The Twentieth Century Society


Any more elphants out there?


Love this bit of marketing.  In 1973 Nairn Floors Ltd wanted architects to be more aware of their products, so Eduardo Paolozzi was commissioned to design this elephant (yes, there must have been quite a few steps to get from there to there….).   When I first saw the image I thought it was made of cut up sheets of lino, glued on top of one another, but slightly oddly (to my mind) it’s made from plastic.   The sculptor worked with a plastics engineer, Keith Powell, to develop a way of  casting from a the wood-wax mould.  Not only did it have to stand up straight and convey strength, intelligence and rugged beauty, the elephant also had to conceal a 10in x 8in box, for product literature , which was  specially designed too, involving  leading illustrators and architectural photographer Phil  Sayer (who shoots “me and My House” for C20 Magazine).

There were originally  3000 of these elephants, all numbered .  I wonder how many have survived?  Back in 1973 Design Journal commented “It’s hoped that architects will treasure them, hoard them – anything except throw them away unopened along with the other trade samples.”    Any who have might now be tempted to part company, as Bonhams has one up for sale with an estimate of £800 – 1,200.  see the article here

To bid on Number 1066 (surely a number worth a premium!) see here

But what I’d really like know is did the elephant work–anyone who can remember specifying Nairn Flooring under the watchful eye of one of these, please get in touch.

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26 responses to “Any more elphants out there?”

  1. Jack Konynenburg says:


    I too have an elephant- no 1190. Saw one on the Antiques Roadshow years ago and fell head over heals in love! eventually got mine 6 months ago on eBay for £750. Bit less than normal as the trunk was broken and reglued- frequent occurrence apparently. Has promotional leaflet. It sits on my desk giving ceasless pleasure!

    Kind Regards

    Jack Konynenburg

  2. Verity Thomas says:

    I have elephant no 328. It was given to my late husband when he worked on an exhibition at Olympia. Still in perfect condition, but the top is very tight so I don’t know if it still has its leaflets – I don’t want to risk trying to prise it open!

  3. Gordon robinson says:

    We have number 102. My husband’s father was M.D. at Nairne flooring in Kirkcaldy

  4. Mr Bradley Martin says:

    We have an elephant no. 134, which could be for sale.
    As previous buyer remarked the trunk has been broken and repaired with glue but is complete.
    If there is any interest please contact me at the above email address.

  5. Paul Hibberd says:

    I have an ‘intact’ elephant that arrived at the interior design department of an architectural practice in Sheffield at about the same time as I did – summer ’73.
    I became custodian of no. 840/3000 in 1984, although it was a few years later when I became aware of who Paolozzi was and his significance in the world of UK sculpture.

  6. Alex Davis says:

    We have elephant 844. Unbroken trunk, but the top has warped slightly so the lid no longer closes.

    My grandfather was an architect, and gave me the elephant when I was 5. I was far more interested in the leaflets back then, suffice it to say that they are long gone.

  7. philip davies says:

    i have a beutiful near mint example with all leaflets and presentation card enclosed number 897 /3000

  8. Brian Hammond says:

    I have an original number 303/300. In good condition.
    no longer any samples but with the original leaflet explaining how and why they were made

  9. Elena Ratcheva says:

    I have one of these but very sadly it got damaged when shipped internationally. The worst part is the broken off part of the trunk is missing, we think customs must have tried to open it and didn’t manage but the trunk fell off. It was no-where to be found in the packing box. We were so upset.

    I am now on the hunt for another one in mint condition. The pamphlets aren’t necessary. Please let me know if you are interested in selling yours!!

  10. Judith says:

    I have a near mint condition elephant 497/3000 complete with all literature, unbroken trunk and tight but untwisted lid. My husband and I were flooring contractors holding a direct account with Nairn and were given it when the promotion was first launched. Loving elephants, it came home and has stood in the same place in our lounge all these years, withstanding two children who soon learnt that it was not a toy. We also did not appreciate until much later who the creator was. Did it work? We certainly specified Nairn linoleum as we were great fans of the quietness of material and colours in their linoleum compared to vinyl but did the elephant increase purchases? – Not sure, possibly.

  11. Chris Bing says:

    I’ve got number 500.

  12. Jonny Hyland says:

    Hi – I am looking to purchase (1 or 2) good to mint quality Eduardo Paolozzi elephant sculptures. I would be very interested in hearing from anyone that is looking to sell. Please contact me ASAP

  13. Ernie Reed says:

    Hi, I was given the little elephant by Nairn Ltd. I was working as a designer in the 70s in Edinburgh. I had it valued on the Antiques Roadshow in Beverley- near where I live 3 or so years ago. It’s in perfect condition, but no literature inside. It is part of the family.

  14. Ernie Reed says:

    Sorry- no. 515/3000.

  15. Joe Robinson says:

    No. 971. My father was an architect in Sheffield and brought this home. It was left to me after he passed away and always makes me think of him. It was only years later that I realised it was by Eduardo Paolozzi (who I’ve liked since I was a student) so now it has double enjoyment.

    These listings and the hunt for the 3000 could lead to a fun (if niche audience) book.

  16. Ruth Norman says:

    I have Elephant No. 16. Perfect condition. What is today’s value?

  17. Kevin says:

    I’d love to buy one any for sale ?

  18. Michael Carter says:

    I am looking for an elephant in good condition
    Does anyone have one to sell?

  19. Darcy Macaw says:


  20. […] and two for his large collection of papers and ephemera of a sort unusual for a monk (such as a foot-high lino elephant made by Eduardo Paolozzi). It is the sheer improbability of the idea of a “monknik”, and the difficulty of understanding […]

  21. John O'Hara says:

    I have two Elephants No’s 1178 & 1196 one in original condition & one with a trunk stuck back on,both are available,also have the original paper work including all the Nairn literature.Will sell as a pair or seperately.

  22. Sarah Lamprell-Jarrett says:

    I have No 193, it seems to be in good condition. It was given to my father, a London Architect. It has the Nairn Floors Ltd card inside the lid.

  23. I have 1202/3000 (in perfect condition) and have owned it since 1974 (when I was 10). My father was an architect and was given the elephant (and brochure) after specifying Nairn flooring on several of the Lincolnshire Schools he designed.

  24. david johns says:

    I have one still with its contents but alas no box.given to me when I was a designer with Catesbys of Totenham ct rd .way back.

  25. Jane says:

    Are any elephants still for sale I would love to buy one?

  26. Julia Holmes says:

    I have No 384 in its original box and with all the Nairn leaflets. The lid is a bit warped and the trunk is broken but I have all the bits for it to be repaired.

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