Illuminating Loy:
Designs, Inventions & Commerce

By Severine, Claire, Annie, and Naira

Davidson College undergraduates, Class of 2019

Yellow lightbulb logo and title of Illuminating Loy websiteAlthough perhaps best known for her poetry, Mina Loy (1882-1966) was also an entrepreneur and prolific inventor.

Our collaborative research project, Illuminating Loy: Designs, Inventions & Commerce, seeks to shed light on Loy’s  entrepreneurial and creative pursuits beyond writing. We join Jessica Burstein in attempting to cast Loy “not just as a poet, but something more as an entrepreneur whose work included word as well as objects, like lampshades and fashion accessories” (Burstein 6). Building on Carolyn Burke and Susan Rosenbaum’s research on Loy’s lampshade shop in Paris in the 1920’s, we explore various facets to Loy’s creativity: its roots in financial insecurity, emphasis on functionality, and interest in domestica, to name a few.

In the spirit of Loy’s sophisticated yet unconventional style, our site is designed with a pictorial focus; each picture relates to some aspect of Loy’s entrepreneurial adventures, linking to short descriptions providing explanation. This collage style allows users to take ownership of their experience, charting their own path on the site as they navigate between pictorial representations.

The site also includes an e-Marketplace containing many of Loy’s inventions. The products are not actually for sale, yet the hope is that “window shopping” for Loy’s products will be both enjoyable and informative to users. The idea that shopping is pleasurable and worthy of scholarly attention is a relatively unexplored one, in part because by way of Marxist critique, scholars have been wary of consumer culture and commodity fetish. Our work here seeks to suggest that shopping can still be pleasurable even as it may simultaneously pose deeper questions about the commodification of objects–and of avant-garde objects in particular.