Where do famous designers go when they retire? In Neal Small's case, a tiny town in Maine. "I wanted to get away from the tumult of Manhattan," the native New Yorker explains.
ID grads and design cognoscenti among you will recognize Small's name, and work, the former from our History of Industrial Design classes and the latter from the MoMA and Smithsonian. The so-called "Prince of Plastic" opened his own design firm in Chelsea in the 1960s and was an early proponent of the plastic family; notably, rather than merely using it as a replacement for wood and metal, Small was known for exploiting the specific properties of plexi, Lucite and acrylic and incorporating that into the design. This is perhaps best illustrated by his Cocktail Table from 1968, below, made from a single square sheet with just four cuts and some heat bending to make the legs.
Back in 2009 Material Connexion held a Small retrospective showcasing his lighting and furniture; since then we've heard nary a peep on the man. But a small-town paper in Hancock County, Maine, has stumbled across the retired design celebrity living in their midst and run a piece and video on him.
While the video below is not exactly a professional documentary in terms of quality and content, Small begins to discuss design and his career at about the halfway mark:
Small, by the way, continued working right up until 2000, when he retired. One of his last works was the awesome "Slope" series of Cubist mirrors—real glass, not plastic this time—below.