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Celebrating the plastic arts

It's Plastic!, Design Museum, London until April 23 1995. Even a quick glance around this exhibition is sufficient to make anyone aware of how ubiquitous are the more than 700 different kinds of molecular substances we know as plastics. From false teeth to carpet fibres or catheter bags to compact discs, they have become an essential part of all our lives.

As the problems of waste disposal are increasingly met by recycling and other means, the versatility of plastics begins to appear limitless. A reassessment of the social, economic, environmental and cultural values associated with plastics is one of the principal aims of the exhibition and central to this is the very broadly-based education programme. Unlike most natural materials, plastics are largely what we make of them. Their characteristics - soft, hard, transparent, opaque, rigid, elastic, film or gel - are revealed only when they are formed into something.

For teachers and students, the Design Museum education department has worked closely with Sylvia Katz, the design writer and plastics enthusiast, to produce a series of resource packs on the history of plastics, their characteristics, design and production processes, and fact sheets offering useful contacts and suggestions for further study.

In the gallery, teachers and students can opt for one or more special workshops focusing on plastics in the home, the influence of plastics on styling, chairs and plastics or environmental and recycling concerns. A hand-operated Mamulin machine has been installed for the occasion, which demonstrates the principles of injection moulding better than most modern equivalents.

For information on the education programme telephone 071-403 6933.

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