Photo by Sabrina Medler
Louise Anne "LA" Marler
Louise Anne “LA” Marler says typewriters are in her blood. A St. Louis native, Marler will open her third studio showcasing typewriters and typewriter-inspired art on Cherokee Street next year, joining others in Santa Monica and New York.
Her space at 2308 Cherokee, located just east of Jefferson in the street's antique district, isn’t exactly conventional. The back-of-building entrance opens up to a small studio with pop-art printouts and other materials scattered around the walls and in bins. Upstairs is the “salon,” named after the literary salons of the 17th and 18th centuries. Furnished like a combination of a cozy living room and a mini-kitchen, the room features vintage typewriters and type-themed artwork.
“I like to show art in a different format than the traditional gallery style,” Marler says. “It’s an immersive experience and more personal and comfortable than a standard gallery format where you have to stand around.”
Photo courtesy of Chris Kuban
Marler's "salon" is meant to bring comfort to the traditional art gallery experience.
In fact, some of Marler's other installations combine rentable living spaces with art. In both Joshua Tree
and St. Geneviev
e, she houses her artwork and collectable typewriters in Air B&B retreats she calls “Type-Inns.” Marler aims to inspire writers by providing them space to finish their manuscripts — for a rental fee, of course. The St. Louis studio will also double as a Type-Inn in the future, she says.
“All of my work is really kind of based on word play and the idea of writing, the process of writing, dissecting the language and interpreting it,” Marler says. “It has been a really fun visual literary journey for me to bridge those.”
Marler's family history with typewriters dates back to her grandfather. He learned to repair typewriters through post-World War I military service and later trained Marler’s father in the industry.
Eventually, Marler’s father opened a business of his own, with a letter shop in the back. His repair and retail shop would honor trade-ins — bring in an old manual typewriter, and you'd get money off the purchase of a new electric one. Because of this, the family accumulated countless machines.
“We are three generations of typewriter collectors, but we weren’t scouring the universe,” Marler says. “They came to us. We gathered more than we hunted.”
Photo by Sabrina Medler
Marler's family has been collecting typewriters since the post-World War I era.
The family pastime is something Marler, in her 50s, has been exposed to for as long as she can remember. In fact, rolling sheets of letterhead into the machines became Marler’s first real job at just ten years old.
“I didn't realize until much later that it set the course for me wanting to pursue communicating and publishing in a bigger and wider format ever since then,” Marler says.
Before pursuing her true passion for typewriters, Marler graduated from Southeast Missouri State with degrees in marketing and psychology. Upon graduating, she stumbled upon the opportunity to move to Los Angeles when a local friend needed a roommate.
“So I packed my little Chevy Cavalier with $200 and a sleeping bag and drove across the country,” Marler says. “I got the classified ads to look for a job and had a job at an international magazine within one week.”
Marler worked in advertising and journalism for a while — which she says means her career has “always been about paper and ink.” On the side, she dabbled in photography, and would frequent a junkyard near her parents’ home for inspiration. Once the junkyard got cleaned up, Marler sought a new subject — one that rekindled a lifelong love.
“I thought, ‘Oh my god, what am I going to do now?’” Marler says. “And I looked around and saw the typewriters again and went — 'aha!”
Upon facing criticism that her typewriter artwork wasn’t “sexy” enough for Hollywood, Marler bought the domain name “typewritersaresexy.com
” to call attention to the machine's alluring qualities. Her fanbase grew, and she wound up in two documentaries: The Typewriter In the 21st Century
and California Typewriter
, which also features Tom Hanks and John Mayer.
As her community grew, Marler wanted a new way for typewriter lovers to come together. She started hosting “Type-Ins,” consisting of writing, performances, group exhibits, community activities and speeches. Tom Hanks, who’s also a typewriter connoisseur, even donated an autographed machine to Marler for her 2016 Venice Type-In.
“I thought it was fun to experience the typewriters and the actual sound of a person thinking,” Marler says. “You can tell when their ideas are gathered and flowing or when they're just stopped and processing. So it’s really kind of a fun audio experience.”
But despite all that success out West, Marler decided to return to her roots following the recent death of her father. She opened the Ste. Genevieve space in January and, in May, purchased her location on Cherokee Street.
“I thought, ‘I’m gonna set this up while I still have the energy to do it,’” Marler says. “It’s sort of a retirement plan for me, but when I say retirement — I will never stop working. I really expect to work until I’m 90 or 100, because I don't consider this work. It’s an awesome life.”
Marler has found two distinct groups of fans: older generations like her work because it’s nostalgic, while younger people find her work hip and vintage. Children especially like the visible cause and effect of striking the key and seeing the impression. They've "never seen anything like it," she says.
Photo by Sabrina Medler
Marler calls her newest work "KeyWord Art." Marler's own format of poetry shares messages on four lines, with three letters to a line.
Marler hopes to have a private opening this December. Those interested should look to email Marler at email@example.com to get on her VIP list. Because the St. Louis location will feature some of Marler’s rarest collectibles, the location will open to eager typewriter enthusiasts by appointment only.
Marler hopes to grow her St. Louis business by expanding, adding a typing and tea event and perhaps opening the “Marler Museum of Typewriters” to tell the family history.
“I’m a risk taker,” Marler says. “I’ve been playing it safe for a long time, but with my maturity I get braver and braver. So watch out.”