June 24, 2011

What's New in the Studio

        Here's the block I finished carving on Sunday and printed on Monday.  It shows an antique Underwood No. 3 typewriter I found at our town dump's "re-use-it shed" where people leave their trash that they think someone else might want.  Alas, it is not in working order, nor in particularly good shape at all, but I adopted it because I thought it was beautiful as an object.  It would look really cool on a bookshelf in a library (not that I have any large enough empty spots on any of my bookshelves, let alone a "library."  But I can fantasize, can't I?)  I did a little research and found on the internet instructions for finding the serial number.  On another website I found a listing of all the serial numbers for Underwood typewriters and the year of their production.  (Isn't the internet wonderful?!?)  By which means I have discovered that my typewriter was made in 1923.
        I began carving this block at the ill-fated outdoor art show nearly two weeks ago, but obviously didn't get very far on it at that time.  The hardest part in both the design and the carving stages was figuring out which tiny little details to leave out, and to try to make sure that the ones I left in made some sort of engineering sense.  I'm not sure I did very well at the latter part of that challenge, since it was hard for me to tell exactly what little levers went where, and which springs connected to which screws, and why, and whether they were vital for the working of the knob over on the other side…  Certainly no one would be able to reconstruct a working typewriter from my image!  On the other hand, that wasn't really the point.  I just wanted to capture the beauty and romance of this wonderful machine.  Perhaps the most important part was the letters and numbers on the keys, and I didn't do as clear and smooth a job on them as I would have liked.  I'm particularly displeased with the 8, 0, & and $.  I obviously wasn't doing very well on the really small curves, and I didn't even attempt the minuscule words on the "SHIFT KEY" and "BACK SPACE" keys.  (Also, a little artistic license: on the typewriter the Underwood name appears on the back plate, which is under the paper, and on the front bar, which is too far angled to show.  So in my design I put it on the side instead.)  Altogether, despite my failings on some details, I think it's a fun piece.
        I mention the romance of the typewriter, and I should assert in no uncertain terms that I am deeply, deeply grateful to be able to do my writing on a computer.  Oh how I love writing on the computer!  That said, however, I do have very fond memories of playing with typewriters when I was a child, and feeling like the typed page made everything I wrote seem "real."  We had an old manual typewriter in the house (and later an electric one) and my brothers and I would have to take turns using it for our projects.  Over the years I typed up many a small book.  When I was in third or fourth grade, for example, I wrote several slim collections of truly terrible poems about fairies, inspired by Cicely Mary Barker.  I carefully pecked out the poems on the typewriter and stapled them into tiny volumes, and was so pleased with them!
        And that brings me to the other project I finished this week.  This one is really my son P's project, but T and I both helped.  P had been writing an epic story
entitled The Adventures of Space Squirrel Fluff.  He worked on it so hard, and for such a long time (over a year), that I promised him that when he finished I would have it printed up like a real book, an option that wasn't even within the realm of dreams when I was P's age.  But admittedly, I'm sure I never worked on any project this major when I was his age, either.  P typed the whole thing on the computer (having way too much fun with fonts, something else those old typewriters couldn't provide!) and enlisted his sister T to do the illustrations.  When they had finished everything, my role in the project was to correct spelling and punctuation, scan and photoshop the illustrations, format the entire document for "publishing," and upload it to lulu.com for printing.  I can hardly wait to see the masterpiece!
        So for me this image of the antique typewriter is not just a pretty picture.  It evokes a heady blend of fascinating history, fun steampunk chic, beautiful industrial design, memories of typing "official" documents for many a game of detective, and all my childhood dreams of writing books.

[Pictures: Underwood (1923), rubber block print by AEGN, 2011;
Fluff doing research, pencil on paper by T Nydam, 2011.]


  1. Anne! That typewriter would be a great image for a writer's blog/website/office, etc.!!! I love it! It is just gorgeous.

  2. I dig that Underwood image, back from the time when machines really did show us all the bells and whistles up front, before design artists tried to hide the parts and "modernize" the outsides. The 1923 Underwood reminds me of the one we have in the third floor. Ours is a Royal typewriter and looks to be newer by at least five years. But I agree with Penelope -- it should be used as the symbol of a writer's blog. Maybe P or T, should they eventually become writers, could use it. Space Squirrel Fluff looks like a fine first effort.

    The Aging Wordsmith

  3. Ah, yes, typewriters! The memories of pecking away, then starting again and retyping the whole thing. "Cut and paste" really did mean scissors and glue or tape. Then retype yet again. Computers are so marvelous to allow changing a word or single letter or adding a new paragraph, or rearranging a few sentences, and the whole document is immediately ready to print, all corrected. But typewriters could easily and neatly put data on a 3x5 card. I have not figured out how to do that with my computer. But, then, who (besides me) uses hard copy bibliography cards any more?