Does your city have an Art-o-mat? There are about 90 of them in the United States. Atlanta used to have one at a Whole Foods but it disappeared without notice. The only one I am likely to encounter now is the one at Sam Flax in Orlando Florida. Art-o-mats are retired cigarette machines; thats right, in case you didn't notice there are no vending machines for cigarettes anymore. When you insert 5 dollars in quarters you get to pull the knob and receive an original work of art wrapped in cellophane and about the size of a pack of cigs.

I love this for so many reasons. The recycling of the machines themselves for starters. These old mid- century designs are still very cool with their funky peg legs, chromey looking hardware and old school advertising designs. Check out this page of machines. I love the idea of looking in the windows, making a selection and pulling the knob and having something new to unwrap and examine. You cant really know what's inside, you gotta hope the packaging is a solid clue.

I've been thinking about submitting a design for Art-o-Mat, which would clearly be a labor of love and just for the sheer novelty of it. Of course, I would enjoy figuring out how to make something unique and desirable and designing equally as cool packaging for it.

You know who is an Art-o-Mat artist? Alicia Griswold, who does the judging of Haiku Monday when I host. Here is her piece:

Alicia's is pretty sophisticated with the plexi cover bolted on. Some are just little canvases with paintings, others are photography and there's a lot of collagey works. Some of them are awful and I would be very disappointed to have chosen wrong and end up with some of the weak work I've seen. But here are two that I really like:

Joane Lipinski
Wendy Krabbe

Here is a short news story on the Art-o-mat:

What do you think? Would you buy art from a vending machine? Have you ever seen an Art-o-mat? Should I do a photography piece or a little painting? (There are a lot of both already) Maybe the "Creaturas" I used to make as my guerilla art: those little fetishes that I would leave in the trees at the park or on a table at a cafe. Why did I do that?  Just so that whoever found it would have a little mystery for the day. Same thing with the Art-o-mat. It is not something you do for money. To make these fetishes  for an Art-o-mat, Id have to make a mold first for the skulls. Or else, it would be way too much time. But Ive got plenty of sticks, feathers and alpaca fur to git-r-done.

A bit labor intensive for this project
I don't know. But I'm pretty sure I am going to submit something to Art-o-mat this fall. Maybe a tiny accordion book. Maybe a tiny wooden folk art chicken. Maybe some cool gift tags or something to be used and not just kept. What would you pull a knob for?


  1. Weird. Like the retro machine idea...would
    Not buy the art unless it wuz the K9's

    The "insect inside" made me smile.

    Yore art must be easy to reproduce in bulk.
    How does the artist git paid?

    Sorta odd.vending machine is not personal
    Art is personal. I jes' doan know...
    Mixed feelins'

  2. aunty: its not a money thing. its a participation thing. I already decided that I would have to do a painting and it would be on the pre-fab blocks that artomat cuts. or else it would be too much labor. what i really like are the artomats themselves and the idea. maybe i should put my effort into getting an artomat machine for the arts center in blue ridge! that would be fun. i think the non personal vending and personal of art is a cool juxtaposition.

  3. Such a fun thing! I'd pull a knob for something useful. Like a wine bottle stopper or business card case? I can't help it. But, chickie, I've been all over the internet looking at birth announcements, etc ..... have you ever thought about designing your own papers or textures for use with Photochoppy or similar? I've just almost downloaded (and paid for) a few things then decided they were too ordinary. Just a thought for you to consider!

  4. Depending on the cost, I'd do it! I still look for prizes in Cracker Jacks, search for the Native American with the bow in his hand on my bubble gum wrapper, and insist on getting fortune cookies with Chinese take-out. Heck yeah Chickory, especially if I know I might find your art inside!

    BTW, remember your comment about using music...I've been thinking about that; hammered ducimer might be perfect for you.

  5. Great idea.
    I vote for Koby as the subject. backed up by a Koby's art o matic facebook page where people could pay pal their coins and then watch intently as the virtual drop dispenses one from the entire collection of Koby refrigerator magnets. I predict it will go viral as well as virtual.

  6. Pam: bottle stopper? no way - too expensive. But i get "useful" although art needs no use other than to exist. Pre-fab photochoppy papers, eh? maybe on my download page!

    Deborah: Im not kidding about those sound tracks. Its a big deal to have music i can put to the pictures that are legal. I use music on most of my videos that can never be public really because I do not have the rights. so yeah, hammer on that dulcimer! Im glad you think the artomats are neat - i certainly do.

    Fishy: genius. truly brilliant. thats what I will do. collect em all! However, the artomat does not allow magnets as it doesnt drop thru the machine correctly. grrrrrrrr. But i love the media idea behind the collection. you really have been thinkin hard on the virtual biz world. bring all your ideas to me! grrrrhahahahahahaahaha

  7. @pamOKC

    hey? thas' brilliant! Chick9--DO IT!

    @ Fishy
    brillance abounds today--Fishy is studyin' how to tie the links--think she's onto it.

    Yes! Cracker jack box--thas' eggactly wheat the Art Machine is like.

  8. I would push a knob for a five-lined Skink, In the Night Garden or a world map garland. Yes, indeed!

    You sound better. Your medicines and beautiful thoughts are healing you.

    I love the idea of you leaving a small artwork for someone's mystery. This is happening with two of my paintings, neil and Su wrote perfect poems which I put on the back of the work for which each was composed so that someone will discover them someday.

    The Firekeeper told me his mother used to put tiny toys in his pockets to be discovered in his childhood meanderings. She never owned up to it, but he knows she did it.

    Heal on, high one.

  9. Here's another thought ... lift off the cover of a magnetic refrigerator doodle (needle nose pliers should do it) and seal a tiny artwork on it so the receiver can stick it up on any metal based surface or glue it to a vehicle dashboard, etc. Maybe stick a thick cardboard or thin plywood/balsa tab in the package so it can stand alone if desired.

  10. Never heard of the art-o-mat, but what a brilliant idea on so many levels. Actually, the gambling aspect of it, not knowing what youll get, is really appealing to me. You should definitely submit!

  11. Well then it will just have to be Koby baseball cards in the art-0-matics and the magnets on Koby's facebook page.
    It will be endless"
    Koby in the city
    Koby in the cabin
    Koby on the mountain
    Koby as a hood ornament
    Koby as a hen's nest
    Koby as a foot rest
    Koby in the stream
    Koby sleeping
    Koby at the farmer's market

    It will be HUGE!
    You will be tired.
    I want 3%
    Get well before you facebook Koby
    V will have to retire just to manage all the money and shipping

  12., c

    i have four such works
    from a vending machine, all by
    artist bart habermiller (canada) 1996

    the show at the glenbow museum in calgary was hilarious -- they had to make a special allowance for "art" (from the vending machine) that people were carrying around and out the door with them -- you can imagine :)

    bart is one of my mentors and still a dear friend -- well, not sure what that has to do with your project, but there it is -- kind of related, i guess -- have fun!

    × × ×


  13. Ooooh, and Koby's sidekick kitty, Sterling! You could do a whole range of Sterling Cats for the kitty lovers.

  14. Never seen, but would 100% buy art from in this way... would probably empty the machine if only $5.00. I'd submit something for it, because it's very "you" if that makes sense. I remember a post many years ago about how you made those fetishes and left them around ATL? I'm lucky enough to be looking at one of them right now on my bulletin board at work, so it's too bad they are so very labor intensive.... they would sell.

    Thanks for posting about Art-o-Mat. I had no idea they existed.


  15. there's one about 10 minutes from my house!!!!!!!!! I'm so there on Saturday and will let you know what I bought/etc.

  16. @ Boxer .... take pictures!!!!!

  17. Go for it!!

    I know I would use one because the one time I came across one I put my dollars in and ended up with a ciggie pack sized work of art. It's one of my favorite works of art in my house


    beside your pieces, of course .. :)

    That was in Richmond yeaaaars ago. I reckon now I could google locations to see where there are others.


    How many people buying this at $30 each before it is profitable? Just textures for overlaying on photos in Photochoppy.

  19. What a fabulous idea. I totally would hand over cash for the pleasure.

    I can't wait to see what you come up with.

  20. nina: neil and su are sure deserving of such a gift. nice of you too! I started leaving those little stick cross creatures in the trees years ago. I do a group every couple of years and its about time to do it again. Id love to do a garland for the artomat. but they are way labor intensive - but if i could use the sewing machine to create the line, then maybe. id have to construct the box and then wrap it it acetate. so its starting to shape up as the painting block - then all thats left to do is wrap. The artomat guidelines strictly forbids magnets to be included in any box -even if its packed not to stick (make sense?) cause that was my first thought. Thanks for the healing thoughts. i am still kind of sick but getting better (slowly).

    moi: gambling. maybe thats why there are so many in Vegas!

    fishy: grrerhahahaha. I do love the expansion into a page for Koby. that would be a fun design project. I see animated koby gifs. free download!

    /t: yay! I am going to go look up barts work. Thats cool that you have those. I have never even seen an artomat. I would definitely buy something though. grrrrhahahaha on museum show.

    pam: the ever expanding empire! i think we already have the sterling gif! grheaha

    boxer: i saw one in a city near you but didnt think there was one in your town! You have to get some good photos of this thing and what you got! yay.

    foamy: thats neat! what is it? a little painting? I really like the effort the people who make sculpture put into it. theres some that have jewelry but i dont like those. I think i remember seeing there is one in a museum near you. or at least in your state.

  21. pam: are you kidding me? All she does is rename filters and mixes of effect with filters. gross. I dont know if i could figure out the template part. I bet YOU could do this, and well.

    roses: you'll be the first to know!

  22. There's 20 in NC. 7 in just Winston-Salem. Not surprising for the old tobacco state.

  23. Very cool.

    Chicken art and vending machines? A match made in heaven I say.

    I'm going to track down the one in Austin and see what happens.

  24. Not just her but loads and loads of folks selling "digital scrapbook papers" and photoshop overlays.

    MEANWHILE, back at the ranch, I have located our local Art-o-Mat and it is at the City Arts Center, where Kymmie's good friend and former co-worker is now employed doing ... uh, I don't know what she is doing there. Promotions and the like. I feel a road trip coming on!

  25. And, yeah, the textures are gross and grossly overpriced!


  26. Thanks for the shout out! and for doing this posting.
    Clark's best advice to me was to keep each piece to 10 minutes or less. Mine does take longer than that, but I break it up into components and do each on a different day. lately, i've really been taking my time, which can get old.

    when i worked full time --at a desk and with a long commute -- I'd work on them after work as a way of balancing out all that sitting.

    Clark or Carol will offer good advice on how to make the works fit best.
    Since I only put one line of a poem on the front of each piece (and include the entire poem folded in the packet), I've had people collect an entire set. So I recommend a series of collectable pieces. there's a posting on Sending Pages about a woman who's got rooms full of artomats.

    Wonder Root in Reynoldstown does have a machine!

  27. I love pulling knobs!

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