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The Art of Cindy Riccardelli

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Cindy Riccardelli is a native of Connecticut  who has taken to the hills and mountains of Asheville, North Carolina.  I don't usually write about art but after Kira Bursky told me that Cindy was making a doll for a stop-animation film she has coming up I had to learn more.  I was pleasantly surprised at what I found.

Her style is so unique. It really reminds me of Tim Burton mixed with something that I haven't yet put my finger on. I just love it. - Film Diretor Kira Bursky - 

Cindy has many talents ranging from jewelry making, painting, collage work, and doll making.  She is not one to be content working in just one medium.

We talked recently about how and why she is compelled to create in the interview below.

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Dan: Y
ou do a lot of things from craft to art.  You said people have told you that you ought to concentrate on one thing but you prefer to do do all of them.  Why is that?

Cindy Riccardelli: Well I suppose it's the "Jack of all trades, master of none" theory that some people have. I often heard that when I was making jewelry and selling it to galleries, I did that for a decade in the nineties, they wanted you to stick to one medium as not to confuse people that they are trying to sell your work to. It's understandable from their perspective, but I think if you are a creative person it is the nature of the beast to want to play with different mediums and I think many artists can do more than one thing well. 

I will admit that it can get out of hand at times though and in the last few years have narrowed my focus to painting and doll making. For now anyway, ha!  I think they relate well to each other and hitting the reset button on one to work on the other can be refreshing. You can't burn yourself out as easily. Anyway, that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it.

Dan: I'm always curious about how an artist works.  If I came to your studio on a random day, unannounced, what would I find?  Everything in perfect order, you deep in thought with an issue you're trying to resolve, or complete chaos?

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Cindy Riccardelli: Most people are surprised to find that my workspace is for the most part neat and orderly. I usually work on 3 or 4 pieces at a time, whether it's paintings or dolls, so it helps me to know where everything is and not have to search through the rubble for things. 

I may make a mess during a work session, but always clean up at the end of the day and even leave a sticky note reminding me where I'm at with pieces and what to try and finish for tomorrow. I've been told there is medication for that. Being organized works for me, I get overwhelmed and distracted in chaos.

Dan:  I think I saw that you used to do semi-production type work with your jewelry.  Is that right? Did your work week consisted of a mixture of semi-production to custom pieces and art?

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Cindy Riccardelli  Yes, I used to do the Buyers Market of American Craft in Philadelphia every February.  I would be there for four days at my booth with roughly 40 samples of my original mixed metal designs and write orders.  

The upside was I could come home and put orders in my monthly files and have enough to project an income for most of the year and there was peace of mind in that.  The downside was I was so busy doing production and filling orders,  that there was little time for creative playing.  

I think there was some slack time in August and then again in January when I mostly spent my time designing new pieces for the February show.  Of course that was in the roaring nineties, I've heard things are a little different now with wholesaling in regards to the peace of mind thing.

One way to cure yourself of a medium is to do production work with it for a decade!  Burnout.

Dan: Tell me about the art community in Asheville. I have been told by one artist from South Carolina that he takes all of his paintings to an art dealer in Asheville to sale.

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Cindy Riccardelli:  I don't really sell to galleries, so I'm not too astute on the art community from that perspective.  I have however been selling my paintings and dolls at The Big Crafty which runs two shows a year,  in July and December, for the past couple of years and that has been good.  You have to apply and be juried in for each show and so far I've been lucky.  

I also became a member of The Southern Highland Craft Guild in 2011 with my dolls and have been doing both shows (July and October) at the civic center, that is about the extent of my local selling, aside from doing a couple other shows in the area outside of town.  

Other than that I have an Etsy shop and have sold to people around the country,  Europe and Australia.  You need to take good pictures for selling online because that is all people have to go on.  Sales are sporadic, but when it works it's great.  I have an Etsy app on my phone and when I make a sale, it makes a cha-ching cash register sound.  I love it when that happens.

Dan:  Are you a native of Asheville?  If not what brought you to Asheville?

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Cindy Riccardelli: I am not.  I was raised in Connecticut about an hour northeast of New York City.  I moved here eight years ago from Maine after living there for twenty years.  

My two daughters flew the coop for other states and I figured I would too.  My snow shoveling arm needed a break.  I used to sell my jewelry to Gallery of the Mountains at the Grove Park Inn for years during my jewelry production decade, that's how I learned about the area and the arts community here.  Asheville has a reputation for that.  After a visit I decided I would come down and see how I liked it, that was in 2005.

Dan:  Your dolls are fantastic!  They really do tell a story with their faces, clothes, and posture.  What inspired you to begin making dolls?

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Cindy Riccardelli: Thank you!  Well I've always painted and sculpted since I was a kid, but in 1982 on a trip to Germany I met a puppet maker selling her sculptures on the street in Munich.  I was mesmerized by them.  

When I came home I made some for myself and friends but I didn't sell them.  People thought they were too scary for kids,  although they were never intended as dolls for kids.  

Then I was busy raising my young daughters, working and eventually got involved with making jewelry later on.  It wasn't until 2005 that I picked up an Art Doll Quarterly at a book store and was mesmerized once again by Scott Radke's marionette puppets.  

I was reminded of the art form and started making figures again.  This time I applied to shows and started to sell them online.  They have evolved somewhat over the past eight years, although some of those earlier dolls I made are still my favorites.  I don't keep many of them, most of them I sell to pay the bills.

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Dan:  I learned about you through Kira Bursky because she is having you make a doll for an upcoming  animation movie.  I imagine that will be built on a wire frame so she will be able to reposition it throughout the filming.  Is that right?  Have you done this before?

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Cindy Riccardelli:  Yes, actually I already made it for her and it does have a bendable wire body.  The movie won't be seen until next spring sometime, but I get busy making things for shows in the fall and wanted to deliver it earlier rather than later.  

I don't like to rush with things.  I have never done a doll for a film before, although I had been approached by a few people in the past few years who said they wanted to do a stop animation film and possibly use a doll of mine.  

Kira was the only one who actually had made a movie and I am so impressed with her work.  It will be fun to see what she does with it, something to look forward to.

Dan:  Kira will bring that doll to life.  

Some of your  paintings and collages remind me of folk art. Others go beyond that.  Do you ever get attached to a piece and hold off on selling it?

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Cindy Riccardelli: I've been told that before about my paintings and collages.  I guess some days I'm more sophisticated than others and it comes through in my work, ha!  

I always take a photo of finished work, so I can remember it or use the image.  There have been some pieces that are harder to let go than others and sometimes I'll think of a favorite piece and wonder about it, but there is always that stack of bills on my desk that I like paying and well, you know.

Dan:  You mentioned you don't like to get in a hurry with things.  I am curious.  That implies that you enjoy what you're doing and might not if you had to rush.  Is your desire to create something you wake up with every morning?

Cindy Riccardelli:  Yes, I don't like the pressure of rushing, but I like to be busy working on something.  I sometimes wake up with a sense of impending doom, then I remember a project I was working on or an idea that I had written down the previous day and the worry streak disappears, I perk up and get started.

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Learn more about Cindy and her art at: