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Dead medium: Typewriter Ribbon Tins Revived by Computer
From: (Darryl Rehr)


by Darryl Rehr

As a typewriter collector, I have been accumulating typewriter ribbon tins for some years. Now, it occurs to me that the Ribbon Tin itself qualifies as a dead medium, since all modern ribbons come packaged in cardboard/plastic hanging cards or boxes.

Typewriter ribbons themselves have been with us from the beginnings of the typewriter industry. Since 1874, the vast majority of machines have used ribbons for inking. Since at least the early 1890's until the 1960's, most of these ribbons were packaged in decorated tin containers.

These are classic pieces of advertising art, and the variety of brands and decorations is staggering.

This has inspired me to revive the art of ribbon tin decorating, and I have done so on a small-scale, using recently available computer technology.

Tin lithography itself is very old, and it is still being done, but to have a tin decorated in a modern factory, you need to order a minimum of something like 30,000 pieces. However, I can now create these items individually. I do my designs in a computer art program (usually a combination of Photoshop and Illustrator) and use a thermal-transfer ribbon printer to print the designs on special water-transfer decal material. This material is so exquisitely thin that it is barely discernible from the surface on which it sits. It has taken me about 3 months to refine the process so that printing is consistently good, but I have it down now. The results are tins that have a real old feel, with designs that are inspired by those of the past, with some future themes thrown in for good measure.

A Dead Medium... risen from the grave.

If anybody's interested in seeing some of the designs, I'll e-mail you some jpegs.

Darryl Rehr ( Los Angeles