Janine Vangool: The Typewriter



{Janine’s latest book: The Typewriter, 2015}

Waaaaay back in 2006, I became acquainted with a woman named Janine Vangool. She owned a small gallery, shop and graphic design studio in Calgary, Alberta, Canada called UPPERCASE. She wrote to me to ask me if I’d be interested in participating in a show in her gallery. I was a brand new artist at the time, and so of course I was thrilled she even noticed my work! And so began our relationship as colleagues and friends that continues today. You might be familiar with UPPERCASE because for the last six years, Janine has been producing one of the most beautiful magazines on the planet — UPPERCASE Magazine. She’s also the designer & publisher of a number of books, including my very first book: A Collection a Day, which came out in 2011.

I have long admired Janine’s design aesthetic and generosity, but what I think bonds us more than anything is that we are both collectors. We love old stuff. It’s what brought us together to collaborate on A Collection a Day, and it’s what brings us together today for this interview. Janine has just published one of the most gorgeous books I’ve ever laid my eyes on — and it’s all about one of her greatest passions: The Typewriter. Janine makes beautiful books, but this is by far her tour de force. It’s huge, chock full of hundreds of stunning images and historical information, and beautifully laid out and organized. If you love typewriters, this book is for you.

Today in my Interviews with People I Admire series, I present Janine Vangool!


{photo credit Heather Saitz}

Lisa: Janine, I am so happy to feature your new book on my blog today. Tell my readers about your publishing company UPPERCASE. You mostly work on publishing a quarterly magazine since 2009, but you’ve also published several books, including this new one. Tell us about how and why you started UPPERCASE.

Janine: I actually started publishing books before I launched the magazine. I had an art gallery and shop, called UPPERCASE gallery books & paper goods, that opened in 2005. I hosted exhibitions in the front of the space, sold other publisher’s books on art and design and also experimented in selling my own products such as greeting cards, sewn goods and handmade notebooks. In the back of the space I did my freelance graphic design for clients. After a while, I enjoyed the challenge of making and selling my own wares more than working for clients, so I began to focus on UPPERCASE. The first books I published were in conjunction with gallery exhibitions.

Old School was one of the early books and exhibitions. Inspired by the aesthetics of old fashioned elementary school, dozens of artists created artwork on the theme. I was happy to have your work in that show! All the artwork was published in a small companion book.

Another successful project was Work/Life, a directory of illustration that has evolved into a series of three books and counting.

I loved publishing so much that a magazine seemed like great way to keep the ideas flowing. UPPERCASE launched in 2009. The following year I had my son and closed the physical store to concentrate on the magazine and publishing projects versus retail.


Lisa: UPPERCASE has grown into one of the most respected independent magazines in the world. In the age of online magazines, why do people love to get, hold & look at UPPERCASE? What do you think sets UPPERCASE apart from other print magazines?

Janine: Thanks, Lisa! It is sort of strange to think about how much the magazine has evolved since 2009. It has surpassed my initial intentions and expectations in every way. It is such a privilege to still be publishing it nearly seven years on.

The one thing that hasn’t changed through it all is my love of print and so I’m always investing back into the magazine with excellent paper, fun printed features like foils, embossing, special glued-on items like fabric… I’ve also held steadfast to my belief that UPPERCASE will not ever be a digital magazine. Where other magazine might try to do it all with print, apps, digital versions, etc, I like to concentrate on what I love and know the best: ink on paper. If you’re the kind of person who strokes the paper and loves the smell of ink, then UPPERCASE is made for you!


Lisa: Let’s talk about your new book, The Typewriter. When we first met online back in the day, one of the things that connected us was our mutual love of collecting old, ubiquitous things. You collect many things, but one of your most famous collections are typewriters and typewriter-related things. What lead to this book and why did it feel like an important book for you to make?

Janine: I could credit our collaboration on A Collection a Day for leading me down the collecting path a bit more! I have always loved typewriters, but the machines themselves are so expensive and heavy and take up so much room. But like you, I love to collect things, so I switched my focus to the ephemera of typewriters and typewriting. So other than a collection of prettily coloured Royals from the mid-fifties, my typewriter collection is made of brochures, ads, tins and various small artifacts.

To justify my obsession with collecting these things, I decided to turn it into a book. These artifacts are so intriguing, they really do tell a great story through design and copywriting, about the evolution of modern communications, women in the workplace and of graphic design and advertising as professions, too.

The history of the machine is quite complex and I’m by no means a historian or academic, so The Typewriter book is intended to be a beautiful collection of notable graphics telling its story of the past century and a half.


Lisa: The book is filled with images and information about vintage typewriters. Tell us about the amount of research and image sourcing you had to do for the book. What was the process like? How long did it take?

Janine: Early on, I was collecting things simply because I like the way they looked. Once I decided to make a book and had an outline of topics, I searched out advertisements and things that could tell the story more completely. It was many many hours on eBay and online searches. The majority of what is in the book are things that I have collected, with the exception of some of the machines and more expensive things that are sources from other collectors.

Though collecting things began years prior, the book itself was a three year project that began with a crowdsourcing campaign. Thanks to hundreds of kind folks, I was able to raise enough preorders to fund the print run of the book.


Lisa: The book is divided by era. Which typewriter era is your favorite & why?

Janine: I enjoy the 50s, when colourful machines were sold in pink, turquoise, teal and mint. I’m still looking for a sunbeam yellow Royal to complete my collection! I love the glamour and style of that era. My dad also restores vintage cars from the 50s, so growing up I was influenced by that era as well.


Lisa: Inquiring minds want to know: how many typewriters do you own? Do you use any of them? How easy or difficult is it to find parts and ribbon for them these days?

Janine: I currently have a dozen machines, but some of those are on loan for the book project and I am just their current caretaker. I use my red Royal and turquoise Royal; they continue to work well. Fortunately, I haven’t had to do any major repairs and ribbons are available from online sellers.


Lisa: If someone is interested in purchasing your book or subscribing to UPPERCASE, where should they go?

Janine: I have a website just about The Typewriter, where folks can see previews of the book and see some of the artifacts as well. My various books, back issues and subscriptions are also available here.

Lisa: Thank you, Janine!

Janine: Thank you, Lisa!


Have a great day, friends!


Studio Shots by Sarah Deragon



One of the things I am working on at the moment is redesigning my main portfolio website (new site coming by the end of the year!). I wanted to have some photos on my new site that showed my studio — work in progress, my materials, my random collections, my shelf displays, the light and color in the space. I asked my dear and talented friend Sarah Deragon to come take those photos, and I am so thrilled with what she caught. Sarah is mostly known for her portrait photography (she took my new headshots earlier this fall), but I’m here to testify that she’s pretty skilled at capturing the beauty of a place too.  This is just a handful of the shots she took, but they are some of my favorites. Enjoy.















Have a great Thursday, friends.

CATEGORIES Collections | My Studio

A Collection a Day :: Back in Stock



Friends, signed copies of my 2011 book A Collection a Day is back in stock in my shop! You can get it here.

It includes 365 photographs of all of my collections, which I documented each day in 2010, along with an essay about my history of collecting. Here are some of my favorite pages:

day256 day1_hires-1 notecard#1 notecard#2

Have a great Friday, friends!


New Notebooks for MoMA!


Lisa Congdon Notebook Green

Back in 2012, a really exciting thing happened: I got a call from one of my dream clients — the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. They asked me to design a series of notebooks for them based on items in their Design Collection. The result are three notebooks which are part of the new “Things I Saw at MoMA and Loved” series!

From the MoMA website: “In 1932, the Museum of Modern Art established the world’s first curatorial department devoted to architecture and design. Today, the department’s impressive collection comprises thousands of new and notable objects, ranging from appliances, furniture, and tableware to tools, textiles, sports cars—even a helicopter. Featuring illustrator Lisa Congdon’s charming drawings, the Things I Saw at MoMA and Loved notebook series highlights several memorable objects in MoMA’s permanent collection.”

I got to comb through images from their Design Collection and arrange any of my choice into “collections.” The first I created was the chair collection, pictured above. I also made a collection of coffee & tea paraphernalia from the MoMA Design Collection, below:

Lisa Congdon Notebook Yellow

And lastly, audio/visual equipment from the MoMA Design Collection:

Lisa Congdon Notebook Orange

Lisa Congdon Notebook Orange

Each book is 8.25 inches high x 6.20 inches wide with 100 lovely grid pages. You can purchase them here

Have a happy Tuesday, friends!


Creative Mornings


Screen Shot 2013-09-12 at 8.03.42 AM

Creative Mornings has an awesome new website! And on that website you will find a collection of many of the Creative Mornings videos from around the world! You may recall that I participated in the Creative Mornings Kickstarter campaign by donating artwork to fund this awesome website, and I’m so excited that it’s now available. Take a look at all the awesome videos here. Find the Creative Mornings closest to you right here.

In 2011 I gave a Creative Mornings talk, which you can watch here on the Creative Mornings site!

Enjoy & happy Thursday!



I’m in O Magazine!




Super excited to be interviewed about one of my greatest passions — collecting — for the July 2013 issue of O Magazine! It’s newstands now, a sneak peak below.



Happy Thursday, friends!

CATEGORIES Collections | Press

The Willard Asylum Suitcases



{Photo of suitcase contents by photographer Jon Crispin.}

You guys probably know if you’ve read my book that I am a sucker for anything old or worn, and that the idea of a time capsule is one that excites me to no end (see my recent post on Frida Kahlo’s closet). So you can imagine my delight when I read a recent article & interview between Hunter Oatman-Stanford (who happens to be a friend of mine) and photographer Jon Crispin about Crispin’s photographs of the contents of found suitcases of insane asylum patients.

So here’s the story:  between 1910 and 1970, many patients at the Willard Asylum for the Chronic Insane left suitcases behind when they passed away. In 1995, the asylum closed and employees found hundreds of these suitcases locked in an attic. The Willard staffers contacted the New York State Museum to preserve the hidden cache of luggage as part of the museum’s permanent collection.

Freda Bowker's Willard Suitcase


After learning about the Willard suitcases, Crispin sought the museum’s permission to document the contents of each suitcase (brilliant!!). To help fund the first phase of the project Crispin enlisted the help of others through a Kickstarter campaign.



This coming spring, a selection of Crispin’s photos will accompany the inaugural exhibit at the San Francisco Exploratorium’s new location. {Side note: yes!!}



My friend Hunter sums it up well: “Crispin’s photographs restore a bit of dignity to the individuals who spent their lives within Willard’s walls. Curiously, the identities of these patients are still concealed by the state of New York, denied even to living relatives. Each suitcase offers a glimpse into the life of a unique individual, living in an era when those with mental disorders and disabilities were not only stigmatized but also isolated from society.”




To see more photographs and read the full interview with Jon Crispin, go here. It’s fantastic.


{All photos in this post by Jon Crispin.}


My Photographs + Martha Rosler MoMA Exhibition


Have heard now about artist Martha Rosler’s new Meta Monumental Garage Sale Exhibition at the MoMA in New York? If you haven’t, here’s a little bit about it:

“For her first solo exhibition at The Museum of Modern Art, New York–based artist Martha Rosler presents her work Meta-Monumental Garage Sale, a large-scale version of the classic American garage sale, in which Museum visitors can browse and buy second-hand goods organized, displayed, and sold by the artist. The installation fills MoMA’s Marron Atrium with strange and everyday objects donated by the artist, MoMA staff, and the general public, creating a lively space for exchange between Rosler and her customers as they haggle over prices.”MoMA website.

Cool, right?

Anyhow, as part of the exhibition, Rosler and the MoMA have published a newspaper for visitors to the museum about the exhibition. The newspaper gives a broader context to the notion of garage sales and the life of worn/loved objects. A handful of authors and social-theorists have contributed essays on garage sales and a handful of artists have contributed artwork. I was so honored when Rosler and designer Kelli Anderson asked to include two photographs from my 2010 Collection a Day project as part of the publication. Other contributing artists include Wendy MacNaughton, Don Hamerman and Kate Bingaman Burt. Here’s the spread on which my photographs appear:

{Rosler chose Sewing Maching Parts & Dice from my 365 images.}

I also love this map by Wendy MacNaughton of the garage sale layout:

This is the first time I’ve ever been associated with the MoMA and, let me tell you, I’m pretty excited about it — not just because it’s the MoMA, but because I’m a fan of Rosler + her work and the whole idea behind this exhibition.

Do you want a copy of the Garage Sale Standard newspaper but can’t get to the MoMA before the end of November? You can download a copy for a limited time here.


Support Creative Mornings & Get a Print!


{Donate $75 to the Creative Mornings Kickstarter and get this print!}

As some of you know, I had the honor of giving a Creative Mornings talk last year about the concept of “Small Things Organized Neatly” here in San Francisco. Creative Mornings is a fantastic lecture series started by Tina Roth Eisenberg (aka Swiss Miss) in New York City. Creative Mornings has now spread to 30 cities and is still growing. One Friday morning a month, people in the creative community gather to hear a speaker share their story or talk about something that inspires them in their creative experience. The best part is that the coffee, the breakfast, the lecture — all are free.

Creative Mornings has launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise money to create an archive of all the Creative Mornings videos in one place. Right now they are spread loosely across the internet. It’s a worthy cause and one I hope you will support! Imagine being able to go to one central location on the internet and have your choice of Creative Mornings videos to view!

I’ve created the artwork above and it’s available as an 11×14 inch print if you donate $75 to the Creative Mornings Kickstarter campaign. Just go to the right hand side of the page and you’ll see all of your donation options. I hope you will support this worthy cause!

And, if you are interested, you can watch my Creative Mornings talk from 2011 here.


Vintage Class Photos


When I was in my early 20’s I began collecting vintage ephemera. One of my first collections was vintage school (or “class”) photos. I love the beautiful sepia tones, the stoic (and sometimes silly) expressions on the kids faces.

I particularly love this photo, take in a classroom.

Even more impressive is the back of the photo, which includes the names of all of the children.

Two of my favorites are these class photos that include each of my parents. This one is a “household physics class” at Cornell where my mom went to college in the late 50’s. ” I learned things like elementary plumbing, care of a sewing machine, changing oil in car, repairing an electrical cord and on and on, ” she says. She’s the one with the cute bangs:

After my dad got the photo below at his 50th high school reunion, he sent it my way. He was the male lead in the play (Warmest Glow) and is pictured sitting second from left in the front row. This was in the late 50’s. The formal dress is so amazing!

Have a great weekend, friends.


Games of Chance


In its 13th issue, the beautiful UPPERCASE Magazine featured a few of my collections of playing and bingo cards from my 2011 book, A Collection a Day (also published by UPPERCASE). Since the release of my book, I’ve continued to occasionally photograph some of my collections and post them on this blog. You can see them all here.

CATEGORIES Collections | For Sale

As Yet My Smallest Collection


One of the things I’ve attempted to collect over the last couple of years is stuff with my last name on it. So far, I’ve only found two things, the matchbook cover and the music primer, both pictured above. My last name isn’t very common, which makes finding stuff with my name on it a more challenging (and therefore exciting) activity. I know I could probably find more Congdon things if I trolled ebay, but typically that’s not my style. I much prefer scouring antique malls or flea markets, or even stumbling upon something accidentally.

CATEGORIES Collections

Tiny Vintage Photos


One of my most extensive collections is my mass of hundreds tiny (approximately 1 inch or less in size) vintage photos. You can see most of them (over the course of several pages) in my book. Whenever I go to flea markets and see a box of vintage photos, I rifle through for the smallest. My favorites are portraits.

CATEGORIES Collections

Vintage Prayer Card Collection


I am not a religious person at all, but I have always loved vintage prayer cards. I love the colors, typography and iconography so much. This is just a smidge of my collection. Aren’t they beautiful?

CATEGORIES Collections

Heart Playing Cards


In honor of Valentine’s day I thought I’d share of of my favorite heart playing cards from my collection. Vintage playing cards are my latest obsession. I can’t get enough of them! Not only are the faces fantastic, but so are the backs. Check out each of these cards above flipped over!

Have a great day, everyone.