Whale for Massage

Wood and metal
Circa 1970
Nationality of Designer
Manufacturers Location
Wood, plastic googly eye
25 x 13 cm


Wooden ‘massage whale’ with rollers, central hole for handle and googly eyes

Personal history/nominator

Purchased as a representative of the suburban British cannibalization of Scandinavian modernism. 

Adam Sutherland


None. A number of small dents and scratches in wood.

Why it's in the Collection

This innocuous-looking item is a 1970s massage tool. It speaks of a moment when the British looked to Scandinavian culture and design as a model of a carefree sexually liberated society. 

The 1970s saw the publication of The Joy of Sex (Alex Comfort, 1972) and other sex manuals and the popularisation of a British take on the imported sauna and massage. It was the decade in which the British experienced the effects of the ‘swinging sixties’, a movement - or moment - that only a handful of people were actually effected by during the 1960s. 

The early 1970s saw a growth in disposable income in Britain, an increased awareness of Europe through availability of package holidays and travel and a developing interest in DIY and expressions of individuality in interior design. This was an era in Britain in which Habitat’s ‘continental quilt’ (what we now call the duvet) was popularized. Sir Terence recalls: "People do credit me with bringing the duvet to Britain. I had been in Sweden in the 1950s and was given a duvet to sleep under. I probably had a girl with me and I thought this was all part of the mood of the time – liberated sex and easy living. It was wonderful that when you came to make your bed, it was just a couple of shakes."

This massage whale, like the continental quilt, represents the trickling down of a more permissive society into mass-produced suburban culture. The aspirational middle-class 1970s expression of sexuality and individuality is satirized in the Mike Leigh play for stage and television, Abigail’s Party (1977, BBC) in which Beverley, an overbearing suburban wife, serving olives and cocktails, embarrasses her guests and husband with her pretentious, domineering flirtations and foibles. The seedy sexual undertones of the 70s in Britain are epitomised by the Grizedale Scando massage whale. 


About the Designer/Maker


About the Manufacturer


Bibliography & Further information