From the moment her fingertips first touched the keys of a manual typewriter, Stephanie Strange felt a connection—to the way it moved, its sound, even its smell. “I was constantly typing on it,” she says. Over time, as she experimented by coaxing everything from fabrics to photographs through its carriage, the act of typing transmuted into a new medium for the Austin artist. “There came a moment of realization that I wasn’t trying to type anything that made sense,” she recalls. “I began drawing instead of writing.”
Strange begins her intricate images and poems, composed entirely of typed characters, by pairing fine art paper with a manual typewriter selected from her evolving collection that now exceeds 100 machines—some purchased at antique stores, others donated by fans of her work. “Each has its own personality, from its font and sound to the way it feels in motion,” she says. “How each one types also has an impact on the way the ink presses into paper, and that nuance is such an important part of the story.”
Rather than creating with a composition in mind, Strange follows intuitions and energies. She produces her complex shapes by rotating, twisting and feeding paper through one of her manual typewriters much as a seamstress guides fabric through a sewing machine. She explores all orientations of the paper, which “may cause the image to be out of sight, rolled under the platen, so I am typing without visual relativity to the entire image—and that’s okay, if I am following the energy of a story,” she says. “As long as I can see the edge of the paper, I know where to go.” The rhythm and speed at which she types are also important elements impacting the placement of characters.
Though her output also includes graphite drawings and watercolor paintings—shown locally at Blue Print Gallery and Wally Workman Gallery and further afield at Anne Neilson Fine Art in Charlotte—the typewriter remains Strange’s constant muse. For her, it’s about exploration of medium and process. “I’m even venturing into nature—typing on leaves, fallen or on trees,” notes Strange, who recently debuted a color typewriter art series. “I like the idea of pushing the limits of expression and saying, ‘This machine was designed for a certain purpose, but it has possibilities.’”