Artist’s Spotlight: @lydia__ricci !

This artist’s spotlight is on @lydia__ricci !

  1. Tell me a little about yourself:

“I’m a child of the 70s so I love TV, gameshows, feeling tan, frosty pink lipstick, popsicles, pasta and pizza. I dream about some day owning a hot tub. I grew up in the suburbs less than a mile from one of the largest malls in the country. The King of Prussia Mall was my wilderness. It’s where I went to to wander around and daydream. My father is Italian from South Philly that never throws anything away because one day we might need it or some day he might get around to fixing it. And and my mother was an immigrant from the Ukraine who could improvise anything when we didn’t have what we needed. Which was most of the time. I learned at a very young age the satisfaction of making something from nothing.”

2. What made you want to start creating art from scraps?

“When I was 21 I moved from King of Prussia, PA to San Francisco with two suitcases. I was in a pretty nice sized flat with some strangers and I realized what I missed most was tchotchkes. I was barely making any money (at my graphic design job) but every Friday when I got paid I would stop at the thrift store on the way home and treat myself to an armful of eclectic items I could decorate with. I also made use of a lot of people’s trash. I hung old broken frames and broken sewing machines and dead flowers on my walls and I slowly started to feel like this place was my home. The collecting (hoarding?) never stopped. I’d wander through Chinatown and Dollar stores and safely keep my treasures in a large box in my room. Eventually one box became 3 and then 5 and then when I moved back to the East Coast I started raiding my childhood home. It was like the best Thrift Store ever (not just because I didn’t  have to pay for anything) but the materials had even more sentimental significance. I consider these materials my inheritance! 

And one day to work through my horrible phobia of driving I started to make one of the first cars in my life that had significance. This green dodge. I always made collages but started to use the materials in the boxes at my feet. It was the first time I cut these treasures up. Yes they were just old packages, instruction booklets or tax records but I thought they were beautiful. It was a huge leap to chop them apart. But as I finished the car I realized it was better use of the materials then just having them stored under my desk or nailed to a wall.

The more I think about it: My sweet spot in life has always been making things from scraps. I’d much rather you just pop over and I have to make you a meal out of what I have in my cabinets and fridge. It seems like way too much pressure to plan something a week ahead. There are too many choices. Limiting myself to the scraps I have available offers some perimeters in a positive way.”

3. What is the most sentimental piece you created so far and why does it hold an emotional value for you?

“This is one of the hardest questions I have been asked. At different points I am very sentimentally attached to each sculpture I make.

But off-the-cuff it’s this small cigarette machine I made a few years back. My family rarely went out to dinner growing up but when we did I feel like it typically took about 16 hours for the food to arrive. To pass the time I’d play with the cigarette machine. It was the best video game ever. It was so satisfying to pull the levers and slam them back in. I felt like I was making real progress, accomplishing something with each push and pull (I am extremely goal oriented). 

I also have such vivid memories of my mom sitting at our dinner table after everything had been cleared off or on the couch, relaxing and thoroughly enjoying smoking a cigarette. I wanted this sculpture to capture this happiness and I wasn’t sure how it would be interpreted. But ironically it  is one of the most conversational pieces I have ever made. People in their 80s or a 14 year old want to talk about how happy it makes them. Smoking is bad but apparently cigarette machines are good! “

4. How long does it take you to make your art? What are your preferred tools to create them with?

“So everything I create is from these piles of materials. (I call them scraps.) I have been collecting for over 25 years. Deciding what object I am going to work on can take weeks. I have this conversation with myself and tell myself stories about when the object was significant. I also try and figure out what qualities of the object are significant today too.

Many of my objects are nostalgic but when I bring them to life I use them to tell an anecdote or an observation of something from the present day. 

Once I have  decided an object has “passed the test” it can take days to search though my piles of scraps for the right materials to construct it from. This searching and sifting process can be frustrating. I almost know what I am looking for and I am almost positive it is in my piles but it can take forever to locate just the right scraps materials. They need to look a certain way but they also need to “feel” a certain way too. That’s something I can’t really articulate.

Once I have a pile of materials I plug in my glue gun (I use all sorts of glue and tape) and grab some exacto knives and scissors (I do a lot with scissors: bend metals, cut hard plastic, hammer things down). I do not have fancy tools. Once a pair of scissors has too much glue on it or can’t cut anymore I stop using them (but I have a hard time throwing them away).  I work on the piece for a few weeks until it is completed and then I start to photograph it. I don’t start a new piece until I finish what I am working on. My studio can be a very dangerous mess with sharp scraps of anything all of the floor. No one can enter without shoes. It takes about a day to clean my studio after each piece is completed.”

5. Do you have any exciting news or events that you would like to share?

“I make a lot of stop motions with my sculptures. Most of them are under 10 seconds. But, I just finished my third  (4min) animation. It’s called I Will Always Love You. It has been shown at a couple film festival and some new ones will be announced soon.

Also I am VERY VERY excited about a show I am in (alongside an  amazing painter Sarah McEneaney) called Extra Ordinary. It opens this summer at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center.”

If you like to learn more about Lydia and her art. The following contact information is below:


Instagram: @lydia__ricci

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