Tupperware Takes on a New Role: Art

The Associated Press
Wednesday, October 25, 2006; 10:50 PM

NEW YORK -- Tupperware has many purposes: forming Jell-O rings, spin-drying salads, storing spaghetti, microwaving oatmeal. But Tupperware as an evening bag? It may look a bit like a sandwich box, but the lace-patterned accessory is among the winners of a contest that challenged Tupperware sellers and users to get creative with the iconic plastic containers.

The winners, announced Wednesday, include a kaleidoscope, a model race car and an intricate illuminated sculpture. Their creators range from an Indian graphic artist to a French Tupperware saleswoman.

Tupperware, which turned 60 this year, is a fixture in kitchens and American popular culture. Its signature sales parties are often invoked as shorthand for 1950s suburbia, though they are still held in droves around the world.

The now-familiar containers were held up as artwork in their early days, when housewares insiders hailed their tight-sealing tops and then-unusual material. House Beautiful magazine declared them "fine art for 39 cents."

Now, Tupperware pieces are enshrined in several major museums. A water pitcher is on display at New York's Museum of Modern Art, said Christian Larsen, a curatorial assistant.

But Tupperware Brands Corp. doesn't want to be viewed as a clear-plastic relic of a more domestic era. The company, based in Orlando, Fla., has spent recent years updating products and tweaking its trademark parties.

The design contest is another effort to "get Tupperware seen in a very different kind of a light," said CEO Rick Goings.

"The same functionality and quality goes forward," he said. "But how do you, at the same time, have fun with design and color?"

The competition, which debuted this year, aims to show how. Hundreds of entries were judged by a panel of home-design and materials experts. The winners received $5,000 and trips to New York.

For Evelyn Tabaniag, a regional sales director for Tupperware in and around Manila, Philippines, the contest was a chance "to showcase the other side of me."

Tabaniag makes fashion accessories as a hobby. She crafted several purses out of sandwich storage containers, using beaded bracelets for handles. She lined the translucent blue boxes with lace to soften the look.

Stella Filippou modeled a Formula One race car entirely out of Tupperware items. The wheels alone involved jelly molds, potato mashers and flexible baking forms.

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