A Trip to the Mid Mod Market

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This past weekend was a good one: it was unseasonably warm here in Alberta (like “have a drink on a patio” warm, and I was like “fine, weather, if you absolutely insist”) and on Sunday we changed the clocks back and slept an extra hour (except not really because our dog refuses to observe Daylight Savings Time — rude). Plus, I spent the weekend in Calgary (see my last post about going back and forth from Red Deer) so I could attend the Mid Mod Market, “an event for anyone with an interest in retro, midcentury, industrial vintage and handmade goods, records, art and interior objects” (according to their facebook page, which promises to keep you posted about the next Mid Mod Market). On that note, the next event is yet to be scheduled but will probably take place about six months from now (vaguely mark your calendars!), since their website says the market is currently held twice yearly.

The event took place over two days (Friday, November 4th from 5pm-9pm, and November 5th from 10am-4pm) at the Bridgeland-Riverside Community Centre.

Time-Out: if you live in Calgary and haven’t been to the Bridgeland neighbourhood yet, or if you are planning a trip to Calgary, or if there is any chance you might find yourself in the city one day, this is my enthusiastic recommendation to spend some time in Bridgeland. It’s a neighbourhood that has seen a lot of growth and development in the last couple years, and it’s now quite the hip spot. Have breakfast at Blue Star Diner, shop at Lukes Drug Mart (the coolest pharmacy/grocery store/gift shop/coffee shop/record store/stationery store I have ever been to — I mean, also the only one, but still), stroll the Bridgeland Market (I have a real love of small, local, well-designed and well-stocked grocery stores), and have a cocktail and a cubano (and maybe get a haircut) at Cannibale.

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[Photo by Erin Brooke Burns. Source]

Time-In: back to the Mid Mod Market. I loved this event for a few reasons:

1. It was free.

2. While similar to Market Collective in some ways (young, hip, local folks selling their wares to other young, hip, local folks — there were even a few overlapping vendors), it was also smaller (re: less claustrophobic and overwhelming) and a bit more curated, focusing more on the vintage and less on the handmade.

3. It was in Bridgeland and so a good excuse to spend some time in the neighbourhood (see above).

4. There were some amazing vendors selling some amazing things (more on this below).

5. It was free.

Mid Mod Market was founded by three vintage/handmade sellers: Becca Black of Bex Vintage, Janice Rusnak of fewandbetween, and Megan Borg of Secret Wool Society.

I’ve been following Bex Vintage for awhile now, since she was selling vintage by appointment only from her garage (I once bought a midcentury office chair from her from this garage), and it was through her instagram that I found out about the event.

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[Photo of the chair from Bex Vintage in my office]

Now Bex Vintage has a website — and a bus!

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[Photo of the Bex Vintage bus. Source]

Besides the three founders, there were ten other vendors selling at Mid Mod Market.

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[List of vendors and my thumb.]

I entered via the upper level where Blackwood was selling beautifully-refinished midcentury modern furniture. Blackwood had the entire (albeit small) top floor, and it was like walking into the coolest 1960s living room. There was vinyl playing on the record player, interesting-looking people were milling about, and I half-expected someone to hand me a cocktail. Sadly, I wasn’t allowed to live there — I asked.

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[Source]

After seriously considering buying the green couch above, checking my bank account, and then having to overcome a moment of existential despair, I made my way downstairs and immediately came upon the goods of fewandbetween, who was selling industrial/schoolhouse vintage: an amazing metal desk, two sets of lockers, vintage maps, globes, and (drumroll please) a mint green Hermes typewriter.

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[Source]

The typewriter had no visible price and I couldn’t find anyone who seemed to be working for fewandbetween, so I decided to do a lap and come back.

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[Photo I took and then sent to my fiance to ask if I could please bring home another typewriter — he didn’t respond so I was left to my own devices]

It was then on to Bex Vintage and Spanky’s Corner. The former had the most wonderful teak bookshelf on display (adorned, rightly so, with a SOLD sticker) and the latter had an excellent collection of Pyrex and vintage toys. I came *thisclose* to buying a very old but still working record player from Spanky’s (a bright orange portable RCA) but couldn’t imagine a single free spot for it in my house, and it would have been such a shame not to keep it on display. If you can’t wait for the next vintage market event, you can check out Spanky’s Corner at the Inside Avenue Antique mall (booth #10).

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[Photo by Becca Black. Source]

Next, I browsed the adorable wares of Foxy Revival and settled on two wooden pineapple dishes. I’ve been meaning to have some sort of house-warming party (we moved into our place about two months ago), and now I’m thinking the party will have to be vintage-60s-tiki-themed (and I’m very okay with that).

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[The pineapples that came home with me.]

Billie Boone Vintage also had a bunch of wooden pineapple-shaped bowls and I considered getting more so I could have a larger set (think of all the snacks!), but I had also arrived on bike and really doubted my ability to carry more than two wooden bowls and steer a bicycle.

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[The pineapples that got away. Photo by me.]

As I continued through the community centre, I was lured by the terrariums at Plant and the weavings at Secret Wool Society, but I was also still thinking about the typewriter. Does it work? How much is it? Could I somehow juggle a typewriter, a brake, and two handlebars?

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[Source]

So back to fewandbetween I went. This time the owner immediately came over to ask if I had any questions (a sign from the universe, perhaps?).

“How much is this typewriter?”

“$70.”

“Are you flexible on that price at all?”

“No.”

“Alright. Sold!”

As you can see, I am an excellent negotiator.

As I was discussing with the seller where and when I could pick up the typewriter if I wasn’t able to get it home on my bike, I spotted my good friend, Jaci, and her boyfriend, Alex, who had just arrived. Did they drive here? They did. Could I put my typewriter in their car? I could. Did they want to go have a drink on Cannibale’s patio? They very much did.

Thanks, Universe (and you too, Jaci and Alex).

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[Photo of my credenza, a shrine to my most favourite things.]

P.S. I am 99.999% sure I saw Janine Vangool there.

Fake it ’til You Make It (or find it at a vintage store?)

This morning I made a discovery: Michaels Arts and Crafts stores are selling new typewriters. New typewriters.

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[Image via Ally Dosdall: check out her blog for her review]

I was shocked at first, but I really shouldn’t be. Companies have been recreating faux-vintage items for awhile now. Just have a gander at Urban Outfitter’s “music + tech” section.

I’m not really sure how I feel about this recreated-retro trend. At first I wanted to say, “No, stop, get your hands off my typewriters!” But then I’d have to give back my un-vintage record player and my recently-made retro radio and the instax camera I bought this decade. And I’m not prepared to do that.

So, what do you guys think? Would you buy a typewriter made in the year 2016? Or do you feel loyal to the original? Is buying something that only looks vintage somehow cheating? Or is the new typewriter so cute it doesn’t matter?

While you’re thinking that over, here’s a round-up of newly-made, vintage-looking items for your consideration:

Crosley Record Players:

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[Images via Urban Outfitters]

Crosley makes a wide variety of retro-looking (and more modern-looking) record players. I keep hearing their quality is not the best, and that might be true, but I have owned one for about 5 years now, and it still works great and hasn’t damaged my records. Plus, it looks adorable sitting on the credenza.

Wild & Wolf Telephone:

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[Image via Yellow Octopus]

You can also purchase this phone at Mod Cloth, and while you’re there you can check out this other style. These phones make me want to call up my service provider and ask for a home phone line (or just plug it into the phone jack and talk on my cell phone while looking at it wistfully).

Marshall Speaker:

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[Image via Urban Outfitters]

Oh Marshall, you so cute.

Fuji Instax:

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[Image via Pinterest]

I own the Fuji instax in the larger size (I wanted actual polaroid-sized photos rather than the credit-card-sized photos these little babies spit out). But sadly, the Fuji instax wide only comes in black. Works great, looks blah.

Crosley Songbird Radio:

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[Image via Amazon]

I own this little guy too, and even if its antenna did break off and even if it does require 8 batteries of 2 different sizes, it sure does look cute.

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[Images via my instagram]

The Smeg Fridge:

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[Images via Pinterest: 1 and 2]

Smeg also makes adorably retro blenders, toasters, mixers, and other appliances. Whenever I get around to making a wedding registry, I’m sure it will just say “one of every Smeg appliance in turquoise please,” except then no one will get me anything because even the toaster is $240.

And finally, the We R Memory Keepers Typecast Typewriter:

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[Image via We R Memory Keepers]

It has mixed reviews on the Michaels website, but I think I’m coming around. If all my other typewriters are for display only, this might be one I’d actually use (she says as her “craft box” gathers dust ).

I wonder what Janine Vangool would have to say about this…

A Review of Janine Vangool’s The Typewriter: A Graphic History of the Beloved Machine

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Confession: I probably can’t be objective about this book.

Reason One: I love typewriters so much that even a bunch of badly photocopied black-and-white photographs of typewriters sloppily stapled together would probably get a positive review from me.

Reason Two: I have so much respect, admiration, and adoration for Janine Vangool (that’s a better way to say “girl crush,” right?).

Reason Three: She lives in Calgary; I also sort-of live in Calgary.

Reason Four: I’m totally judging this book by its cover and I’m already smitten (sorry, every librarian of my youth who told me not to do this).

Reason Five: I got this book on sale. My favourite bookstore in Calgary, Shelf Life Books, sold it to me for the low, low price of $27. Just having it sit on my coffee table looking pretty is worth $27.

But I’m going to put on my big girl journalist pants, put a lid on the gushing, and try my best to give this book the fair review it deserves. 

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[Photo via Amazon]

Janine Vangool is the publisher, editor, and designer of the quarterly print magazine UPPERCASE, whose tagline reads, “for the creative and curious.” Vangool founded the magazine in 2009 in Calgary, Alberta after working as a freelance graphic designer and graduating from The Alberta College of Art and Design (ACAD) in 1995. (That sounded pretty objective, right?)

Now available worldwide, Uppercase Magazine is an award-winning, beautifully-designed publication, cherished by creatives looking for inspiration, information, and encouragement.

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[Source.]

Vangool is also a diehard collector. Not only does she have about a dozen typewriters in her personal collection, but most of the typewriter ephemera, artifacts, and ribbon tins featured in the magazine are her own.

In addition to being the name of her magazine, UPPERCASE is Vangool’s publishing company on which she released The Typewriter: A Graphic History of the Beloved Machine in 2015.

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[Photo of Vangool by Kristie Tweed. Source.]

[Read an interview here with Vangool about her book on Lisa Congdon’s blog.]

In 2016, she curated The UPPERCASE Compendium of Craft and Creativity (selling feature: its dust jacket can transform into four different cover designs), and the press’s next project is The UPPERCASE Encyclopedia of Inspiration. You can pre-order the first three volumes of the Encyclopedia (which UPPERCASE’s website says will be an ongoing project) here. The topics of the first three volumes are as follows: Feed Sacks: A Pattern Sourcebook, Botanica: A Fascination With All Things Floral, and Stitch-Illo: Every Stitch Tells a Story. ($120 for the first three in the set? Take my money, Vangool!)

The Typewriter: A Graphic History is a stunning hardcover coffee table book, which Vangool calls “a beautiful ode to an all-but-obsolete creative companion” in her book’s opening letter to the reader. The book boasts over 900 images, a linen-wrapped spine (inspired by a typewriter case, no less!), and a mini-book insert of a reproduction of a 1950s pamphlet targeted towards women called “How To Be a Super Secretary,” the advice of which pulls at my feminist heart more than an episode of Mad Men. Here’s an example of said advice: “You hide your light. If you originate a good idea, you give the credit to your boss because you know when he advances you advance with him.” (Of course the boss is a “he.” Of. Course.)

After the letter to the reader, this book is divided into ten sections: first a section devoted to the typewriter’s invention, and then a section devoted to each decade from 1900 to 1980. One thing I found weird, though, is that the information included in the sections did not always correspond to the decade. I swear there is no clearer way to say that, but I’ll clarify with some examples. In the section on the 1900s, for instance, there is a subsection on typing instruction that spans multiple decades (one of the instruction manuals featured is from 1961). Then in the section on the 1910s, we have information on the different fonts Royal typewriters provided in the 1930s. The 1910s chapter also includes documents relating to salesmanship from the 1950s and the World’s Fair in 1901. I think this raises the question why divide the book by decades at all? Why not divide the book by topic rather than by year?

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[Photo of 60s-era advertisement from the Royal Typewriter Company reprinted in The Typerwriter]

Despite my organizational misgivings, the book achieves what it sets out to do: deliver a graphic history of the typewriter. The images document the evolution from the typewriter’s invention to its last iteration in the 1980s, while simultaneously chronicling the history of advertising and copywriting since the late 19th century (the ads are hilarious, infuriating, and graphically interesting all at once).

In case the title hasn’t fully prepared you, I will say, this book is graphic (and no, not in an “X-rated, sexy naked typists” way, but in a “mostly pictures” way). This is the work of a graphic designer and so it’s unsurprising that much of the text focuses on the design of the machines and the way they were advertised and marketed to the public (and this is not a criticism—some of the ads are as beautiful as the machines they promote).

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[Photo of a 50s-era advertisement from the Royal Typewriter Company reprinted in The Typewriter]

Be warned though, there is a limited amount of written information, unless you deign to read all of the copy in the advertisements. So if you’re looking for a comprehensive, detailed, substantive written history of the typewriter, maybe this book isn’t quite your TYPE and you may want to SHIFT your sights somewhere else (although, as Vangool points out, “Telling the entire story of the typewriter in a single book is impossible”).

You might try, for instance, Tony Allan’s The Typewriter: The History, The Machines, The Writers or the soon-to-be-released Typewriter: A Celebration of the Ultimate Writing Machine by Paul Robert and Peter Weil. 

All that being said, I did learn some things:

  1. the QWERTY layout we use today was not designed for speed of typing but for even distribution of left and right hand key strokes to minimize the risk of jamming more quickly on one side than the other.
  2. When using the earliest typewriters, you couldn’t actually see what you were writing; after typing on these antique blind, or understrike machines, you had to lift the carriage manually to see what letters you had typed. (Imagine the typos!)
  3. Index Machines were a cheaper, slower version of a typewriter where instead of pressing keys, you turn a dial to the desired letter.
  4. Underwood typewriter company actually manufactured its own brand of chip-resistant nail polish, “Underwood’s Red,” and the half-moon shape of typewriter keys was to ensure fingernails did not touch the keys.
  5. I now know I want to start collecting typewriter ribbon tins.upprcasetins

I do wish, however, that a bit more care would have been taken with the text itself. It’s obviously clear that a lot of time and effort were put into the design and layout (which I can’t praise enough), but there are some glaring typos that make me think slightly less time was put into copyediting. For instance, on page 11, Vangool writes that Mark Twain typed a letter to his brother in 1974, which would have been very difficult for him to do since he died in 1910. There also seem to be errors in the captions; at times they refer to photos which aren’t there or aren’t where the captions say they are. For instance, the text on page 13 reads, “as demonstrated in the letter on the following page,” but there is no letter on the following page. And the caption on page 77 refers to a postcard on the far right which does not seem to exist (unless this is a typo and should say “the far left”). Also, a copyeditor might have caught the awkward dangling modifier on page 158: “Purchased for $10 late on afternoon at a flea market, the seller didn’t want to lug it home again.” 

Verdict: this book is for the typewriter-lover looking for an aesthetically-pleasing collection of photographs and advertisements of the beloved machine to flip through (me!) and less for the history-buff scholar looking to do research (unless, of course, that research is on typewriter advertising).

Tips for Collecting, Volume 1: Typewriters

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A treasury of typewriters made by moi.

I love typewriters. Why? I’m not really sure, but I love everything about them (except actually using them–using a typewriter is the absolute worst–more on this later).

I suppose I love all things typewriter because I’d like to fancy myself a writer and because I’m excessively nostalgic. How I’d love to write: a bottle of whiskey for sipping, a pack of cigarettes for chain-smoking, a typewriter for typing. Maybe I’d live in an atelier in Paris. Maybe I’d actually know what the word “atelier” means (is it the same as an attic? a studio? I haven’t a clue, but it sounds classy as hell). How I actually write: facebook open for checking, a glass of water for forgetting about, a bag of potato chips for maintaining my excellent diet, a Macbook Pro to make greasy with my potato chip fingers.

Also, look at the colours!

I own three typewriters: an Underwood no 3 from the early 1900s, an Underwood 378 from the 1970s, and a Brother Webster XL-727 also from the 70s. They make excellent decorations. Do I use them? I do not. Have you ever tried typing on a typewriter? It’s a special kind of hell. Also, I can’t type a sentence without a typo. Before I edited the last sentence, this is what it looked like: Alos, I cant’ typo a senksjNGBIUofkbg kb. (I’m really bad).

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Here they are all snuggly in their home (aka: my home).

I also used to own a 40s-era Royal typewriter, but it was sadly too heavy to make the move from Ontario to Alberta with me six years ago.

In total, my typewriter collection cost me $45 (even including the Royal).

The Underwood No. 3 I found in a junk store in Calgary for $25. It was covered in sawdust. Apparently someone had been keeping it in a barn and not even the owner of the junk store had wanted to clean it. A quick check on ebay tells me that an Underwood No. 3 is selling for anywhere from $227 to $1292.50. Some warm water and paper towel later, and that’s a (some high percentage–I don’t math) profit. Thank you very much, Junk Store That I Forget the Name of That Doesn’t Exist Anymore Probably Because They Sold Antique Typewriters For Only $25.

The Brother Webster Typewriter I found in a junk store in Windsor, Ontario for $20 (this junk store to be exact–if you ever find yourself in Windsor, go here; it’s the best). It’s light so packing it in my suitcase wasn’t a problem.

The 70s-era Underwood was my grandmother’s, which she gave to me a few years ago in perfect condition because she’s the best and keeps everything she’s ever purchased and everything she owns still looks like it was just taken out of the box yesterday. I’ve asked her to teach me her ways, but when she found out I don’t like dusting, she gave up on me.

My dream typewriter collection:

  1. A super old Underwood (check!)
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    Source

  2. A midcentury Royal, preferably bubblegum pink
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    Source

  3. An Olivetti, teal would be nice

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  4. A Portable Remington (Purple? Sure why not?)
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    Source

  5. A Smith-Corona (let’s go with turquoise)
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    Source

  6. And a German Olympia (Pink again? Okay!)il_570xN.693176955_20xl.jpg
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If I had an unlimited budget, I could purchase these right now from ebay and/or etsy. But I don’t. (Just imagine the shipping price for a typewriter that weighs more than a toddler). So I have to be patient and scour garage sales, kijiji (or Craigslist for my American friends), and junk/thrift/vintage stores.

On numerous occasions I’ve been asked by friends for help in the typewriter purchasing department. So I’m here to present to you some tips for acquiring that perfect typewriter.

  1. Don’t buy online. Sure, ebay and etsy have the typewriters of your dreams for sale and you can buy them with one click while wearing your pyjamas. DON’T. I mean, unless you’re prepared to pay $50-$100 in shipping. On top of an already steep purchase price. Instead buy in person. Put the typewriter in the trunk of your car/ make your significant other carry it all the way to your apartment.
  2. Thrift/junk/salvage stores are going to be cheaper than antique/vintage stores. This is true for all vintage things. Stores that specialize in selling antiques know their product, know the market value, and know they have a steady stream of consumers looking to purchase that product. Stores like Value Village, The Salvation Army, Good Will, or your other neighbourhood thrift store are generally not in the market of hawking antique typewriters. If you can find a typewriter here, it likely won’t be more than $50.
  3. Try kijiji or Craigslist. Sometimes people find typewriters in their basements that they didn’t even know they had and they don’t want them and want to get rid of them fast. Example: there is a beautiful, teal Smith-Corona typewriter on the Calgary kjiji site right now for $75 or best offer. Which means the best offer might be $50. Also, a lovely white Olivetti for $40 or best offer. (So basically $30, who are we kidding?)
  4. Have patience and check often. Most of the time–sadly–thrift stores don’t have typewriters for sale. Garage sales are usually typewriter-free. Kijiji might not have any cheap ones on a given day. Wait. Check next week. Check again the week after that. And the next. If Value Village does get in a super rad typewriter you better bet it will be gone within hours (because I go there often and I will buy it).
  5. Decide what you’re looking for. Will any typewriter do? Do you want one that works? Do you want manual or electric? Old or new? Black and antique or colourful and modern? Desktop (heavy) or portable (less heavy)? Do you have a brand in mind? Do some research, see what you like. For me, I don’t care about working condition. My grandmother’s hand-me-down works perfectly (because, as I said, she is a sorceress who can keep things from aging). This makes the process simpler and buying cheaper. Obviously, the older the typewriter, the more expensive. Older typewriters with the glass keys are worth much more than the newer ones with the plastic keys, for instance. And the better condition, the more expensive again. But a lot of sellers won’t actually know if it works or not, because they don’t have a ribbon and don’t want to buy one, so if you don’t actually care about working condition, you can get these on the cheap. And if you do care, make sure to ask whether it works. (Rarely can you get a working typewriter for under $100). Buying a new ribbon is no problem, but finding someone who can do repairs is another story.
  6. You can paint a typewriter. If you find a great one for a great price, but it’s a horrid colour, you can paint it the pastel shade it was meant to be. Here’s a tutorial.