A Hoarder's Daughter is Turning Garbage into Amazing Tiny Sculptures

Scraps are Lydia Ricci's love language.

by Beckett Mufson
Jun 29 2017, 7:47pm

Everything is made from trash in Lydia Ricci's miniature, magical world. The Philadelphia-based sculptor has collected 30 years of scraps, and turns them into tiny tributes to the mundane.

These treasures are a crossroad of Ricci's idiosyncratic upbringing and unorthodox perception of the world. She cuts up cardboard, trinkets, staples, and bits of plastic with a craft knife. Meticulously, she glues the pieces together to make tiny bricolage versions of regular items. Think cash registers, bicycles, ice skates, old-timey televisions, but with the aesthetic of early Georges Braque cutouts. The works often address her dislikes: driving, melted ice cream, people who talk about gardening too much.

Trained in graphic design, Ricci was once told by a college professor that wasn't cut out for working 3D. "In some ways he was right. I cannot see in three dimensions," she admits to Creators. "When I am making something I often cut or bend in the complete wrong direction initially. This is a very forgiving process and I just apply another layer on top and correct it. I cannot plan or figure it out until I do it incorrectly first."

Ricci's medium is the detritus she and her father have impulsively gathered since her mother died at 48 years old. "He is a bit of a hoarder. A sentimental hoarder. Not the crazy over-the-top kind," she says. "The more mundane possessions that reminded us of her seemed more challenging to throw away or even give away, so everything stayed."

Found materials piled into boxes dominate the surfaces of Ricci's current studio. The casual viewer would see chaos, but Ricci has a "strategic organization" system. "I know what I have and the general area to find it," she says.

Once she thinks she can turn a pile of reclaimed school supplies into a whimsical mini sculpture, her focus becomes a force. "I really get into a zone. It is a bit compulsive. I find the right scraps and start the see the object in a more abstract way and I really do not want to get out of that space until it is complete," she says. "I miss a lot of sleep but it is also the most fun I have had in years. I'm pretty darn social, but one of the best birthdays I spent was staying up all night to make a two inch boom box."

The buildup in her house was a security blanket that she turned into a medium. When she moved to San Francisco in her early 20s, her reward for small victories and stressful days was scavenging for treasures at a local thrift store. She once bought two broken sewing machines to fill the space in her Haight Street flat. She does not sew.

"My dad popped by recently and handed me a plastic ice cube tray, a pin cushion with a few pins, and a dictionary from my elementary school years," she says. To this day, scraps are the Ricci love language.

Check out more of Lydia Ricci's work on her Instagram account. She's just published a book series with Simon and Schuster, which you can learn more about here.


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