I was born in Northern Minnesota in the US of A in the 1970’s. I moved to Northern California in 1990. I have no formal art training.
I disassemble typewriters and then reassemble them into full-scale, anatomically correct human figures. I do not solder, weld, or glue these assemblages together- the process is entirely cold assembly. I do not introduce any part to the assemblage that did not come from a typewriter.
I collect typewriters (all vintages) that are in very rough shape, more-often-than-not completely unusable or beyond reasonable repair. I get them from yard sales, flea markets, thrift stores, and from my friends who happen upon them and think of me. Even with all of the key cutters and crafters out there taking apart typewriters, there are many more out there in the world than you may think. For now, anyway.
I then disassemble the typewriters, very carefully backing out screws, pulling pins, and unfastening springs. I don’t use power tools to do this, because I don’t want to damage the parts or their finish. Someone could take 99% of the parts that I use in my sculpture and put them back in a typewriter, if someone were so inclined.
I tend not to like to clean the parts, and I don’t paint them. I like to leave the patina of age and the traces that the typewriter users left on the components. I like to think that the very DNA of the typist is left on the components.
After disassembly, I carefully sort all of the parts according to their color, appearance, use, size, etc., and put them into bins. I also use typewriter cases as storage for larger bits and for large numbers of repeating parts, such as type bars (the little metal piece with the backwards letters that contacts with the paper to form the words on paper).
Once I’ve got everything disassembled and categorized, I simply play. I take two parts in each hand, have them face each other, and they have a little conversation about what they’re going to be. Sometimes I know how I’m going to use a component as soon as I take it off of the typewriter, sometimes it depends on the part that gets assembled before it. Every part is stored in my memory. There are thousands upon thousands of parts in my bins.
I then take components that resemble parts of the anatomy and begin connecting them with the same connective components used to hold the typewriter together- nuts, bolts, screws, pins, set-pin collars, springs, etc.
I don’t solder, weld, or glue because I don’t like the appearance of welds or heat treating. The paint gets melted and the joints look sloppy. I assemble the entire sculpture manually like a puzzle using screwdrivers, pliers, wrenches, vice-grips, and dental tools.
I use existing holes in components to run screws and pins through, and to attach springs. I do not tap new threads- I simply (or not so simply) dig through my bin of screws to find a suitable length of screw with the matching thread. I occasionaly ream a hole in a component with a drill, but only as a last resort, and I do it in a way that is invisible to the viewer.
After almost 20 years of doing this work, I’ve gotten proficient at building forms in my mind ahead of time. I usually only need to do one sketch, or begin building using parts that emulate the basic skeletal structure. Sometimes I will do an entire sculpture simply because I find one part that is so compelling as a part of the anatomy— say, for instance, a component which very much resembles a jawbone, that I build the whole sculpture starting from the one piece.
Most of the time I know pretty much how the sculpture is going to look when it’s done, but because the process is accretive (one part of the assemblage depends upon the previous) there is a great deal of surprise and many “happy accidents” that keep things interesting.
As you might be able to imagine, this work takes a very long time to do. From start to finish, a full-scale human figure takes at least 1000 hours, often more. I’ve done five of them since I started doing this in 1994.
I live and work in beautiful Oakland, California, USA.