BOOK REVIEW: Deco Radio by Peter Sheridan (Review by Caroline Baum)

by |December 19, 2014
Peter Sheridan

Peter Sheridan

Peter Sheridan is a man possessed by a peculiar but persistent affection for bakelite – the world’s first synthetic plastic. To some, this material may appear unlovely and charmless, but to Sheridan it is the stuff of poetry. As a result, he has become one of the world’s foremost collectors of objects made from this versatile and resilient man-made resin.

A genial enthusiast, the curator of his own private museum, Sheridan is equally happy to share his passion with complete amateurs and connoisseurs alike. Ask casually about any of the three hundred radios displayed in his Sydney home and you will get their history, provenance, and a surprising anecdote that explains their shape, colour or origin. He is a competitive bidder, an astute buyer, always on the trail of a new acquisition and has some sound advice for aspiring collectors which he shares in the text that punctuates this sleek but hefty coffee table book.

Showcasing what he calls the most beautiful radios ever made, Sheridan has photographed them with loving care in close up, so that every feature is shown to best advantage. They have sexy curves, voluptuous bodies, and come in a wide range of colours – forget about bakelite brown, the greens and reds really pop. Shot against deep dramatic black they gleam on the page like jewels.

Their shapes reflect what was happening in industrial design, fashion and popular culture with style and humour. My favourite has a mantel (casing) that features the mesh silhouette of a woman’s head.

Sheridan’s lively text is a timely reminder of how central radio was to the lives of people around the world back in the early twentieth century ; how they were the source of pleasure , broadcasting live entertainment and music that people listened and danced to in their homes as well as including declarations of war that shaped the century and changed lives forever. The radio was the vehicle of coded messages and signals to allied troops and resistance fighters. Under the Nazi regime, being caught listening to the enemy was punishable by death.

Anyone with a nostalgic interest or enthusiasm for the glorious heyday of art deco and its sleek modernity will find this irresistible.


deco-radioDeco Radio

by Peter Sheridan

With 380 brilliant photos and engaging text, this book presents some 300 of the rarest and most beautiful radios ever made for home or workplace. The advent of the small, mantle or tabletop radio in 1930 gave a huge impetus to the spread of radio, not only allowing multiple sets in the home, but changing the listener from the family to the individual. This book highlights a small subset of tube (valve) radios that incorporated new styling, materials, and approaches to consumer marketing in the 1930s and 1940s. Until now they have been underrated by many radio enthusiasts, and largely unrecognized in the world of Art Deco and Industrial Design. The radios of 35 industrial designers, including the luminaries of streamlining in the USA and UK (Loewy, Bel Geddes, Teague, Van Doren, Vassos, Coates, and Chermayeff) are identified and examples from 15 countries are stunningly displayed.

About the Author

Peter Sheridan is a respected historian, lecturer, and author, with a collection of radios considered one of the world’s finest. His highly acclaimed book Radio Days–Australian Bakelite Radios (2008) is the standard reference for Australian radio collectors. A member of the Australian Institute of Professional Photographers, Peter’s photos are used by media, museums, and specialist publications.

 Click here to grab a copy of Deco Radio 

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