Oddly shaped brushes each clean different items

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Ellie Birkhead's oddly shaped brushes each clean different items

Graduate shows 2015: University of Brighton graduate Ellie Birkhead has created a series of brushes with unusual shapes for cleaning specific objects (+ slideshow).

Ellie Birkhead brushes

Made from beech wood and hog bristles, the brushes that Birkhead produced for her graduate project were each designed for more tasks that simply cleaning shoes or sweeping floors.

Ellie Birkhead brushes

"The vaguely familiar but unusual brushes challenge the user to define their own functions and purposes in order to explain the suggestive forms," she told Dezeen.

Ellie Birkhead brushes

The set includes a circular brush with bristles that point towards the centre, which could be used for cleaning long, thin elements like guitar necks.

Ellie Birkhead brushes

A double-headed brush with two sets of bristles facing in opposite directions is designed for sweeping two parallel surfaces at once, while a finger-mounted brush can be used for delving into small, out-of-reach nooks.

Ellie Birkhead brushes

There is also a miniature dustpan and brush, as well as a two-handled implement designed to enable more rigorous scrubbing.

Ellie Birkhead brushes

Like on traditional brushes, the bristles – obtained for the hair of the back of a hog and used for their strong but springy properties – are mounted into the beech handles in tightly packed bunches.

Ellie Birkhead brushes

As part of her research, Birkhead gave the brushes to a group of volunteers to see what they made of them.

Ellie Birkhead brushes

Suggested uses varied from cleaning fluff off tights to brushing twins' hair simultaneously. One volunteer said: "I massaged the palm of my hand with it for about two hours."

The idea for the project came from Birkhead's research into threatened British crafts.

Ellie Birkhead brushes

"There are very few brushmakers left in the UK, and in Chesham – once the capital of brushmaking – only one manufacturer remains making specialised handmade brushes: R Russell," she said. "My project began with a visit to this brushmakers."

Ellie Birkhead brushes

Birkhead is far from alone in her investigations into traditional British craftsmanship. In a recent interview with Dezeen, designer Sebastian Cox explained how neglected techniques represent a new set of opportunities.

Ellie Birkhead brushes

The brushes were presented during the second part of London's New Designers graduate exhibition, which took place from 6 to 9 July 2015.

Ellie Birkhead brushes

Birkhead's other collections include brushes that are made from materials sourced from different regions of the UK, such as fishing net and driftwood from Brighton beach, and antlers and horse hair from Berkshire. She has also reinterpreted a series of historical brushes.

Ellie Birkhead brushes

Brushes have also fascinated designers including Najla El Zein – who made a set of "pleasure tools" by combining unusual materials to form handles and bristles – and Dominic Wilcox, who created coat hooks from hardened paintbrushes.