Dreaming of Vending Machines

Dreaming of Vending Machines

This pic is from 2013, but I just had to use it for this post. Why am I so obsessed with vending machines? Gumball machines, capsule machines, Art-o-mat, photobooths, sticker machines, give ‘em all to me. I guess it’s not just limited to vending, because I like any penny arcade and good automata too. Have you ever been to the House on the Rock? One of the things that I always remember was a room filled with a huge collection of mechanical banks. You could press a button and watch each bank perform.

Yesterday I woke up from a dream and was almost laughing from giddiness (euneirophreniaone of my favorite words). In the dream I was at a grocery store with friends when I remembered that this particular grocery store had the most amazing vending machines in the middle of a regular grocery isle. We made our way there and the main machine was shaped like a pachinko machine (we had a vintage one in our house when I was a kid). Funny thing was that this particular machine in my dream was in the shape of a pachinko machine (tall and narrow) but it was also a claw machine, so you can imagine how the two might conflict. The machine was propped up, angled against a wall, and so the claw would drop wrong. Once we realized the machine needed to stand perfectly upright, it was easy to get items out. You’d win every game. But the items were all kinda stupid, like wrinkled shirts 😂 Still, we cleaned it out. It felt very special to even get to visit these rare machines, even though they were just in a grocery store, similar to being able to visit a real chemical photobooth today.

In the dream there were a few machines but the only other one I remember was a vending machine, similar to one I remember from my middle school library that dispensed pencils and memo pads (like the above image), but this particular one dispensed an independent designer’s stationery and notebooks.  Amazing right? It made me immediately google to see if I could find something similar for sale. I’d totally buy a notebook and pencil vending machine. No dice on ones for sale, but I asked others in my IG stories if they had these machines in their schools, and overwhelmingly people said no. The ones we had were this same gray/silver color, but I think it was just one for notebooks and one for pencils (and the pencils would often be scented!)

What I would do to have one of these vending machines now?

Oil painting sketch of capsule with tiny pencil, studies for a potential series

Now, if reading one long dream was NOT your thing, then you should definitely move along. The dream I had this week, reminded me of another dream I had in February 2017, and shared on facebook. Another dream about an amazing vending machine:

I had a dream last night that has really stuck with me. I walked to the grocery store (that used to be where the Eagle, or Sullivans used to be). When I went inside there was a “vending machine” inside the door (on the north entrance) with the rest of the gumball and capsule machines. It was just a box, probably 12x12x16 deep and was sitting on a tabletop to be about shoulder height. In my dream I remembered having seen it before. I was trying to stick a quarter into it when I realized that it actually only cost a dime, and two women came over seeing I was doing it wrong and came in and kind of took control, showing me how to use it, but also hogging the machine. They told me a man made it and that there were others at different locations, but they weren’t sure if they were still being stocked because the machines always seemed empty. I wasn’t sure how it could continue on at only a dime per purchase. The machine was entirely wooden (case, mechanisms and all), but with a glass front so you could see inside. You dropped the dime in a slot on the top, which allowed you to control a handle bar, where you picked and chose a piece inside that you wanted. You then tried to maneuver that piece with the handle bar, to the drop hole, and the piece fell to the bottom where you could grab it. Sometimes the wrong piece would make its way to to the hole first. All of the things you could buy inside were handmade. It was kind of like an artomat, but with an entirely handmade machine (rather than a remodeled cigarette machine) and all the creations inside were made by one person and were slightly larger than the box of cigarette dimensions of artomat pieces. When I finally had a chance at the machine, I cleaned it out. 10 cents a pop, no way I was leaving any behind. There might have only been 8 or so left. Every single piece was original and unique and varied from – original artwork, articulated wooden sculptures, molded vinyl figures, to handmade jewelry. The piece I remember most was what appeared to be a hand-carved block of wood, which I originally thought was a piece of artwork on its own, but when I touched a button, it slid open to reveal it was a jewelry box with a handmade necklace inside. The necklace had a simple fine silver chain and 3 flat sheet silver pendants that were either etched or cast. I think the pendants were of faces or full figure characters, but I can’t really remember. I was just so excited by the detail of each piece, how much work had gone into each, and how inexpensive they were, that I needed to find a bag to carry all of them. There was something about the machine that was kind of dark and otherworldly and the pieces all had a macabre feel to them. Afterward, I walked to my brother’s house, which is nearby, to show him all the pieces I purchased.

And then, just for the record, as much as I love all these types of vending machines, I do have to clarify something. I went for a walk last night and passed by a slots place. As much as I love a good vending machine, I am not into these. I do think I played a slot machine once at a casino my sister and I went to at the Niagra Falls, but other than that and some skee ball action at arcades, I haven’t wasted too much time or money on gambling type machines.

Oooh! I just remembered another dream I had years ago that has stuck with me as well. I had a dream where I found out there was an analog dip and dunk photobooth in town, in the back of the old Lincoln Inn restaurant. This brings back to my post from my birthday this year, where I decided not to be a photobooth snob anymore, and digital booths are still better than no booths at all.

My best friend and I have a dream of opening up a little candy/stationery/gift shop, and in my version, the store will also have a whole room filled with all sorts of amazing machines (photobooth, capusle, pachinko, sticker, artomat, etc.)

Niblings with the cereal box vending machines they made behind them

Earlier this year my friend Ann shared a tiktok video with me where a person made a capsule vending machine craft out of a cereal box, and I did that craft SO QUICKLY with my nieces and nephews.

I keep trying to wrap up this blog post but then “oooh!” remembering one more thing, and one more thing, and one more thing. So, I’ll leave on this last note: one of my favorite artists, Joseph Cornell, was also heavily influenced in his artwork by the penny arcades. Should I be incorporating this love of mine, into my own work?


Hi, I'm Robyn and I was Hatched from a Kinder Surprise Egg. Graphic Designer by day, Maker of things by night. I have worked as a graphic artist professionally since I was 16 years old. Went on to get my Bachelors of Art from NIU. I like to share my Artwork online at flickr.com/photos/robayre and on my own personal website http://www.robayre.com. I also have an online shop http://www.robayre.etsy.com where you can find more of my "crafty" sorts of things, as well as a random piece of artwork here and there. Oh, and I'm also an occasional contributor to Artomat (artomat.org).

2 thoughts on “Dreaming of Vending Machines

  1. 1. I want to go to the House on the Rock.
    2. I wish I remembered dreams. You’re are so vivid.
    3. That reminded me of the wooden gumball machine I made in shop class in middle school. The globe broke at one point. I wonder what happened to that? I also made candle holders. Wonder what ever became of those projects.

  2. I WISH my school had had vending machines like that!

    When I was ten or eleven I had mild insomnia and would spend time thinking about how things worked and I figured out how to build a vending machine (a tarted up version of the cereal box ones here) and was SO pleased, but forgot totally how to do it on waking and was livid! They’re such satisfying machines.

    A friend who vends at art and craft fairs has a plastic egg vending machine form”cursed objects” (everything from shells and rocks to little bottles and keys) and the jealousy I have of both owning it and getting to fill it is very large. It’s about the mysterious transaction! It’s like an oracle!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *