17 June 2013

Functiional Art: Mid-Century Clocks Part:1

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If we sit down and really look at all the pieces in the house, what is the one thing that would make a our lives almost impossible to live without? A time telling devise. Many would reply:"I don't really use clocks anymore though. Now that I have my cell all the time." This may be true, but is it design worthy of your interior?

Like any other piece in the house, a poorly chosen clock can add to, fade into, or disturb the ambiance and feel of the interior of your room. Which ever room it may be. Cell phones and contemporary/modern electronic devises tend to create a undesired and an uncomfortable mix with the retro environment. While there is nothing wrong with having modern electronic devises that display the time on them, they tend to break up the fluidity and don't really add to the room. Rather, they distract.

We all know that we have computers, dvd players, tivo styled devises, and cell phones that are being hidden around our house so that our visitors think the purist thoughts of mid-century/retro-ism exist in our 15,000 sf (more or less) piece of the universe. Still, while the guests are there, you want them to be able to see what time it is. To accomplish this, you have a few options. One, is to have your cell always out laying around on the Heywood Wakefield end tables. Secondly, you could make sure the media cabinet door is open to view the dvd/tivo devise for the time. Or, third... you could enhance your interior design, ease the feeling of your guest while being in your house, and provide the the time by something artistic and beautiful to look at. A really functional piece of art.We call such devices... CLOCKS. Not just any clock though, will do.

Seeing as though many mid-century and retro enthusiast are into styles from a wide range of years, I thought that I would do a series over the next few weeks to help orientate people to clocks that might work for your interior.

Today, I thought I'd start with clocks that represent the 1940's time period. In the 40's modernism was starting to slowly, but surely gain ground in the homes of America and many other countries. At the same time though, this ground gaining was still a long and hard process. So, it's hard to find many "modern" clocks from the time period that would be like what most people think of as mid-century modern. However, that doesn't mean the clocks didn't have style, or that they won't fit into a retro modern themed interior. Let's take a look at some the 40's styled clocks that I have found^.

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Early Design Resurfaces
Before the World War 2 ended, there where generally not many new accessories or designs being manufactured for the masses. Materials were short and, what did exist was going over to the War/Defense departments.

It wasn't until after WWII stopped that many of clocks and other house hold accessories started to be produced again, and even then many where made in short run order based on the materials available. Also, due to the "pause" in domestic convenience design, caused by the war, much of what was produced from 1944 to to 1948 (more or less) where the same designs that had been sold when the war began. These designs already existed and where the easiest product to produce, since the public was clamoring for nice stuff, and there was little time to design, engineer, and test new concepts. However, clock designs, along with everything else, started moving forward rapidly.

 Simple Round Wall Clocks
Being as though people wanted new things, and that there was a shortage of new materials. Many products where really reduced to the bare necessities. This is, in part, one of the reasons modern design began to come into a fuller focus of the masses.
Photo Source: Dailyshopper

Art Deco, as a design genre, had been around for a while and it had been accessible to the elite only. Now, however, these designs of the elite where being boiled down to the barest of design. Stripping away the fluff and leaving the design in a simple and solidified design. Having some steel scrap and overages from different war product manufacturing plants that closed or changed focus after the war. Therefore, metal became a material commonly used in home product designs.

Round wall clocks are a good example of this design change and the, getting back to roots modern design. These pieces were generally made of all metal, or metal with a synthetic face backing. Some where with wood or paper face backing as well.
Photo Source: Etsy Electric Forest

Simple Yet Detailed Clocks
While the simple round metal clock continued to be used until, well... today... With time it's simplicity gave way to greater design detail.
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Even though desk clocks and the such had been around during the simple round clock stage, the more elaborate clocks started to pick up in sales as materials and household incomes began to flow more freely.

Still holding onto the Art Deco influence, most of the clock were encased in wood, had soft lines, and were somewhat weighty in their appearance. However, this gave way quickly to a more modern, liter look. One that mixed materials in a different way, while applying contrasting colors, and not just using woods for contrast.
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The Future Came Crashing Through!
While all these other stylings where still developing, a few designers had the future, and therefore, a different modernity on their minds. One of these designers was George Nelson. His designs were much more futuristic. They created a since of movement, and lightheartedness in their being. Simply put, they were atomic in their design power.

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George Nelson's and others designed clocks, amongst other things, would change the face of modernism for ever.

These clocks had a light, yet powerful presence. They made the whole room have fluidity to it, inspiring the since of time travel. Being made of metals, woods, glass, and plastics, they showed the newest advances in science, while not being harsh to their surroundings. Their conception was based on an optimist future, and their shape, on atomic energy and interstellar travel. These clocks really made an impact. One so strong, that these same designs today are carried as timeless for modern and traditional enthusiast alike as being good in design nature.

Above are just a few examples of the styles of modern clocks from the 40's. However, these are just the beginnings of the Mid-Century Functional Art that we know as clocks.

 ^I will use the term 40's styled clocks, because, some clocks may actually be from a different decade, but have the same styling that was popular in the 40's.

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