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Turning 'ABC' gum into art

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

(Photo)
A "painting" made from gum.
(Michael Felberbaum ~ Associated Press)
STERLING, Va. -- Jamie Marraccini's humble home smells like bubble gum. And it isn't just because he's chewing a piece.

The place is filled with original "paintings" and sculptures made from a substance commonly known as "ABC gum" -- as in already been chewed.

And now Marraccini is helping others find a new use for what most people chew for a while and toss in the garbage -- or, let's be honest, stick to something that they're not supposed to.

"I always felt it was a waste of gum," he said. "But I was happier they'd do that than throw it away because at least then it lived on."

And he's not kidding -- besides the countless pieces of gum art, the 36-year-old father of two has amassed a collection of more than 5,000 pieces of chewed gum, some more than 10 years old. And he's made his own share of raw-material contributions to his collection, thanks to his personal love for gum and an aversion to throwing things away.

(Photo)
Marraccini shows off test pieces of chewed gum.
(AP Photo/Michael Felberbaum)
His teachers also unknowingly played a role in developing his gum aesthetic -- when he was a kid, Marraccini was forced to smear his gum inside his locker to keep from getting in trouble for chewing it in class.

Over time, his collection evolved from locker wads to the more elaborate pieces that grace his living room walls -- some of them about 2 feet wide. The art, made entirely of gum, ranges in subject matter from outer-space scenes and random faces to sculptures of eggs partying in their carton. In one unfinished piece, eggs sit around a campfire cooking bacon.

And all this art takes, well, a lot of gum. So Marraccini is almost always chewing two or three pieces at a time.

He also enlists friends and family to keep the collection growing by handing out packages of gum, a storage container and instructions: Chew gum for 20 to 30 minutes and put in case. He then collects the masticated wads for use in his art. (Even old, hardened pieces can be used -- a little warm water brings them back to life.)

With an eye toward his continued artistic development, Marraccini also tests new kinds of gum by chewing it, storing it and seeing how the color looks and lasts. (He keeps the rejects too -- it's all part of his collection.)

(Photo)
A rainbow of already-chewed gum.
(AP Photo/Michael Felberbaum)
Marraccini also has a real job, at a technology startup. But that "leaves plenty of time for chewing gum," and he's also found time for a side project encouraging others to try out his brand of art.

Marraccini's $13 Chew By Numbers kit provides chewers with an opportunity to make art from packs of gum by matching the labeled pieces to a cardboard sheet with numbers on it. In the end, the gum gets transformed into, say, an apple with lips, a pile of gum balls or a planted pot with lips.

Marraccini realizes some find this whole idea disgusting. But he offers a reminder that there are benefits to chewing gum -- it helps with motor skills, concentration and creativity, and it can even speed up metabolism.

Chew on that.

CHECK IT OUT ONLINE

(Photo)
A piece in Jamie Marraccini's collection.
Marraccini's art: http://www.gumart.com

The Chew By Numbers kit: http://www.chewbynumbers.com

(Photo)
Marraccini inspects finished and unfinished sculptures.
(AP Photo/Michael Felberbaum)
(Photo)
Gum-based surrealism.
(AP Photo/Michael Felberbaum)


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