Nominate your favorite Maine businesses for Best of Maine!

A Portland Printmaker’s Vending Machines Are Popping Up All Over

Anastasia Inciardi’s riff on a lobby mainstay spits out tiny artworks for a dollar apiece.

Anastasia Inciardi stands for a portrait in Soleli, a shopping and retail shop located in the Old Port of Portland, Maine
By Sarah Stebbins
Photos by Ryan David Brown
From our February 2024 issue

When printmaker Anastasia Inciardi moved to Portland, in 2020, quarters were hard to come by. Fewer people emptying their pockets at banks and stores during the pandemic had caused a nationwide coin shortage. And Inciardi was having trouble cobbling together the change needed to wash her clothes in her apartment building’s coin-operated machines. Then, she came up with the idea of a vending machine that would dispense surprise miniature versions of her linocut food prints for four quarters apiece. “I thought it would be good to have a way to get quarters for my laundry,” she says.

Growing up in Brooklyn, Inciardi remembers retrieving a gilded bee nestled in a box from one of artist Clark Whittington’s Art-o-mats — repurposed cigarette vending machines that spit out artwork the size of a pack of Camels. “My parents still have the bee on display,” Inciardi says. “So I always had that in the back of my mind.” She worked with a vendor (she won’t say who because there have already been copycats) to craft a machine that could distribute prints measuring two and a half by three and a half inches and debuted it at an open-studio event in her Portland workspace in 2022. In June, an Instagram Reel she posted showing the machine in action received nearly 18 million views. Since then, requests have poured in from more than 600 business owners all over the world who want to install her machines.

They’re currently displayed in Portland home-goods boutique Soleil and Brunswick’s Wild Oats bakery, as well as in a Denver pottery studio, a Brooklyn grocer, and Manhattan’s Whitney Museum of American Art. Inciardi is working with a business partner to scale up vending-machine production, and they plan to install 10 new models per month this year. Hosts can customize their print selection — Inciardi created 10 New York–themed works for the Whitney — or receive a random assortment that might include a piece of farfalle, a Cheez-It, a fluorescent-pink popsicle, a tin of sardines, or a stick of butter.

After falling in love with linocut printmaking in college, Inciardi found her favorite subjects were edible. “Those were the prints that connected me to my family, my friends, because we’re all food obsessed,” she says. Inspiration comes from childhood memories — of the cans of San Marzano tomatoes her father would use to make sauce from a cookbook compiled by her great-grandmother, the stuffed artichokes her grandmother made from the same cookbook — as well as from grocery-store shelves and the produce her fiancée, Addison Wagner, brings home from her job at Topsham’s Whatley Farm.

On Saturdays last summer, Inciardi brought her studio vending machine to the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust Farmers’ Market, where a regular crowd showed up each week to collect and swap her pocket-size prints. She went because she likes seeing her work in people’s hands. Plus, even though she has checks coming in from the hosts of her far-flung vending machines, she still needs quarters for laundry.

April 2024, Down East Magazine

Get all of our latest stories delivered straight to your mailbox every month. Subscribe to Down East magazine.