NEW MARKET – Everything old can be new again.
Jon Henry’s General Store in New Market recently installed an Art-o-Mat machine that turns an old cigarette vending machine into a bespoke piece of art that vends unique pieces of art.
Jon Henry, the store proprietor, said he was intrigued by the machine and thought it would fit well into the vibe of his store.
When he picked it up this month, he wasn’t sure what to expect. It turns out, he said, the little machine has an entire following of its own.
“We had a fella today who drove over from Luray because, as he said, he was ‘addicted’ to Art-o-Mat machines,” Henry said. “I didn’t know it had its own following.”
The old machines are spruced up and fit with a coin slot that keeps all the gears running smoothly. All of the pieces for the machines are mechanical, with the only electricity running the lights in the machines.
Clark Whittington, the creator of the Art-o-Mat machines, designed a custom Art-o-Mat coin and the custom coin slot to keep his machines running smoothly. Interested customers pay stores $5 for a coin, and the coins are re-used by the stores.
Art-o-Mat fans and followers have hundreds, if not thousands, of unique pieces of art to collect. Each item in a machine is a one-of-a-kind piece of art ranging from macrame to ceramic pieces.
Henry said artists interested in getting their work into a machine can buy one of the starter kits from his store, design their piece and send it into Whittington. Because the machines are re-purposed, all of the artwork needs to fit into a box the size of an old cigarette box. The starter kits have everything interested artists need to get started, Henry said.
Henry’s machine holds 22 different artists’ work, and while he said he wants to cycle through different pieces, some have already sold out.
“There’s some things that I think will stay in there and some things that will cycle in and out,” he said. “Availability wise, we got the last of a couple of these items so the artists have to make more. We can’t reorder it because everything is original in there and everything is one of a kind. Once we’re out of some of them, they’ll never be there again.”