This paper presents a provocative interrogation of the value of plastics through its consideration and celebration of ubiquitous examples of plastic designs that are habitually dismissed as dated, useless, cheap and tawdry yet continue to endure and endear in both private and public places. In particular, the plastic flower has been plucked for specific scrutiny as the historic and contemporary use and appeal of fake flowers is considered. The paper’s findings, in part drawn from the author’s empirical research including the views of designers, key companies and manufacturers, indicate that people’s perceptions of key plastic designs vary dramatically: tastes are volatile and certain plastic designs can be particularly provocative. The paper concludes that tensions surround the use and evaluation of certain designs in plastic, for example plastic flowers, owing to the objects’ charged connotations and reputations that are shaped in part by the fact that they are plastic.
Presented at the Provocative Plastics conference, Arts University Bournemouth, Sept. 2015.