Sculpting with Ricky Boscarino
Wilds of New Jersey
Ricky Boscarino first garnered attention as a teenager with his elaborate cockroach art. He now runs his own successful business specializing in eclectic jewelry. Luna Parc, Ricky’s home and continuous art project situated in the wilds of New Jersey, provides an insight into the mind of a gifted sculptor.
CCB: When did you realize you wanted to be an artist?
RB: There was no real epiphany. It was a natural progression being that I come from a family of artists. If I had to choose a point where I made a decision it was senior year in high school. I could have headed into science, but I definitely would have returned to the Arts.
CCB: How was your family involved in the Arts?
RB: My dad was a graphic artist and my aunt was a painter. Both my sisters were also artists so we were always doing projects.
CCB: What does art mean to you?
RB: For me it’s everything. There are aspects of my artwork that I do strictly for money such as my jewelry business. I’ve got it down to a science. That’s what supports me, supports Luna Parc. (His business and home)
I work in all sorts of mediums such as metal, clay, wood, glass. Right now my ceramic work is my passion. It speaks to my scientific side because there is a lot of chemistry involved, it’s like alchemy. You are creating a gem from mud and minerals by manipulating it with incredible heat. A lot of people don’t take it to that extent, treating ceramics as very topical or superficial. My focus is my ceramic work even though it’s less of my income. I don’t necessarily think in terms of selling my ceramic work, but ultimately that is the intent. It’s less utilitarian and less accessible as a medium.
CCB: Why is that?
RB: There is no market like the jewelry market. It sells in every economic environment. My work is very eclectic and I cater to a broad clientele from very conservative to extremely outrageous. One of the secrets to my success is the accessibility to a broad audience.
CCB: Is there a label for your career?
RB: I call myself an artist. If someone wants to be more specific I would say that I am a sculptor. Even my jewelry is sort of sculptural and my ceramic work is sculptural but functional.
CCB: Have you been able to use any of the knowledge you acquired at the Rhode Island School of Design at work?
RB: I was in the metals and jewelry program. It was a specific path that they were leading us to and I was able to find an apprenticeship before I even graduated. By my senior year I already knew I had this job lined up. I worked for three years as a goldsmith apprentice. I had some good luck, being in the right place at the right time, and I think I’m pretty good too so that helps. (Laughs)
CCB: As far as the apprenticeship, how was that schooling different than college?
RB: In school you have the luxury of spending two weeks on a project. In the real world if you are working as a means to support yourself you don’t have that luxury. I saw what it takes to make it as a craft artist in particular.
CCB: After your apprenticeship you studied film at NYU?
RB: The fourth year out of school I decided to drop jewelry making altogether and become a filmmaker. That lasted a year and I returned to the jewelry business. My high school (Piscataway, New Jersey) had a jewelry program so I had four years training. We had a great program, great instructors. At fourteen years old I was on a clear path to making a tangible object.
CCB: What was your experience like studying art in Italy?
RB: I spent my senior year of college in Italy studying metalsmithing. More recently the last few winters I have been going to Italy to study classical ceramics. The classic education is very different over there with the master of the school, the guru that everyone looks up to. There isn’t really that system in the United States. Everyone works together instead of having a master guiding you.
CCB: Also that it is a family trade, something that is passed on for generations.
RB: People that I studied with come from a long line of ceramists, from many generations ago.
CCB: That’s not true stateside so much?
RB: Our country isn’t old enough to have those traditions. In this country people move away from home a lot more than people do in Europe and we lose that contact with family tradition.
CCB: How did you break into the art business?
RB: When I was in high school I was an apprentice for this woman and after NYU we began working together again and became business partners. She had an existing jewelry business that I joined into. We were a great team for the next three years. Then she left the business and I took over on my own. That was 1993 when I started Luna Parc as a sole proprietor.
CCB: Is that the first time you supported yourself based solely on your art?
RB: Yeah, no matter what I was doing I always had my own means of additional income.
CCB: Is there a story behind the name Luna Parc?
RB: Outside the city of Rome there is an amusement park called Luna Parc, that’s where the name came from.
CCB: What inspired you to have Luna Parc as a working home and art project?
RB: There was no real initial idea for it, there was no master plan. My master plan is to have no master plan. It started with renovating the house and building the workshop. Everything in between is an evolution of ideas where you start with one sculpture and then you have fifty.
CCB: Is there a typical day on the job as an artist?
RB: There isn’t because there are so many projects going on simultaneously on any given day. I didn’t have that much time today and I’ve already done clay work, jewelry work, office work. I raked the yard a little bit. (Laughs) Some days are more structured when I have to prepare for a show. Generally that’s how many things get done because I can spend several hours a day on different projects and mediums.
CCB: Is there a routine to creating?
RB: I travel a great deal. When I’m traveling I keep an accurate idea journal. That’s an important tool. I go through stages when I’m inspired and I get things accomplished. Then there’s the time where you have to stop scheming and get to work. A lot of people get caught up in the whole concept of being an artist, being dramatic about the ideas. I don’t think the concept is worth very much if you aren’t going to put it into action. Like the expression a closed book is just a block of paper. My strength is that I can put something into action very easily.
CCB: What happens when you attempt to put an idea into action and you reach a stumbling point?
RB: Some of the magic of creating is to let things evolve. Certain things I can draw and they come out very similar to the concept. Some of them don’t because of the material or the time frame. It’s important not to get stuck in having that final product be perfect or that initial idea.
CCB: Sometimes it transforms into something else.
RB: Certain projects have gone on so long that personally I have matured and naturally it’s not going to be the same because my skill in a certain material is finely honed or I elaborate on it.
CCB: Have you had any mentors in your career?
RB: I’ve had great teachers. One of my significant teachers was a woman named Beatrice Wood who died a few years ago at 105. She was a ceramist. She is the reason I am doing ceramics today. Teachers and sages come in many different forms, sometimes you learn from children. If you are open to exploring ideas and committed to being inspired and growing you can find teachers in anyone you come in contact with.
CCB: What makes a quality artist?
RB: I think a dedication to being passionate to your craft more than anything.
CCB: Have any advice for people interested in becoming a successful artist?
RB: There are a lot of talented people who cannot explain or talk about their work. It doesn’t make them less valuable as an artist, but if you can’t present yourself then you better have someone promoting you. Most young people having lofty ideas when they get out of college don’t realize that you have to produce stuff. "I’m not a business. I’m an artist." You have to treat your work as a business. It’s not sacrificing or compromising your work by selling it. You need money, that’s a fact of life.
CCB: Were you comfortable promoting yourself from the beginning?
RB: I’ve always been able to promote my work. With my cockroach art I learned at a very young age how to play an audience and have an interchange with people. That’s what I do with my art now at Luna Parc.
CCB: Can you talk about your cockroach art and how that came to you?
RB: That started in the mid-seventies when I was in high school. I got a lot of mileage from these elaborate scenes in miniature using the cockroaches in place of the humans.
I made a bowling alley. I think the lanes were made of macaroni. There was one at the beauty parlor, which was probably everybody’s favorite. The real controversial one was The Last Supper, which I caught some flack for. I had TV appearances, lots of magazine stories, and newspapers. It was a chain of events that made me very aware of being in the spotlight.
CCB: What is it about insects?
RB: Going back to my whole science background I was heading into entomology (study of insects) as a career. That’s something that never left.
CCB: How did it feel the first time you sold a piece of art?
RB: It’s always fun. You get the sense that you are the maker of your world. You understand that this can work. Sometimes I’d go to a craft show and make a lot of money which is exhilarating. Maybe the next show you made so little money that you lost money. It’s really hard to keep it all in perspective, the good and the not so good. It all plays into the end result.
CCB: Do you remember the first thing you sold?
RB: Probably the cockroach pieces. I sold them for very cheap. People were asking for them, commissioning them.
CCB: Is that what people ask you about the most as far as your jewelry?
RB: No, a lot of people don’t know that about my early career.
CCB: What inspires your work?
RB: Ideas are generated from being aware of my surroundings wherever I am.
CCB: What is the most difficult part of your job?
RB: Probably taking it on the road these days for craft shows. It’s the least creative. Part of the experience is presenting and selling it to people while trying not to get too attached to the monetary side of it.
CCB: How do you go about getting your artwork into craft shows?
RB: From doing it so long it’s word of mouth, like a circuit. There are different levels of craft shows like the A list with The Philadelphia Museum of Art and The Smithsonian. The quality of craft is museum quality. Then there are the B level shows and C shows. My work is very eclectic and funky. I generally don’t get into the A shows. I get into the good B shows. A lot of times I have to do the C shows. Even the C shows for me tend to be really good. If you aren’t attached to the prestige of doing a show, if you’ll do shows at fairgrounds, you can reach an audience that is really appreciative.
CCB: Can you talk about your business?
RB: According to the IRS Luna Parc the business is my jewelry, ceramic work, anything I do that I make.
CCB: People would be surprised to learn what about your job?
RB: Even though it is hard and not all fun and games it really is a joy to be able to make stuff and sell it for my job. I don’t have to punch a clock. I don’t have to go to an office everyday. It’s got its drawbacks. Running your own business is a 24/7 operation. If I go away I still have to plan my business around it.
CCB: People might be surprised to know that you are a business person and an artist?
RB: They are impressed that they go hand and hand because a lot of people don’t have both. They are a great artist, but they can’t sell their work at all.
CCB: What has been the coolest thing about the job so far?
RB: That I make stuff and sell it. What can I make next? I wonder if I can make that and sell it?
CCB: Did anything in the art industry surprise you?
RB: Not really. In some ways I am in my own niche market. That’s what people are buying, investing in my future. Maybe something they buy will become valuable.
CCB: As far as finding your voice as an artist is that something that continues to develop over time?
RB: If you do something long enough you are going to get better at it and you will get recognized for it. Success comes with time and experience.
CCB: What can we expect from you in the future?
RB: More of the same. I plan to be here until I am 100.
CCB: You’ll be creating until you go?
RB: Until I drop dead. (Laughs)
To find out more about Ricky Boscarino visit his web site: lunaparc.com