the period; because bakelite is cast [rather than moulded] it allowed a variety of colours to be mixed together.

Start your bakelite collection now! This set is for sale: $AUD115

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Bakelite domestica

Nally blue bakelite tray, made in Sydney, Australia  c.1940s
Dalson Products bakelite retractable washing lines, made in Melbourne, Australia c.1940s

And now for some more bakelite domestica!

This lovely speckled blue and white bakelite tray has distinctive art deco styling, with its embossed sunburst pattern. The speckled form of bakelite was often used with blue pieces- it has been noted previously [see ‘blue bakelite post, below] that blue bakelite is prone to break down to a murky brown colour. One solution was to mix the blue bakelite with another colour- usually a neutral colour- to help disguise any such deterioration.

The tray has performed well at many cocktail soirees, and I can attest to the understated glamour it brings to any occasion.

The three retractable washing lines are also very cute. They were made for the interior hanging of clothes. When I first spotted one, I assumed it was a plumb bob- albeit a retractable one. Being retractable meant that one could wash and hang clothes on a rainy day, or it was used when travelling. The winding mechanism is working well on all three – and I like that the manufacturer’s name is cast into the contrasting bakelite winding handle. One could certainly use them today – for retro travel in style!          For sale: $AUD85

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Blue bakelite

Blue bakelite pieces
made in Australia, c.1940-1950s

Bakelite could be produced in almost any colour, but was most widely produced in white, brown, green and red. It is a relatively stable product, but can be damaged by sunlight and over time oxidisation can cause colours to deteriorate. Blue bakelite can become a muddy green colour, and for this reason, blue bakelite that has retained its original hue is both rarer [and more expensive in vintage terms] and more collectible.

From the top left in the image, clockwise the blue bakelite items are:

a Marquis lidded butter dish
an Eon screw-top canister
nested Helix measuring cups [1/2 cup, 1/3 cup, 1/4 cup]
‘atomic’ salt and pepper shakers, made by ‘D’.

There is very little space on the base of the S and P shakers for the manufacturer’s cast name, so all we know of the maker is the initial ‘D’. At lot of S & P shakers made in the 50s had this ‘atomic’ shape. The swirling blue colours in the bakelite is typical of the period; because bakelite is cast [rather than moulded] it allowed a variety of colours to be mixed together.

Future posts will also feature [Australian] bakelite by colour. For sale: $AUD115

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