Who: Jessica Ricci
What: Designer, Jessica Ricci Jewelry
When: 3:30pm, Monday, November 12
Where: Her studio at Hope Artiste Village in Pawtucket
Why: We have so much in common it’s sort of frightening
I first met Jess Ricci in April at TEDx Providence; we bonded over a shared love of innovative ideas and cute lap dogs. (Jess calls her Cavapoo the love of her life.) After doing some research I discovered a few other passions we share: traveling and writing. In fact, she built her wildly successful jewelry brand around the two.
After graduating with a master’s in journalism from NYU, she worked and lived in Manhattan. Seeking adventure, she moved to Italy to teach English and gain some creative inspiration. (Did I mention that I too used to be a teacher?) It was there in Rome that Jess discovered her passion for jewelry making.
I enter Jess’s studio to find her answering emails, a pup curled up on her lap. She greets me with a smile; Aggie greets me with a lick. The bright and airy studio inside Hope Artiste Village functions as both workspace and storefront. While Jess sometimes utilizes interns, her only full-time employee has fur.
“Aggie comes here every day with me,” Jess says as she stands up from her chair. She lovingly pets the tiny hypoallergenic pooch that’s now nestled in the crook of her elbow while I browse her meticulous display cases. I notice there’s nothing I wouldn’t myself wear. Everything is so chic, so global. There’s a reason for that.
While in Italy, Jess was mesmerized by found objects such as coins and keys. “Back then I had no real jewelry making experience except for stringing beads. I thought it would be amazing if I could figure out a way to turn the antiques into jewelry.” It wasn’t an easy task, but the results of her work are impressive.
Pieces from Jess’s collection have been featured in magazines including InStyle, O, Real …
Who: Cousins Amanda and Jesse Corey
What: Photographer and make-up artist, respectively
When: 5pm, Saturday, October 20
Where: Core Creations, 1320 Cranston Street, Cranston
Why: I wanted the Coreys to make me gory
This is what I first saw upon arriving at Jesse and Amanda Corey’s Cranston studio on Saturday, October 20. My beautiful friend Ellen was looking a gory mess in preparation of the 2012 Providence Zombie Pub Crawl, which was later that night. We took one look at each other and burst into hysterical laughter. Clearly, my decision to sign us both up for a horror makeover was the right one.
Jesse seemed super excited at the opportunity to gore us up, and encouraged our input as to shaping the “look” we wanted. We both told her, “Just do whatever you want.” Apparently that was Jesse’s green light to rocket us to hideous town. Ellen’s pre-made mold consisted of an eyeball that was hanging from its eyesocket, her face appearing to melt into itself. Awesome.
I soon discovered that I would be strutting my stuff around town with a circular saw protruding from my chest. “It’s a real blade,” Jesse said with a proud smile. “My boyfriend sanded the edges down, though, so you won’t injure anybody.” Um, he what?! Jesse held the mold up against my body, this way and that, searching for the perfect spot on which to affix it.
I had planned ahead and ordered a post-apocalyptic vest fashioned from bicycle tire inner tubes that exposed both my stomach and my chest, per my "slut-it-up-it’s-Halloween" tendencies. Jesse looked me up and down; her smile grew larger. “Your outfit is perfect!” With that, it was decided that the mold would be most noticeable nestled just above my cleavage. Lovely.
I was surprised at how quickly the time passed as I sat in Jesse’s chair being poked, prodded, dusted with liquid latex and dabbed with gobs of fake blood. She …
Who: Karen Bentley
What: Owner, Karen Bentley Tarot
When: 6pm, Wednesday August 22
Where: Cactus Grille, 800 Allens Ave., Providence
Why: I’m a sucker for all things mystical
Karen Bentley Tarot is a one-woman show. The self-proclaimed “tarotpreneur” makes a living by reading tarot cards. Similar to the standard 52-card deck, a tarot deck features four suits; in place of a spade or a club, however, you might find a cup or a sword. Magicians, emperors and fools run rampant. Oh, and you should probably watch out for that pesky devil card.
I spot Karen in the back room of Cactus Grille. She’s draping a table with a swatch of wispy leopard fabric in preparation for her monthly Manicures and Margaritas event, featuring $10 tarot card readings, $6 express manis and $5 drink specials. As my late grandmother practiced tarot, my interest in the esoteric runs deep. I park it beside Karen in the circular red booth.
She’s a beautiful lady, with eyes that smile even when her lips stay unmoving. “I’m an ethical reader,” Karen explains after I recite a few of the past tarot-based predictions that never quite materialized. I was supposed to meet my future husband last September! “I don’t ‘cast the mark,’ she says. “That’s usually bad news for people that approach the tarot with misguided expectations.”
I shuffle the deck, concentrating – as instructed – on the topic I craved insight on: romance. “At these events I do a seven-card horseshoe spread,” she explains. Satisfied after a minute of shifting the cards back and forth, I randomly choose seven and hand them over. She arranges them neatly. “The cards tell a story,” she says, “and they must be read in conjunction with the others.”
The 78-card tarot deck can be broken up into two parts: major arcana (22 cards without suits) and minor arcana (56 cards containing the …
Who: Joe Perez
When: 9pm, Friday, September 8
Where: His loft, address withheld
Why: He’s got some serious credentials and impeccable taste
Okay, so maybe I’m a little biased: I’ve known Joe for 16 years and he’s a close friend of mine. Still, when he suggests a film/artist/album/whatever, I run to check it out. He hasn’t failed me yet. Someone else who trusts Joe’s judgment? Kanye West. In fact, Joe has been working for “Ye” for the past five years and recently designed his Cruel Summer album cover, set to drop September 18.
After graduating from Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California – the RISD of the West Coast – Joe designed and maintained websites, including two popular fashion blogs he created in collaboration with his brother. One day after having moved back East, his phone rang. Kanye was on the other line.
I arrive at Joe’s loft around 9pm. In typical fashion, the lights are dimmed and mellow music casts a chill vibe on the space. He’s dressed in black and white, what I refer to as his uniform, with not a hair out of place. “Can I offer you a drink?” he asks. Joe sets his glass of scotch whisky down and pours me a generous bit of wine. We sit.
It’s been a while; we’ve both been so busy with work. From start to finish, it took Joe an estimated 700 hours to design and execute the album cover and packaging. “My art director, Guido Callarelli, and I worked directly with Kanye on the cover. I’d like to thank Guido and my creative director, Virgil Abloh,” Joe says. “Also, I have to thank my parents for their support.”
The process was a complex one — beginning first with a female from a classic work of art and slowly chipping away at her, carving each cheekbone and every curve, as if she were made of digital stone. “Now she’s the perfect woman,” Joe says with a …
Who: Tom West
What: Artist & Providence Artist Campaign (PAC) Founder
When: 7pm, Tuesday August 7
Where: Dusk, 301 Harris Ave, Providence
Why: He’s running for artist… and that’s reason enough
Every Tuesday night at 8pm, an assemblage of creative minds flock to a badass little bar down by the tracks: Dusk functions as headquarters to the Providence Artist Campaign (PAC). The concept was developed two years ago by Tom West, the likable ball of energy who’s running for artist… or asshole, depending upon which sticker you look at first.
The campaign started when West forced one of his friends to run against him in an attempt to have some fun while calling attention to the arts community. Tom came with so much heat – stickers, flyers, posters, shirts – he ended up running unopposed, and seized the (totally fake) title of Providence Artist.
I spot Tom setting up his oversized boards on the sidewalk out front. He uses his head-in-hole paintings (a medium he says “never gets utilized smartly”) to tackle heavy topical issues such as teen pregnancy, race relations and politics. “The public then engages your art and subject matter,” he says. “It’s a beautiful thing.”
“I set these up at last year’s Foo Fest [at AS220],” Tom notes, nodding towards his tongue-in-cheek characterization of President Bush. “Kids always end up sticking their faces through this hole,” he says with a laugh. “I can tell which parents are cool and which ones aren’t based on how they react.”
One thing that’s unequivocally cool is the way in which the campaign has grown. “Over the past year, I realized the concept had real legs as an artistic community builder,” Tom says. “Artists will be running for Providence Artist 2012, replicating the approach of the average campaigning politician.” Well, sort of.
Who: Joseph Skorupa
What: Artist & Founder of Owls to Athens
When: 1pm, Friday June 22
Where: His studio, Harris Ave, Providence
Why: The man is a modern day visionary
It’s a smoldering hot day in June, and I’m following Joe down a familiar hallway. I’d taken the same path through that same mill building hall back in December, when I’d come to talk with another Joe — Pretty Snake designer Joseph Aaron Segal. It was much colder then. “I just finished putting the air conditioner in a few minutes ago,” he says, looking back at me. Thank the Lord, I think.
Supporting himself entirely through his art, Joe is heavily involved with helping to grow the network of creative minds here in Providence. “My main priorities are to provide opportunities for emerging artists so that they won’t have to move elsewhere to make a living, and to establish a tight knit arts community in the city,” he says with a modest smile. “We need a pack of wolves around here.”
Easily, he’s leading the pack: Joe founded Owls to Athens with his friend Michael Spillane so that street and contemporary artists can share ideas and help each other grow. On May 17, Owls to Athens held a group art exhibition titled Spring Night Riot at E&O Tap. Art was hung, a DJ spun tunes, friends grilled food out back. It’s casual events such as this that make art accessible to those who may not normally seek out more formal gallery experiences. Joe gets it.
“Owls to Athens comes from an old expression used to denote a useless action – carrying owls to Athens. It’s a reminder to not take yourself too seriously,” Joe explains. “Obviously, I’m extremely passionate about what I do, but still you can’t take yourself too seriously – especially in the art world.” I glance again at his collection of work strewn about the studio; indeed his passion is …
Who: Jaclyn Altieri Murphy
What: Accessories designer and owner of LuniacStyle
When: 8am, Saturday June 16
Where: Sandy Point Beach, East Greenwich
She places a stretchy cotton turban on my head like a crown – one half bright pink, the other a multicolor floral that’s reminiscent of my grandmother’s old curtains. “It’s perfect,” she says, stepping back with a nod of her head. I examine my reflection in a hand mirror as the warm morning sun casts a glow on my face. I look chic, regal, trendy. She’s right. It is perfect.
Jaclyn has been making jewelry since she was six years old. “I remember going on car rides with my parents and lugging my bead boxes everywhere,” she says with a smile as she hands me a pair of dangly peace sign earrings, which coordinate perfectly with my new headpiece. “Back then I made necklaces and bracelets to sell on the beach.” I glance at the ocean; she’s come full circle.
LuniacStyle is Jaclyn’s successful jewelry and accessories line, and this morning she’s invited me to join her on the beach for a photo shoot. Ethereal young models don flowy dresses, stacks of gold bangles and strands of funky necklaces. Like me, they wear turbans on their heads as they pose gracefully by the sea. I’m reminded of a scene from a Brigitte Bardot film.
“I love the look of old Hollywood glamour icons, with tons of jewels, and that whole beachy scene,” Jaclyn says. “I think of Elizabeth Taylor and Sofia Loren. They would wear the most elaborate outfits on the beach and rock them.” She pauses to select a new set of jewelry and to fluff a model’s hair. “I love turbies at the beach.” Me too, I think to myself, me too.
“I wanted to put a little spin on the turbies: mix and match materials, sequins, studs, puffy hearts. I wanted to revamp that old Hollywood glamour. I love the girls who aren’t afraid …
Who: Longston Johnson
What: Urban streetwear designer
When: 8pm, Saturday May 26
Where: Little Bastard Co. Headquarters, 285 Main Street, Woonsocket
Why: It’s not just a t-shirt line, it’s a lifestyle… and a movement
It’s a big day for 27-year-old Longston Johnson: he’s hosting a grand opening party at his brand new Little Bastard Company Headquarters, which is part clothing boutique, part art gallery. After having success at area boutiques, pop-up shops and online, he’s proud to set up a retail store in his hometown of Woonsocket, which has seen its fair share of trouble.
By the time I arrive, the party has been in full swing for almost four hours. Still, the room is filled with music and laughter. A DJ spins hip-hop, kids breakdance on the floor, an orchestrated rap battle takes place — put mildly, it’s awesome. I spot Longston in the back of the room, leaning up against a table, receiving well wishes. He’s excited, but exhausted.
“You should have seen it earlier,” he says nodding at the crowd. “This place was packed.” It’s still packed (by my definition at least), and I’m glad to hear he’s had such a great turnout. He deserves it. Longston’s a hardworking guy who’s already done much to give back to his city: organizing canned food drives, raising money for cancer and feeding the needy at church.
And then there’s the guns. Community members have been outraged by both the name of the brand and its logo – silhouettes of kids, one of which holds a pistol. Those in opposition to the “provocative” store are having a field day on message boards: “Not a positive message for our already troubled city,” and “What in the world are they selling? That is disgusting.”
At first, Longston was angry. “My teenage rebellious side came out,” he says. “I wanted to protest, pitchfork, …
Who: Pete Dorrance
What: Skateboarder and social activist
When: 5:30pm, Monday, April 30
Where: A house on the West Side of Providence
Why: ‘Cause skateboarders are awesome, duh
Pete Dorrance skates as much as he can. Between his full-time job (working with autistic students) and chipping away at his dream (starting a nonprofit), he’s a busy guy. Still, skateboarding always factors heavily into the mix. He’s been skating for 20 years; he knows no other way. “When I was a kid, my parents took me to Waterbrothers — a surf and skate shop in Newport. They had a halfpipe next to the shop, which was right on the beach,” he recalls.
Pete grew up in suburbia and skated in his neighborhood; occasionally, he came to Providence to street skate. Regardless of where he chose to shred, he always faced opposition. “Skating has become more accepted, but it’s still a constant battle for skateboarders to street skate and find new terrain,” he says. “Skaters still get tickets, police still confiscate boards and security guards still hassle kids.”
Skaters need to seek out new places to shred in order to ramp-up their own repertoire of tricks and keep up with the increasing level of “mind boggling” competition that currently exists out there. Pete and his crew got sick of butting their heads against the proverbial wall; a few of them banded together and hence the idea for the nonprofit was born.
“There are not nearly enough skateparks and until that problem is fixed, skating will always be a battle,” Pete says. He thinks that more cities and towns should recognize the need for certain unused public spaces to be sanctioned for skating. “We’re in the process of starting a nonprofit called RIPS, which will stand for Rhode Island Public Skateparks or Revitalizing Inactive Public Spaces.”
While the group hasn’t yet settled on the antecedent of their …
Who: Rich Abbruzzese (aka Juan Deuce)
What: Rhyme slayer and controller of the mic
When: 9:20pm, Tuesday, April 24
Where: The Met, 1007 Main Street, Pawtucket
Why: He lives at 1 Happy Place… in his mind, at least.''
When Juan Deuce opened up for GZA at Firehouse 13 on March 24, a crowd of fired-up fans waved cardboard caricature masks of his likeness in the air. With his flat-brimmed black hat, thick eyebrows and wide smile, the masks were unmistakably him. “The masks at the last show went over really well,” he says, sipping a bottled water and watching the room fill. It’s an hour to show time.
Juan Deuce, left, stands with DJ Emoh Betta
Tonight the MC is opening for Schoolboy Q. As he waits, various people come up to give a handshake and a well-wish. He’s appreciative of the support. “The fan base is very loyal and growing by the day,” he says. “I’m doing what I aspired to do, only on a smaller scale. The more I continue to work hard, the larger the scale will become.” He smiles. “The goal is to become the Dos Equis Man.”
He’s taller than he appears to be in his videos and up on stage. And with his hood pulled up and strapped with a black backpack full of essentials – such as EPs and white towels – he appears younger, too. I ask about the origins of his stage name. “[It's] a street name that Redman would shout out on his albums,” he says. “I flipped it a little bit.” Indeed, he’s created his own unique persona.
Juan Deuce doesn’t drink or smoke prior to a performance. He’s someone who takes his craft seriously, which can be a rarity in the ego-driven world of artists who let the game get the best of them. The minutes tick by; finally, it’s showtime. He’s joined on stage by Falside, a local producer and beatsmith, and DJ Emoh Betta, who’s been manipulating vinyl since 1998.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned by attending hundreds of shows over the years, it’s that hip-hop fans can …