Autumn 2002

Air-sickness bags (text in full)

Air-sickness bags. Collected and appreciated by Helene Silverman (as told to Dan Nadel).

All paper bags are destined to be disposed of, some immediately, like sanitary napkin or air-sickness bags, but the allure of a printable blank surface has allowed the creation of a body of admirable, low-cost work. The lower the print quality the better – rubber flexography is ideal. Air-sickness bags need to be solid, physically and graphically: immediate identification is important. In their virgin form, they offer the promise of personal protection from unsanitariness. But they exist only to hold icky, unmentionable things, though they may offer other uses, such as doubling as a handy ‘Seat Occupied’ sign, or discount film processing bag. They are often designed in a super-clean Swiss style so as to remind you of vomiting as little as possible.

I treasure my collection, say thank-you to the designers, and fear the inevitable march to generic blank barf-bags due to airline cost-cutting. That would be the end of one more unnecessary but charming part of our world.