Typewriter Treasures: Crafting Classics with Keys.

interview with isabel typewriter collector in Atlanta

Tapping into typewriter magic. 

Tell us a little about your creative background and the place you grew up? 

I was born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. A very colorful and exciting city. Both my parents are museologists, so I grew up inside museums. Every time we traveled; we visited many museums and art galleries. It was in one of them that I discovered the paintings of Monet. I was in love with the Water Lilies and couldn’t stop admiring it, baffled by the idea that the whole thing was just paint blobs that together formed such a beautiful and peaceful scenery.

isabel talks about her interest for typewriters
aesthetic images typewriters

My house was always filled with books and music. My parents would always show me different artists and I didn’t know then, but I was absorbing everything and that would build up my appreciation for art. When I was around 18 years old, I took my first Photography class. I learned the basics of Photography and editing. I enjoyed it a lot and I’ve been taking pictures on and off since then. Since I always admired design and architecture (my first career choice was architecture, but I didn’t follow through), I noticed that they are a constant influence on many artistic manifestations I appreciate.

bright orange typewriters
postcards about typewriters

How did you start collecting typing machines and how many you have in your collection? 

The first machine I got was a gift. I wanted something vintage and beautiful, and that’s how I got my orange Hermes Baby. At first, my interest in typewriters was purely decorative. I didn’t think about using it to type anything. A decade after that, I decided I wanted something sturdier to start typing. My Baby is made of plastic, and I didn’t want to risk breaking it, so I searched online and found a gentleman who sold typewriters here in Georgia. I got a reliable blue Smith Corona Galaxy from him. My idea was to use it to type letters to pen pals. By using a typewriter, I would be forced to pay more attention to my writing and it would, hopefully, help me improve my English since there is no auto-correct or auto-fill. After I bought that second machine I was hooked. There are many typewriters with different designs. My favorite ones are the mid-century ones, which are, usually, very colorful. 

I have six typewriters in my collection: an orange Hermes Baby, a green Royal Safari, an avocado-green Royal Futura 800, a cream Olympia SM 9, a sky-blue Olivetti Studio 46, and a blue Smith Corona Galaxie Twelve. The Hermes Baby and the Olivetti have Portuguese keyboards.

typewriters images

Do they require a special care? 

Typewriters tend to be sturdy machines. If you think about how often your phone screen breaks and how long typewriters have been around, you understand that those things were made to last. They do require some light maintenance such as brushing the slugs (where the little stamp-like letters are) to clean them and you should be careful not to let them sit in the dust for too long. Other than that, if you type frequently, they should keep themselves pretty well.

how to use typewriter
vintage typewriter

How are typing machines different? 

Typewriters invite you to slow down, to be mindful of what you want to say. There’s no delete button, so you cannot keep coming back to edit or correct what you wrote like in a word processor. If you do make a mistake, you “x” it out and keep going. Just as in real life. You cannot just erase things that happen, you must live with them and move on. I like that analogy. To learn from mistakes and acknowledge them. 

Also, there are no distractions when you sit to type. There’s no risk of starting to write and ending up spending hours on social media. 

Do you have a favorite typewriter and what makes it special? 

That’s a hard question. But if I had to choose I would say my favorite is my avocado-green Royal Futura 800. I love its design and it has a buttery smooth touch to it. Every time I type on it I think “Wow, how nice is this?” just as if it was the first time I was trying the typewriting machine. 

multiple typewriters
typewriters deluxe

How did collecting typewriters enriched your life? 

The best thing that came along with the typewriters was connecting to people. Because of the typewriters, I made two great big connections. One was with the type pals I made. I typed letters to many people, but a couple of people became very good friends, even though I’ve never met them in person. I get really happy when I receive their letters, I accompany their lives from afar. 

The second big connection was with my local typewriter group, the Atlanta Typewriter Club. They are great people; very smart and very kind. Just nice people to be around. I have a special place in my heart for that gentleman who sold me my typewriters (Tom Rehkopf). He taught me to clean and troubleshoot the machines, he talks about the most amazing topics out there, he has the best sense of humor, he is very creative, and he introduced me to my latest hobby; digital illustration. He is just a great company and he also does typewriter programs with me at my local library. He was the greatest gift the typewriters brought me.

aesthetic typewriters photos
bright colorful typewriters

How do you look for typing machines and how do you define which one you want to add to your collection? 

The main thing I look for is design. I only have machines from the 50s or newer, and I only with white keys. I think that last requirement makes my collection unique. After that, I just try them out and see if I like how they feel. My typewriting machines are usually colorful. 

What are some interesting facts about typewriters? 

There are many interesting facts. They are wonderful machines filled with history. One story that I like is how the company Royal decided to throw machines from an airplane, in a box and with a parachute of course, to prove that they were sturdy and almost indestructible. How crazy is that?! It seems that they passed the test. 

Many typewriting machines were designed by famous designers. The Olivetti Valentine, launched on February 14, 1969, was designed by Ettore Sottsass, an Italian architect and designer. I recently got to type on a Smith Corona Super-G. It was designed by an Italian car designer, Ghia. He designed cars for Alfa-Romeo, Lancia and Volkswagen. 

The QWERTY layout we use on our keyboards until today was created in 1874 for use on typewriters. The keys are laid in a way to decrease jamming while fast typing. 

Some authors still use typewriters to type their book manuscripts. A few examples are: Danielle Steel, J.K. Rowling, Tom Hanks (a huge typewriter ambassador), and Haruki Murakami. Musician John Mayer also uses a typewriter to type his songs. 

vintage typewriters

What is the next typing machine you plan to add to your collection? 

I keep a wishlist of machines I like. The number one on the list is a Hermes 3000 with a rounded top. If I get that one, it would be the only exception to my “only white keys” requirement since it has mint green keys. Most typewriters have black keys, so I’m ok with that exception. Other than that, I’m looking for a good ultra-portable machine. They are light and small, easy to carry around. 

What do you enjoy most of all about collecting typing machines? 

I enjoy typing my letters on them. I rotate the typewriter that it’s on my desk and I really like seeing the finished result of a typed page. Again, it’s about the design/formatting. I like how the letters are not all printed the same, you see color variations and mistakes.  I usually decorate my paper with stamps or washi tape. I also enjoyed making a travel journal adding pictures and museums and transportation tickets and such to the mix. I only did it once, but it was a fun experiment. 

olympia typewriting machine
typewriters machine aesthetics

Where can people learn more about typewriters? 

Typewriters, such as other analog tools (analog cameras and vinyls are additional examples), are making a comeback. There are typewriter groups on Facebook. We have our own Atlanta Typewriter Club Facebook that meets once a month to showcase our collections and to do maintenance workshops. We did two typewriter events at the Alpharetta Library and there’s another one planned for December. The Computer Museum of Atlanta, in Roswell, GA, also has recurring typewriter workshops. I would say the most comprehensive guide to everything typewriter related is a website by professor Richard Polt (he also wrote a book The Typewriter Revolution) where you can find varied information such as machine manuals, repair shops, history of typewriters and etc. The Classic Typewriter Page : All About Typewriters

thinking about life and using a typewriting machine
typewriters aesthetic inspiration

What other creative hobbies you have? How did you start them and why do you engage in them? 

As I mentioned, I profoundly admire Photography. I usually take architecture or geometric pictures. I recently started doing digital illustrations on Procreate. I follow online tutorials, but I try to incorporate something personal to every drawing, but I’m still in the early stages of learning this. I usually draw during my lunch break to relax and wind down. 

inspiration for writing
bright colorful typewriters

What is your favorite quote? 

I don’t have a favorite quote, but I do keep a notebook with quotes I like. Here is one of them:

“Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for haven’s sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories.” Kurt Vonnegut – If this isn’t nice, what is?

How do you define happiness? 

I don’t think happiness is a constant. For me it is something fleeting, but intense. As a friend used to say, is that five-star moment that makes you feel alive and that all is worth it. Moments you will remember and cherish. They do not happen all the time, but they are frequent, you have to pay attention to them, and they recharge you. As I say, they warm your heart.

What is your dream trip? 

At the moment I have two dream trips. The first one is to visit Japan. A long trip to try to cover most of the country, to take in their culture and admire their aesthetics. The other one is a trip to Amsterdam. I would love to walk around the canals watching the architecture. This one has been on my list since I was a teenager. Maybe in a couple of years, who knows!

typewriting creatively
typewriters ribbon keys

What advice can you give to people looking to engage is some creative activities?

Last year I read a book called “Steel like an Artist” by Austin Kleon. It’s an easy and quick book, the advice he gives are simple, but important. The ones that I kept and I suggest other creatives to follow are: Just do it! Do whatever you enjoy and keep doing it. Try to find some routine. If you can, do it daily, if not, once a week, but do it. Draw, compose, write, photograph, just do it. The other one is find like-minded people. Search for your group, find people that enjoy the same art niche you do. You will learn from them, you will exchange information and inspiration. If you don’t have a big art community where you live, that’s where the internet comes in handy. There are many groups online that you can be part of. Join them! 

The other advice is to share what you are doing (I’m still working on that!). Put it on your social media, print your work and present it at a workshop, open mic night, meet-up… Show it to other people. You will start cementing that creative activity you do as part of your identity. So just do it, share it and find your gang. That should sum it up.

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All photos by ArsVie photo studio, which offers elegant and creative branding photography and styling in Alpharetta and the Atlanta area. 

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