Monday, November 12, 2007


Another in an ongoing series of coolest things ever... this is the Art-o-mat! We just got one here in Lincoln over at The Ross Theater. Put in some money, pull a handle and chinka-zunka-clunka-boom you get an original work of art!

Do you have one of these in your town?

What other kinds of things might we start putting in vintage vending machines? Poetry? Mini-manifestos?

Here's what the Art-o-mat people have to say about what they do...

The inspiration for Art-o-mat® came to artist Clark Whittington while observing a friend who had a Pavlovian reaction to the crinkle of cellophane. When Whittington's friend heard someone opening a snack, he had the uncontrollable urge to have one too.

The year was 1997, the town was Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Whittington was set to have a solo art show at a local cafe, Penny Universitie (now Mary's Of Course Cafe). This is when Whittington used a recently-banned cigarette machine to create the first Art-o=mat. In June 1997, it was installed, along with 12 of his paintings. The machine sold Whittington's black & white photographs for $1.00 each.

This art show was scheduled to be dismantled in July 1997. However, Cynthia Giles (owner of the Penny Universitie) loved the machine and asked that it stay permanently and machine remains unaltered in its original location to this day. At that point, it was clear that involvement of other artists was needed if the project was going to continue. Giles introduced Whittington to a handful of other local artists and Artists in Cellophane was formed.

Artists in Cellophane (A.I.C.), the sponsoring organization of Art*o*mat® is based on the concept of taking art and "repackaging" it to make it part of our daily lives. The mission of A.I.C. is to encourage art consumption by combining the worlds of art and commerce in an innovative form. A.I.C believes that art should be progressive, yet personal and approachable. What better way to do this, than with a heavy cold steel machine?

What to submit some art to an Art-o-mat? Here's how...

Here at Art*o*mat®, submissions from artists are welcome at any time. Since our project is ongoing, we are always interested in new work. We at Artists In Cellophane (A.I.C.) fully respect the rights of artistic freedom and enjoy working with artists of all levels. However, we are strict in adherence to our guidelines as any deviation from the specifications below will cause vending difficulty, logistical problems and incidental expense. Our selections are made based on effort, craftsmanship and originality. However, a key factor in our review process is how the final piece will be viewed in the hands of our buyers.

Once accepted, where your artwork is placed and in what machine is based on the needs of our venues.

Here's how you get started:

Think of what you would like to produce for the project. Try to avoid any mass production process that could lessen the quality of your work. The vending process is only the beginning of your Art*o*Mat® art. Once out of the machine, your Art*o*Mat® work is a reflection of you and your art. Many pieces have been carried around the globe. So, think of approaches that do not convey "a Sunday afternoon at the copy shop".

All submissions require a single vend-ready, non-returnable prototype of your art. Please do not send a prototype that is not fully rendered to the specifications below. All prototypes are inspected for suitability in the project. After inspection, they are included into the AIC permanent archives.

The final size should be 2 1/8" x 3 1/4" x 7/8" (54mm x 82mm x 21mm). Most 2/D artists (painters, printmakers, etc) produce their pieces on wood blocks, while most 3/D artists (sculptors, jewelers, etc.) place their work in our boxes. Watercolor paper or illustration board can easily increase the thickness of standard plywood to 7/8". If you use boxes, you must fill the package so it will be rigid and add some weight.

Once you are ready to begin, please download our Submission Form. If you would prefer to receive samples of our official boxes and blocks, please send a USPS Priority Mail stamp and a clearly written return label to the address below. Specify in your letter that you are requesting samples.

Your name and contact info is required to be clearly displayed on each piece. The most successful Art-o-mat works include support material about the artist. Think of ways to present yourself in the event someone wants to learn about your other artistic ventures. The goal of this project is to create valid, professional relationships between the artist and the patron. Keep in mind that in many cases, the Art-o-mat can be someone's first art purchase. Artists who specifically ask "who bought me" often hear feedback and find out where their work ends up.

Make sure your pieces of art contain NO MAGNETS, BALLOONS OR ITEMS PROCESSED WITH PEANUTS. No exceptions. Please use common sense and do not create work with materials that are potentially hazardous. If applicable, please label on the outside of your piece that it is rated "R" or "Small Parts-Not for Children".

If you use our boxes, please assemble with white glue (not double stick tape as it will release). The final piece should feel solid enough so it will not easily crush. Packing material also adds weight, which helps the vending process. Our boxes are light and need added structure or packing material inside.

Wrap .003 ml acetate around each piece. Use clear "very sticky" tape to affix acetate and make sure the acetate is taut. Please do not use frosted tape or low tack labels that will release. This is important, as it will cause vending problems and incidental expense. All art must be wrapped in acetate.

Make a 2 X 2" square placard to identify your column in the machine. This should be simple and clear. A brief description of your work and your name is a good place to start. Upon request, A.I.C. personnel can create placards if you are unable (or shy).

Print out and sign the official Submission Form (pdf) and include it with your shipment. Submission of art is confirmation that you agree to the terms and conditions stated on this site. Send your prototype to us at:

Artists in Cellophane
5000 Rushland Drive
Winston-Salem NC 27104

LEGAL STUFF: By submitting artwork to us, you represent and warrant to A.I.C. that the artwork you provide to A.I.C. complies with all of the foregoing guidelines, which guidelines may be changed by A.I.C. from time to time. You further represent and warrant that such artwork is of merchantable quality, free from all defects, and suitable for resale to the public via A.I.C.’s Art*o*mat machines. You agree to defend, indemnify, and hold harmless A.I.C. and its successors, assigns, owners, proprietors, directors, employees, volunteers, representatives, Art*o*mat machine hosts and subhosts, agents, and affiliates from and against any and all past, present, and future claims, liabilities, losses, costs, damages, and expenses (including without limitation reasonable attorneys’ fees and court costs) arising out: (a) the inaccuracy of the foregoing representation or breach of the foregoing warranty; or (b) the design, production, distribution, sale, or use of the artwork provided by you to A.I.C.

WHAT COMES NEXT: If your prototype is accepted, you will be notified by A.I.C. to begin production. There is a minimum requirement of 50 finished pieces. All work must be delivered to A.I.C. ready to vend and in no need of repair. All shipments of art not to specification will be sent back with an invoice for return shipping. The city and machine where your artwork will be placed is based upon the needs of our venues and is entirely up to A.I.C. and our Hosts. Depending on your work, the needs of our hosts and the time of year, it can sometimes take months to get your work placed in a machine. So, it may take time to see results.

Most vend prices are fixed at $5.00. Artists will receive $2.50 per sale, on consignment (we generally send out artist payments on a quarterly basis). The remaining percentage is split between project support, the host venue and/or donations to charity. Artists are solely responsible for content of artworks and listing of profits on taxes. We suggest that all artists should consider obtaining a "Certificate of Liability" insurance policy.

IF YOU NEED MATERIALS, WE HAVE THEM!: Wood blocks are highly recommended for 2-D work. Most 3-D artists use boxes.

If you have any questions about submitting art, please contact us.

A.I.C. fully understands the energy necessary to produce work for this project. We are very grateful for your participation and will represent each Art-o-mat artist to the best of our abilities.

(guidelines effective as of 1/06/06)


  1. I heard about the Art-o-mat on The Ross's website--I have yet to check it out, but it looks pretty slick.

    Although comparatively less cool than the Art-o-mat, I spotted this at the University of Iowa library last April: The Zine Machine!

    It's stocked twice a month with a rotating selection of local and national DIY books and zines. To my knowledge, it's the only one of its kind.

    Having experienced running a DIY zine/book distro/press for a couple years, I was floored to see that such a thing exists (and continues to exist)!

  2. Very cool, Nic. That's one of the alternatives I had in mind. One of those should be on every single college and university campus!

    Any other ideas...?

  3. We have an Art-o-Mat at the Chicago Cultural Center (first floor, near the gift shop, where I believe you need to buy a token for the machine).

    I love the idea, but must admit that I was a little underwhelmed by the art that my friend Jeanne got when she tried it earlier this year.

    Similar, but then different, my local café has a basket of paper airplanes, hats, and at least one cootie catcher. The items retail for $0.50/piece and are made by the proprietor's kids. I should have bought the cootie catcher last night.

  4. I am just wondering how you could show/describe the art you are buying. I also see that it may be part of the thrill and experience of the art-o-mat. Like Joe, I wouldn't want to end up disappointed especially if you are spending a pretty penny on it!

    I dig the idea though...


  5. If you head over to the Art-o-Mat website, there is a button at the top for Artists. Click it and a bunch of names come up. Several of the names are clickable. When you do that, it takes you to an image of the art they made for Art-o-Mat...

    Go ahead. Check it out. I dare you...

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