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Godrej typewriters reborn in a new avatar

Typewriter sculptor Jeremy Meyer gives second life to dead Godrej machines

In 2009, after 54 years of production and millions of units capable of typing in 40 languages, Godrej & Boyce stopped manufacturing manual typewriters.

Portrait of Marvyn Pelzner by Jeremy Meyer
Portrait of Marvyn Pelzner by Jeremy Meyer

The archive that sits at the company headquarters in Vikhroli holds machines dating back to the 1950s, archival photos and typed documents, is manned by Vrunda Pathare. Just when the chief archivist was wondering what to do with a few spare pieces lying on campus, she came across Berkley artist Jeremy Meyer who creates sculptures with typewriter spares. “It was the ideal way to remember an era gone by and create a tangible memory for those behind the typewriter’s production,” says Pathare, who invited Meyer to Mumbai this March.

Jeremy Meyer
Jeremy Meyer

A team of 100 assisted the 42-year-old artist, including Janak Chudasama, former product design student of Raffles Design International. “It was brand new for me. Understanding the innards of a typewriter helped me learn about how shape and structure impacts product design. A typewriter has more than 1,000 parts. Turning them into a 3D model was an experience of a lifetime,” he says.

Excerpts from an email interview with Meyer:
Q. Tell us about the Mumbai installation.
A. We have used 60 Godrej typewriters for the sculpture, inspired by the Godrej Archive ethos.

Q. Remember your first piece?
A. Yes, it was a dog, with silver ribbon spool as feet. It was really bad. I was 22 then. When I showed it to people, I saw that my work invited enthusiasm. Instead of studying, I decided to work with the best in the field.

Q. Where do you source typewriters from?
A. In the last 20 years, I have used 400 typewriters. At any given time, I have 100 pieces with me. I buy them from yard sales, thrift stores or from owners. A few typewriter repair shop owners are friends now. I help paint their office or set up a website, in exchange for the parts.

Q. Tell us about your technique.
A. I like to alter the parts as little as possible. For the Godrej Archieve piece, we have used fabrication, but generally, the piece holds itself together. So, viewers will see what I have done but not figure out how. I don’t use glue, no bolts either. The smallest piece I have created is a 15-cm swallow. The largest is the Mumbai installation. A large piece could take a year to build. It requires patience, and I am not particularly patient. When I get a fortune cookie, I break the cookie, put the fortune aside and eat the cookie. Working with my sculptures is similar. I don’t wish to know their future.

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