Interiors and Exteriors
Art and Design
Objects and Antiquities

Monday, February 18


I came upon these flocked plastic giraffes in the Dollar Store last week and was amazed at the quality of the sculpting, painting and manufacturing.  At the same time I was unnerved by the insanely low price of $1.50 for an adult and baby.  Let's take a minute to celebrate the incredible amount of work that goes into these beasts.

Sculpting: An unknown artist came up with the models from which these giraffes were cast.  They not only managed the elegance of the tallest mammal, they were able to balance the long legs with one hoof lifted.

Mold Making and Casting:  A 2 part metal mold was developed for each animal. The casting process most likely used plastic injection molding.  Watch a video here of a factory manufacturing toy cars to get an idea of the process.

Flocking: This technique gives the giraffes their fuzzy texture and is accomplished using an electrostatic system.  The flocking fibres are given a negative charge and the giraffe is grounded.  Once charged, the fibres are attracted vertically to the plastic and stick to a pre-applied adhesive.  Watch a video here, referring to machinery that can be used at home.

Finishing:  The spots are airbrushed using a stencil and the hooves, mane and mouth are airbrushed individually.  Tiny plastic eyes are set into the face with glue.

What with the additional labour and expense of packaging, shipping, stocking, store staffing and rent, imagine how little each giraffe must cost to manufacture.  This topic is ripe with controversies such as: unknown factory conditions and wages; the impossibility of producing such inexpensive products in Canada, and the impact this has on our manufacturing sector; the stress on the environment from plastics at both production and disposal ends; and the ethics of shopping at the Dollar store.  Today however, I just want to marvel at this feat of human hands and technologies.  We've been making copies of animals since prehistory; the mass produced nature of these giraffes should not cheapen their success as sculptures.

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