In an age virtually ruled by microchips, carbon-fiber composites and electric motors, it’s hard to remember a time when the most important technologies in the world weren’t powered by postage stamp-sized pieces of silicon. In fact, it wasn’t so long ago that things like toothed gears, steam power and iron were the go-to technologies that made the world as we know it. And while we still use those technologies to varying degrees today, they now play more of a supporting role in making the world work, having been pushed into the background in the spirit of better, faster, lighter and sleeker.
But if Matt Krupanski has his way, it’ll take us a little longer to forget these machines, which have been consigned to museums and history books. Krupanski, a Brooklyn, New York-based architectural designer who works on museum exhibits by day, recently started a side business, 22 Teeth, which sells prints commemorating some of the most iconic vehicles and technologies of the early 1900s.
Not only do the subjects themselves hearken back to an older time, but much of the process he uses to capture them does too. Krupanski said he gets his inspiration from old books and documentaries. “I’ll be intrigued by the mechanics on a historical level,” he said. “I think it’s an ideal way to represent the gravity of these pivotal points in history.”
After spending time researching the idea for a design and poring over as many photos and illustrations of the subject as he can, Krupanski then begins the illustration process, composing and drawing the subjects in unique ways. Once he’s satisfied with the final layout, he has his work printed in limited edition sets using a letterpress printing process. Krupanski explains that his art and the letterpress “share a common vocabulary,” since the press, which was invented by Johannes Gutenburg in the 1400s, is the same technology that was used in the era of the items he draws. The printing process combined with his traditional illustration style make the final product look like a blueprint taken from a factory or found in your grandfather’s basement.
Most of Krupanski’s subjects are machines of war—the USS New York, the Sopwith Triplane, a 5-inch anti-aircraft gun and a torpedo—which were some of the most complex machines built at the time, and, Krupanski pointed out, were considered the pinnacle technologies of their era. But he also sells prints of the world famous Hindenburg, a guitar tuning peg, the internal combustion engine and a racer-style bicycle.
As with many great endeavors, 22 Teeth first started out as a hobby and grew into a business after Krupanski received overwhelmingly positive feedback from friends and family members. While his main goal is to feed his passion for older technologies and preserve them in his own special way, Krupanski also hopes that his work “forces the viewer to recognize an item they’ve seen before as something significant.”
The apparent quality of his workmanship and the iconic subject matter of his art all but ensure that his tip of the hat to the ingenuity that went into these technologies promises to keep their memory alive a little bit longer and teach us something in the process.
If you’re interested in educating your kids the artistic way, check out more of Krupanski’s work at: www.twentytwoteeth.com.