Clean Sweep


11 January 2019

Michael Marriot’s museum of brushes “bristles with energy and sweeps aside any doubt about the significance of brushes in modern design culture”, according to the online description of this exhibition, which took place during last year’s London Design Festival at the SCP showroom in Shoreditch.

Featuring a range of brushes by German company Bürstenhaus Redecker, which has been operating since 1935, the Bürstenhaus Redecker Müseum tells the rich and intriguing history of this collection – from the Skin Relaxer, first developed in the 1970s to dust the interiors of a Porsche, to the Cobweb brush, designed for cleaning around the ears of elephants in a zoo.

It’s all tongue-in-cheek nonsense, of course. Well, not the the company itself (Bürstenhaus Redecker really does make brushes, although it may not know that its collection was put before the crowds at LDF). “It needed a sort of wit and lightness of touch and a bit of what nowadays we would call fake news to make it quietly funny,” says Marriot, who wanted to find a way of presenting the brush collection that wouldn’t be dry or resemble a department store. “I felt like people would read them a while before they thought, maybe this isn't all true, but some people thought they were all true and came away thinking, ‘What a lovely, charming, funny story. I never knew all that.’”

The stories emerged from nuggets of information about German culture picked up throughout Marriot’s life, which he then developed into elaborate accounts of the brushes’ origins – from the fact that Bob Marley drove a BMW, to the travels of his own historical namesake – a traveller who journeyed on a scooter with his wife from Europe to Australia in 1936. In selecting the brushes from a retailer in Oxford, Marriott and the SCP team were careful to pick ones with a diversity of functions, shapes and materials, which lent themselves best to storytelling. They were all displayed alongside a fake brush-making machine.

The intended effect was of an ethnographic museum that gives you a glimpse into another world – albeit a fictional one. "I've always liked little provincial museums – they're often quirky and a little dusty, with a charm that can get lost in one of the big London museums like the Science Museum or V&A.”

While the Bürstenhaus Redecker Müseum has now left SCP, Disegno is delighted to offer some of its exhibits a new home online.

Artikel nummer - 468860
Skin relaxer
Black leather, black ostrich feathers
Length: 210mm

This brush was first developed in the mid 1970’s in response to a request from Dr. Helmuth Bott, head of Porsche engineering and development, and was mainly used to dust the interior and upholstery of his black Porsche 911 Carrera. It has since proved a best seller as a skin relaxer. Also available in ecru leather with white ostrich feathers.

Artikel nummer - 761202
Oiled pearwood, horn, wild boar bristle
Length: 155 mm

This is a pocket sized hairbrush with four rows, and was the preferred hair brush of tennis legend Boris Becker, who always kept one in his sports bag. At his 1988 Wimbledon final, however, he had misplaced his brush, and consequently lost in four sets to Stefan Edberg. From that date on, he always carried two, which led some players to believe he might be ambidextrous, which could obviously have aided his performance on court.

Artikel nummer - 760000
Afro comb
Horn. Size 80mm

Jamaican born reggae legend Bob Marley famously drove Bavarian manufactured BMW’s because they echoed the initials of his band Bob Marley & the Wailers. Less known was his fondness for another high quality German product, our very own Afro Comb, which he used to buy in quite some quantities, and give to his wives and girlfriends.

Artikel nummer - 461019
Furniture brush
Oiled beechwood, light bristle
Length: 190mm

The history of this brush is slightly contentious, it was designed at the Bauhaus in Dessau, either by Marcel Breuer or possibly, Wassily Kandinsky. What is known is that the chair that became known as the Kandinsky Chair, which was designed by Breuer but furnished the living quarters of Kandinsky, who found it difficult to keep clean, which led to the development of this specific brush.

Artikel nummer - 641077
Face brush
Oiled beechwood, soft light bristle
Size: 70mm

In 2005 we were approached by "World famous supermodel" Heidi Klum with a proposal to "restyle" our range of cosmetics brushes (apparently she had done something similar for the Birkenstock sandals company). We just said plain “Nein. Brushes ist not fashion”. It has since become an unofficial company slogan, often quoted on the shop floor and in the management offices.

Artikel nummer - 461030
Cushion brush
Waxed beechwood, light bristle
Length: 300mm

Although intended for brushing cushions, this artikel has proved popular in Bavaria, as a leather brush, specifically used for lederhosen. Although lederhosen are strong and soft due to the use of tanned deer leather, they can still get dirty or a little stiff when they have been wet. This brush proves to have the perfect amount of softness combined with stiffness to deal with these treasured and valuable heirlooms.

Artikel nummer - 347575
Fringe comb
Oiled beechwood
Length: 720mm

Although intended for combing out fringes of kelims and rugs, it came to our attention during the 1992 Olympics, that it could also double up as a sand rake! World long-jump record holder Heike Drechsler was seen using it in the preparations for one of her medal winning jumps. Heike has jumped further than any other woman (7.48M), and is the only woman to have won two Olympic gold medals in the long jump.

Artikel nummer - 701008
Hair brush
Oiled pear wood, light bristle
Length: 220mm

Albert Einstein, despite living in the united states for most of his life, for many years, had parcels shipped over from the Berlin Academy of Sciences. Included in these parcels were always two or three of these very hairbrushes. We always wondered what on earth he did with them.

Artikel nummer - 510262
Radiator brush
Dark goat hair, long trim, wire
Length: 1150mm

The length and flexibility of these brushes led German drummer and founder of experimental rock outfit Can, Jaki Liebezeit to try these out as drum "brushes". His playing with these brushes was prominent in the band's sound, particularly in his much-admired contribution to the side-long 'Halleluhwah' on the LP Tago Mayo, which encapsulates space rock at its most pure. The whole essence of Can was the interaction, not the posture. As explained by another of the worlds most highly esteemed drummers, Maureen 'Moe' Tucker; he is "one of the few drummers to convincingly meld the funky and the cerebral”.

Artikel nummer - 406520
Small suede brush
Untreated beechwood, brass wire
Length: 70mm

This little brush was part of a very minimal tool kit carried aboard a 1953 Zundapp Bella 150cc motor scooter on a journey from England to Australia. This phenomenal journey, made in 1936 by inveterate travellers Michael Marriott and his wife Nita, aboard the German-made scooter, saw them cross Europe, Turkey, Persia, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India to Ceylon. Steamer took them to Adelaide, from where they headed to Melville island to study aboriginal life and culture. Their adventure, at times exhilarating and at others, full of despair, is documented brilliantly in a self penned book call Two-Up, published in 1960.

Artikel nummer - 460130 (& handle 001025)
Cobweb brush
Oiled beechwood & horsehair twisted in wire
Ø 360mm

This brush is the evolution of a brush designed specifically for brushing around the ears of elephants. Its was designed in collaboration with the elephant keepers of Wuppertal Zoo in 1949 and was first used on Tuffi who later became famous for jumping off Wuppertal’s hanging railway. The brush has a female metric thread for lengthening with broom or telescopic handle (e.g. to reach giraffes ears, or for brushing cobwebs from the ceiling).