Red A 'Plastic Crystal' tray, no. 1214紅A牌「塑膠水晶」糖果盒，1214型
This circular tray of translucent plastic is divided into seven sections around a central circular compartment. The contents can be concealed by a slightly domed cover. Both the tray and its cover are moulded with dense geometric decoration in shallow relief, with radial lines enclosing varied patterns of circles, stars, or cross-hatching. Produced by the Star Industrial Company, one of Hong Kong’s major plastics manufacturers, the tray references the long history of tableware and decorative objects made from cut glass or crystal, a tradition originating in Europe in the seventeenth century. The geometric patterns of such expensive objects provided dazzling visual accompaniments to meals, reflecting candlelight and refracting the colours of their contents. The industrial material of this tray distinguishes it from these precedents, providing a more affordable alternative to glass and crystal for twentieth-century consumers.
Despite the occasional perception of plastic as a cheap or inferior imitation of other materials, this tray embodies a high degree of skill and technical knowledge in its making. The geometric decoration was designed with hand-drawn patterns based on mathematical models, while the plastic was formed using hand-carved moulds that carefully translated those patterns into three dimensions. The tray is a clear example of how mass-produced, machine-made objects often rely on hidden but skilled craftsmanship for their creation.