Applied Kinetic Arts: Jeremy Mayer interview

Craft & Design
Applied Kinetic Arts: Jeremy Mayer interview

MZ_Mechanics-Badge.gifThis month’s theme is Physical Science and Mechanics, which makes it the ideal time to chat with the multi-talented members of Applied Kinetic Arts (A.K.A.), “a community of artists working within the medium loosely defined as ‘kinetic’. Works incorporating motion, light, sound, and interactivity are represented by the group’s ever expanding member base.” Earlier this week, we spoke with Nemo Gould, and today, we connect with Jeremy Mayer, whose medium of choice is salvaged typewriter parts. Jeremy breathes life into his reclaimed materials like no other, his passion and attention to detail coming through in each of his stunning sculptures. The most amazing part? He uses no solder, no glue, no welds, no wire; his process is entirely cold assembly.

1. Tell us about yourself. How did you get started making things and who are your inspirations?
I had, from pretty young age, wanted to take a typewriter apart or live inside of one. I used to stare at my mom’s Underwood and imagine myself inside it as a city, like in Fritz Lang’s Metropolis. When I finally got a hold of one that was a “stray,” so to speak, I very gleefully took it apart. This was in my early 20s, and at the time I had been playing around with drawings that depicted flying heads with a sort of tech-mashup, neo-Baroque thing going on. The components of the typewriter fit right in line with that aesthetic.

I’m inspired by people who do things that are prescient, because I like to think about the future. I’m inspired by so many sources that it’s difficult to say, but science fiction, industrial design, anatomy, architecture, and classical figurative sculpture rate pretty high.


2. How did you first become involved/interested in making kinetic art? Tell us about the first kinetic piece you made.
Part of the statement of AKA is “…artists working within the medium loosely defined as kinetic.” Many of us do kinetic work, but some of us do both static and kinetic work. Mine is simply static, though poseable by nature of its construction.

I did a kinetic piece about 10 years ago. It was a full-scale male figure made from typewriter parts, and in the chest it had an MIT Handyboard with 2 motion sensors that controlled 6 servos that move the head in a full range and make the eyes blink. It never got programmed. After that I wasn’t quite so interested in making them move — I think it was mostly the fact that there were parts in there that weren’t from a typewriter. I guess that makes me a purist. I usually add a small element in each piece that is slightly kinetic, like a ringing bell, or eyes that move, or something like that, but I don’t tell anybody but the ultimate owner of the piece.

3. What goes into building one of your pieces? What’s your process?
1. Collect typewriters.
2. Disassemble typewriters.
3. Categorize parts and put in bins.
4. Sketch using a little 3D software and traditional sketching with live models.
5. Assemble using only parts indigenous to the typewriter — no solder, no glue, no welds, no wire. This is the time-consuming one.
6. Sit on a computer for hours on end trying to convince people that they should buy them.


4. What’s the biggest challenge in making art that is kinetic?
Making it move.

5. What’s your favorite tool/material?
The typewriter.

jeremy mayer hand.jpg

6. How has being a part of a collective like Applied Kinetic Arts helped you and/or informed your work?
They are a talented group — an insatiably curious bunch of grown children. They’re inspiring people and one can’t help but be inspired by their attitudes and their work.

Incidentally, we’re taking submissions for new recruits to add to the AKA blog aggregator. Email one of us for details about submitting. There are many people out there doing similar work, and we’d like to provide a place where the best examples can be shown.

7. Is your art strictly a hobby or is it a business? Does it relate to your day job?
My day job tends to be making enough money to buy the time to make art, but what the job is tends to vary. Art has remained consistent in my life as a source of income.

8. What new idea (in or outside of your field) has excited you most recently?
Space weather.

9. What is your motto?
The brain is the typewriter of the future.


10. What advice do you have for people who want to get started in the kinetic arts?
Have fun! Take your time.

Thanks, Jeremy! To check out a plethora of creativity, head over to

2 thoughts on “Applied Kinetic Arts: Jeremy Mayer interview

  1. the_b_roll says:

    I’m blown away. These are all awesome and amazing! ‘Nuff said.

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I'm a word nerd who loves to geek out on how emerging technology affects the lexicon. I was an editor on the first 40 volumes of MAKE, and I love shining light on the incredible makers in our community. In particular, covering art is my passion — after all, art is the first thing most of us ever made. When not fawning over perfect word choices, I can be found on the nearest mountain, looking for untouched powder fields and ideal alpine lakes.

Contact me at or via @snowgoli.

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