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Brushing up on design

by Rodney Magazinovic

LARGE COLLECTION: Steve Keirl with some of the 625 brushes he has amassed over from all over the worldWhat started out as an exercise to demonstrate aesthetics and design to students has ended up as a life-long passion for design and technology education lecturer Stephen Keirl.

While most people wouldn’t look twice at a kitchen washing-up brush, Keirl cites them as the perfect tool to educate students about design and ergonomics.

His involvement with brushes first started when he was working with school students and required a product that could be used to get students to think the way product designers do.

"Once the students start to assess critically the different brushes they unwittingly adopt the mindset of product designers. This gives them an understanding about the variables that go into the design and development of a product – ergonomics, production values, environment and how products shape our lives," he said.

He has continued to use the brushes in his university lectures where the classes include engineers, industrial designers and home economics teachers – all showing interest in the brush design from different perspectives.

Along the way, Keirl has observed some really interesting reactions.

"I’ve discovered that in every group of people I lecture there is at least one person who will have a fascination with one particular brush," he said.

"They have an urge to touch it and in some instances take it home with them. I have even been offered large amounts of money to sell brushes from time to time.

"I have also met individuals who are the exact opposite. They can’t bear to touch a brush and wouldn’t consider having one in their house."

His collection now stands at 625 brushes and continues to grow steadily thanks to people from overseas sending him new examples.

"I’ve used the brushes when I have spoken at international conferences and I am now having brushes sent to me from around the world – Japan, Finland and Bermuda just to name a few locations."

Keirl’s collection of 625 brushes will be the subject of the exhibition All Washed Up, on display at the South Australian Museum every day during May (from 10am to 5pm). For more information visit www.samuseum.sa.gov.au