Monday, September 1, 2008

The Patina of Creativity

For the past few days I’ve had a back and forth with someone interested in buying one of my two Olympia SG1s. I’m willing to sell either for $75 plus postage, which in this case came to roughly $50. We live on opposite sides of the country. We also, apparently, live on opposite sides of typewriter collecting.

Neither SG1 is in perfect condition, but in ways I find endearing. Both are, and were, used. These aren’t “pretty” machines. They are long-haulers that can pull literary or secretarial weight. They did 50 years ago and they can do so today.

One word describes them: BUILT.

I said they weren’t perfect. Let me be specific because it is on the specifics that that the potential buyer and I differ in perspective.

The margin stop for the machine on the left no longer works. But the bell does, so the writer has been amply warned. This machine does not coddle. The baseline is minutely lower for the caps, but it almost looks intentional, particularly because its font is 11-point “Senatorial,” a squarish sans serif. Very modern and readable.

The other machine is in better shape but lacks the intriguing font. It has the omnipresent 11-point Times Roman. The lower and upper cases line up and the right margin holds firm against the colliding carriage.

But both typewriters share a blemish that troubled the would-be buyer. On each the chassis beneath the space bar show signs of a palm resting. The paint is worn thin from so many paused palms. You can see the blemishes on both sides, but, for some reason beyond me, they seem more pronounced on the right.

I’ve come to think of these blemishes as “inspiration marks.” While the palm rested, the muse played with phrasing and transitions, searched for just the right word. Entire plots may have been turned during these moments. Or just the right salutation, the one that sealed the deal, may have been chosen.

Here beneath the space bar, fingers at rest, palms at ease, change happened.

So I’m pleased that the pauses have left their mark on the SG1s. They are as much evidence of use the inked keys, worn ribbons and a breached right margin stop.

To me, these worn spots are the patina of inspiration.

As I write this, the buyer has not responded to my description of the blemishes. I wrote him that if he was interested in finding a blemish-free SG1, I was confident he would eventually be successful. Much of the fun of collecting is the search and the discovery.

I did not tell him that to my mind, a pristine SG1 is soulless, bearing no evidence of serving a cause, of aiding a spirit.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Exhibit opens at the University of Portland

Today University of Portland photography instructor Pat Bognar and I put up our "A Celebration of the Typewriter" exhibit in the Buckley Gallery on the UP campus. Several photography students helped us. The exhibit includes their portraits of typewriters from my collection. They've done a magnificent job. A few of the photos show typewriter keys in impossible positions — typebars headed for a jam. I shutter at what typewriter users might think seeing these images, but Pat called them "impressionistic" photos.

My photos of the exhibit, which runs through April 10th, gives a good sense of what's on display. Altogether there are nine typewriters. Seven are models associated with famous writers. I've included books by the authors next to the machines. An SG3, like one used by James Michener, is available for use by visitors.

The exhibit follows more modest exhibits at Mt. Hood Community College last summer and at Portland Community College last spring.

I'll let you know reactions to the exhibit. I encourage other collectors to put their machines out there at schools and libraries for the public to appreciate.

Monday, March 3, 2008

A Celebratory Display and a Quiz

A few hundred announcements like this one will be mailed this week. If you don't receive one, consider this one yours.

As the text on the back explains, the exhibit will be at the University of Portland's Buckley Center Gallery and will feature some of my typewriters as well as student photos of them. I'll also have some information about famous authors associated with the models on display.

I hope you can find time to drop by the campus at 5000 N. Willamette Boulevard. The Gallery's hours are Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. The dates, as you see on the card, are from Monday, March 17, to Thursday, April 10.

Any guesses as to the model on the front of the card and to the one in the background?

Friday, February 29, 2008

Ace Typewriter can keep its store for now

Dennis and Matt gathered at Matt's work bench in the back of the shop.

I just finished posting on my other site, The Red Electric, that Ace Typewriter has won a reprieve, thanks to the suddenly flat real estate market in Portland.

The owner of the retail space where Dennis McCormack has been selling and repairing typewriters for nearly fifty years has had to back away from a plan to tear down the building and replace it with townhouses.

So Dennis and his son Matt, who has become the go-to typewriter guy here in Portland, won't have to move several decades worth of typewriters, parts and repair machinery to their house.

What a relief. The photos give some idea of the task they faced.