Remember when just about everyone had an old black metal typewriter gathering dust in the attic? The machines have now gone the way of the Dodo bird, endangered by the electric typewriter, then finished off for good the day the personal computer was introduced to the masses.
Karen Foley, a nurse from Westbrook who has an interest in recycling, hunts down at garage sales, flea markets and through a dealer friend who cleans out houses, and creates jewelry from the metal keys she cuts off with a bolt cutter. She makes necklaces, bracelets, key rings and other pieces that spell out phrases such as “Love to Shop,” “Love to Dance,” “Maine,” “Lobster” and “Martini.” Necklaces with initials are a common request – A, M and L keys are in high demand.
“People ask, ‘How come you don’t do delete?’ ” Foley said, “and I say that’s because there was no delete” on old typewriters.
Foley uses metal keys. She has tried working with plastic keys from newer, electric typewriters, “but I just can’t make them look cute.”
Foley realizes that this is a business she’s not likely to be able to grow “because I can’t go to the mall and buy typewriters.” Friends help her find old typewriters, and whenever someone finds one for her she offers to make them something from a key or two as a thank you. Just when she thinks she’s running out of typewriters for good, her friend who cleans out houses will call her with the news that he’s found seven more.
Foley’s jewelry sells for $7 to $70. A key ring costs $7, pendants are $20 and a full bracelet is $70. She sells them at Lisa-Marie’s Made in Maine in Portland and Bath; Bittersweet Barn in Casco; and Full Circle Artisan’s Gallery in Cornish.