April 7, 2007
by Kim Centazzo
One Man's Trash Becomes Marraccini’s Treasure
Potomac Falls Resident Makes Art Out of Gum
Jamie Marraccini’s Potomac Falls home is decorated with Bubblicious, Carefree and Wrigley's chewing gum. His daughter began blowing bubbles at age 2 and he buys Juicy Fruit in bulk.
Jamie Marraccini is a gum artist and he’s been making his creations for more than 20 years.
"I stumbled upon making art out of gum," he said. "I love gum and I always liked to save things. So I started sticking gum on different places and creating pictures."
Jamie Marraccini has created more than 30 works of art in the far corner of his basement including pictures of people with oversized hands and lips and sculptures of eyeballs and tongues.
"I don’t know where my ideas come from," he said. "I have ideas brewing in my head right now."
Jamie Marraccini’s works include pictures of multi-colored heads with long eyelashes, outer space and a Rastafarian smiley face titled "IRIE."
His workspace is crowded with boxes filled with fresh gum, pieces of plywood, ping pong balls and wire and large plastic bins filled with gum chewed by friends, relatives and coworkers.
WHEN JAMIE MARRICCINI gets an idea for one of his projects, he passes out sticks of gum to his coworkers and collects chewed pieces of gum at the end of the day.
He selects his brands of choice by referencing a gum caddy filled with different types of gum he’s collected over the years.
Then, he twirls pieces of gum, like Bubblicious Gonzo Grape and Wrigley's Extra Polar Ice between his fingers and spreads them across a wooden board, or a ball, or curly wires.
The gum artist looks for several things when selecting the perfect piece of bubble gum; its color, how long its color lasts and its "spread-ability," he said.
"I like chewing gum no matter what," he said. "It never gets thrown away."
His wife, Rana Marraccini, said his hobby has taken over the basement, but she doesn’t mind because the end result is worth it.
"It’s weird, but everybody’s art is different," she said.
"I do it out of the humor of making art out of gum. I do it for the reaction from the kids," he said, "and the artistic side as well."
Jamie Marraccini saves his gum in Tupperware bowls. He leaves the tops off the bowls and stores the bowls in a sealed plastic bin.
The Marraccinis' basement is also filled with boxes of gum, including 50 pounds of discontinued flavors.
"Bubblicious Kickin' Cola, they don’t make that anymore," he said as he rifled through the box filled with brightly colored wrappers.
When Jamie Marracci finds an easy gum to work with, or a great color, he will order boxes and boxes and boxes of it online. His "magic box" is filled with discontinued flavors of chewed gum, including Carefree Alpine Mint, which Marraccini uses for anything white.
Rana Marraccini’s favorite part of the process is going to candy expos with her husband. There, he gets to sample the latest flavors of bubble gum. She gets to sample the latest candy.
One of Jamie Marraccini’s most impressive creations is called "It Takes a Steady Hand." The operating-room scene that features two doctors and a frantic patient took 3,905 pieces of bubble gum and one year to complete. In the same year, Jamie Marraccini completed a 2-foot-tall sculpture of eyeballs, hands and feet with 3,177 pieces of gum.
JAMIE MARRACCINI APPEARED on the Food Network’s show Unwapped Monday, April 2, to talk about his medium.
It’s not the first time he has received recognition for his work. He has been interviewed by talk show and radio hosts from around the country and the world, including Taiwan, Germany and Colombia.
The Roanoke, Va., native said he paved the way for several other gum artists in the country.
Jamie Marraccini’s next step, he said, is to take it to the next level. He recently created a kit for children to make their own gum art. Chew By Numbers is a step-by-step guide to creating small pictures of tulips and bowls of gumballs out of Bubblicious and Extra chewing gums, available on his Web site www.chewbynumbers.com.
"One day, I want my own brand of bubble gum," he said, "the Gum Art brand."
Each of the Chew By Numbers kits comes with a numbered board and lots of gum and costs $14.95.