What's happened to mass production? Hardly a week goes by that I am not stopped-in-my-tracks, impressed and delighted by some mass produced remnant of the Late 19th or Early 20th Century which has caught my eye. Quite often, the object of my appreciation is a utilitarian object—like a manhole cover, a bannister post, or a heater vent—that was handsomely designed and exceptionally produced. It was exquisitely designed and made-to-last—in bronze, steel or cast iron.
This steel paper clip was, indeed, once a quotidian office implement—no doubt mass produced in the thousands (130 years ago). Because it is made of heavy materials, it was intended to last. And, because it was intended to last, it was given a thoughtful design treatment—which looks as good today as it did in the 1890's. Click on the photo above to learn more about it.
Sometime after World War II—about the time plastics began to replace metals in manufacturing—most mass produced items were stripped of their style and quality. Disposability became popular and longevity became an expensive obstacle to quick sales and profits.
I still believe that mass produced items can be made with great design and exceptional materials. Perhaps a little more money needs to be spent on the design, though any extra design cost will be amortized over thousands of units. And heavy materials will last longer, making the more expensive initial purchase cost-effective in the long run. What's needed is a different consumer mindset: shoppers who want to pay more for a beautiful object that will last a long time.
Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well! Please visit our on-line store where we continue to sell Handsome Gifts (www.LEOdesignNYC.com).
We also can be found in Pittsburgh's historic "Strip District" at Mahla & Co. Antiques (www.mahlaantiques.com) or in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania at The Antique Center of Strabane (www.antiquecenterofstrabane.com).
Or call to arrange to visit our Pittsburgh showroom (by private appointment only). 917-446-4248