Happy Valentine’s Day everyone! Today I’d like to introduce my friend and fellow artist, Lydia Ricci.
Guest Artist - Lydia Ricci - Introduction Design
I first met Lydia Ricci in the summer of 1998 in Cortona, Italy. I was working there for the UGA Art Studies Abroad Program and she was studying art, primarily printmaking. We quickly became friends and we have followed each other’s careers closely since then.
In 1998, Lydia already had her design company, Introduction, up and running with a partner in San Francisco. After a while she moved to New York and her business partner stayed in California, so they, in effect, had a West Coast and an East Coast office.
Recently I contacted Lydia to ask her for an interview to share with you on this blog. She currently lives in Pennsylvania (her home state) with her very creative husband, Zach, and two wonderful sons, she still has the same business and she continues to do creative design like a madwoman.
She is one of the most creative people I have ever known.
Rene: I admire you, your attitude, your work ethic, and your artwork, and would like to share you with my audience. Thanks for considering it!
I love ‘Busy Signal’ on your blog - it is so lively - and reminds me so much of the work you’ve done when I first met you. [Lydia and I often sent each other things we were working on in the early 2000’s. I still have her creations collected in a safe place in my house because I treasure them so much.]
Lydia: Funny…that piece was done in the train after what I deemed a particularly unproductive “work day” and I wanted to feel like I got at least ONE THING completed.
Rene: But wait! I LOVE the ‘Welcoming Baby Shower Kit!’ How have I lived without it!
Lydia: There is a “Wedding” one too. I am partial to the little booklet that comes inside both of them.
For example, in the “Baby” booklet, it begins with:
to a world where your feet never touch the ground (picture of a stroller)
breakfast in bed (bottle and crib)
I am doing these from memory - I really just wanted simple keepsake books but alas, they were instead turned into kits.
Rene: You are one of the most creative people I know. You seem driven to create - and you’ve always had your own vision. How in the world did you take the path from being a little girl growing up in King of Prussia, PA, to being a a successful independent artist - one who starts her own business and travels with it from San Francisco, to NYC, to Philadelphia - something I can only dream of?
(The house Lydia grew up in, King of Prussia, Pa)
Rene: How do you see your personal life, your graphic design work, and your artwork intermingle? Tell us about yourself, where introduction came from, what your business mission is.
Lydia: It is kind of funny. Very early on I had some business cards printed with the “process” of getting to know the person/designer…me. They started off with the word introduction—-for my name, and on the back where the contact info was were words like imagination and innovation… When I was dropping off my portfolio at this “hot shot” design studio in San Francisco and the principal answered the door…I handed him my card and he asked if “introduction” was the name of my studio..I was flustered so I belted out a big loud “YES!” and the name stuck.
I like projects…all kinds of projects. I like to make things…from dinner to decorating a shelf in the house.
Early on, I really tried to use a lot of my own artwork in my design projects for clients. It was disheartening because so often they really just wanted something basic…just a few steps away from what was already out there in the world even though I tried to push them to go somewhere new—-I tried to surprise people with my designs. Maybe I was too young…or too nice…but they would eventually boil the design work down to what I considered the most boring concept. I eventually (I say this because it took MANY YEARS) that I needed to have an artistic outlet that was completely mine…This was to not spin my wheels AS MUCH with my design clients. This is not to say that every once in a while there is a client willing to push boundaries, sometimes there are.
Rene: Where do you draw inspiration from?
I can find inspiration in the lining of a credit card bill return envelope. I spend a LOT of time with my husband Zach (in close quarters) so I MUST credit him with inspiring me as well. He has helped me to see brighter colors, and since we regularly give each other hand done gifts…creating for him inspires me.
(Anniversary love poster)
I love junk…good old junk. I keep BOXES…literally 4 huge file cabinet size boxes with odd scraps and I riffle through them regularly when I am making a MESS (I mean piece of art).
Rene: What’s your process like?
for design —-it is messy inside my head
and for artwork it is just plain messy.
Here are some Car images that are what I would like to be the basis for a show in the next year…there is also ”car in progress” shot.
Rene: Tell us about your workspace. (I’m very interested in this. Do you have different ‘zones’ in your workspace for working in different formats/materials/technology?)
Lydia: I ATTEMPT to maintain zones but eventually there are scraps of paper everywhere and I am toggling back and forth between a design project (and checking emails) while I am trying to just “whip out a piece ” for the blog and well, it is a disaster area…and when I feel like I have accomplished something OR I am completely LOST…I clean up.
Rene: What I knew/know about you was that design is how you make a living, yet you do printmaking as a (wonderful) hobby. Do you see them as separate, or as related parts of your life?
Lydia: Oh how I LOVED printmaking. I do not do it anymore…finding a place and time to use a press became limiting and I had to talk myself into the fact that I could create WITHOUT a press. That I could just continue to make pieces…But I loved the studio environment of the printmaking space…I loved the fumes and the inks as well (another reason I gave it up). I was worried about how toxic the chemicals might be since I was so so messy and careless in my process.
(Letter print from Lydia to Rene 1999)
OH but I should say my end results were not messy…just the getting there.
So yes…I do see them as separate parts but I find that they (the artwork and the design work) intermingle so often…especially psychologically. If I am feeling confident about my design work or vice versa I am bound to have a great day at the other as well.
Rene: Do you feel that your art influences your graphic design? Where else do you get inspiration for work/graphic design?
Lydia: I do feel my art influences my design in some ways. It helps to remind me to not be so rigid when laying out a package or document. It reminds me to “just make something fucking beautiful” and let the rest fall into place…especially when I am having trouble getting started.
Rene: How did you get involved with designing book covers? If you could design a cover for any book, what would it be?
Lydia: Actually I never really design book jackets. I worked at a couple publishing houses in the packaging division…we actually did everything BUT the books. Cards, gift books, kits etc.
When I was on staff I loved every minute of being part of such an amazing group, but I hated the work …it was so limiting…they gave you the art and the copy and the deadline and said…DESIGN …and I would just want to ask..well what is left to design…?
I wanted to actually CREATE the art and write the words…and define the shape of the box….
Eventually, once I left I was able to do that…create the “products” on my own and get them published. They were never hugely successful in a retail world but they are projects that I am extremely satisfied with…it is just so satisfying having something in the world that is 100% yours…
Rene: What would your dream art (printmaking) project be?
Lydia: Good question.
I actually ponder this a lot…because I often wonder if my wish would be one of those “be careful what you wish for wishes” meaning…if I asked for a YEAR to do JUST ART..I think that would actually cause me to freeze up. I do wish that I just had a couple shows a year slated that I had to just do the work for. Currently I am doing the work but dread the process of finding the place to show…It is all new here in Philadelphia.
Did I ever tell you about the show I had in a Laundromat with the series of etchings: there were washing machines with dials that listed ‘yesterday’, ‘today’ and ‘tomorrow’ instead of wash cycles..
Rene: Yes! I remember it well.
Lydia: The show was a huge success and so much fun…we had ice in all the washing machines…it was a party and a show all in one…
Anyway…back to the dream… I would love to work in a studio for a few months with a group of wonderfully energetic and creative people…on an amazing show…somewhere warm but cool at night…and well, since it is a dream..I would love if there was a hot tub out back and we could drink wine under the stars and soak in the hot tub…and I would want my family (husband and 2 boys) to be very close by as well…
Rene: Great idea! Where can I sign up?
Just a few last questions. One piece of advice that you gave me way back when, it seemed to be a mantra of yours: “Presentation is everything”. I have carried that with me always.
What advice do you have for fellow artists? What advice would you have for new artists?
Lydia: I am not sure I consider myself an artist..but wow..Thank you for the compliment. Hmmm, advice.
Trust your instincts…if you do not like something then chances are you are doubting something about it and well when it is RIGHT you do not need to ask anyone for their approval.
Also, I remind myself this every day: Just make something!…I REALLY try to just make SOMETHING as often as I can…one of my favorite pieces came about very quickly and effortlessly.
Oh, that is another thing I remind myself..It does NOT have to be difficult in order for it to be good…I think we often makes things harder on ourselves, we complicate things…and this just holds us back…
Rene: Thanks! I know that this took a long time… and I don’t want to interfere too much with your work! Thank you for sharing your thoughts and processes with us.
Lydia’s blog succinctly sums up our every day life in visual expressions and poetry.
I also enjoyed this design she made for her husband Zach, also known as “Monkey”:
Note the ear rings on the elephant - exact placement as Zach’s.
One last photo before I say goodnight:
"1999 - Lydia explaining that Presentation is Everything!”
Enjoy your Valentine’s cake, Lydia and Zach!