Wednesday, August 12, 2009


Last week in my Book-o-Mat? post I mentioned that I ordered an Art-o-Carton from the Art-o-Mat folks because none of their machines are in my area. Today the FedEx guy delivered it:

It's exactly the same size as a carton of cigarettes, and packed with little boxes and blocks of art, all carefully wrapped:

Each piece of art was fascinating. One fiber artist folded up a tiny fish-themed quilt in her hand-painted, hand-signed box; another artist made an accordion book out of a watercolor painting. About half the contents were painted on or glued to wooden blocks, which made them double as paperweights.

Here's a shot of the entire contents out of the boxes:

All together the Art-o-Carton contained four original paintings, two prints, a very cool flip book, a tiny hand-sculpted copper statue, the mini-quilt and a ceramic "Art Bar" which led me on an adventure to the artist's web site, where I learned that I'd won a piece of his amazing pottery.*

It was a complete blast; I don't know when I've had more fun opening boxes. It was like receiving a treasure chest of small, perfect gifts for creative people. I wish we writers could figure out a way to do something like this.

*Added: Sadly, the Art-o-Mat blog reported that the ART BAR artist, Tom Rohr, passed away recently. I mailed the ART BAR I found in my carton back to Mr. Rohr yesterday, but I'll definitely write another note to the pottery to express my sympathy for their loss. Thanks to Margaret for the heads-up on this.


  1. This is deeply cool.

    Many years ago, I saw an art dispensing machine exhibited at a local gallery. The artist focussed on mechanical and kinetic art and the machine was a former cigarette vending machine converted to sell small blocks of what I think was wood painted with abstract designs by the artist. I still regret that - being a poor student at the time - I didn't have the money to spare to buy one of those blocks.

    This machine is much cooler, though, because it sells works of many different artists.

  2. Oh my goodness, that looks like enormous fun! I'll have to keep that in mind -- I don't think I'll be able to get to any of the machines on this end of the state.

  3. You know what might be fun? Use one piece of the art per day as a writing prompt.

  4. I love this. I'm picturing little boxes containing tiny handmade chapbooks with excerpts from our writing and made a bookmark.

  5. Oh! This looks so fun! I actually DO have an Art-O-Mat within fifteen minutes of my house -- it's at a community college in the middle of nowhere -- but it takes special tokens and I'm never in the building when the office that does the token changing is open.

  6. I couldn't resist. I went to the site and ordered one. That questionnaire is interesting. I'm trying to imagine how they'll pick something for me from those questions. Obviously, they can do it, though.

    What a fabulous use for old cigarette machines. It ties in well with your proposal for book vending machines (or did someone else propose that? My memory must be slipping.).

  7. I signed up for their email list. Thanks for the heads up on this site.

  8. What a wonderful idea! Thanks for sharing.

  9. Just found your blog (via Monica Jackson via Rosina Lippi via Amazon). I was just visiting Tacoma, WA and saw a flyer for the Art-O-Mat project. We saw one of the machines in a gallery/shop but unfortunatley it was closed while we were there. Very cool to get to see your photos of a whole Art-O-Carton.