The Insider

Gum Artist

Bubble-blower Marraccini, with daughter Marliana, is hesitant to part with his art:
Bubble-blower Marraccini, with daughter Marliana, is hesitant to part with his art: "I sold a couple of pieces, but I kind of missed them." (By Sora Devore For The Washington Post)
By Joe Heim
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, April 16, 2006

Jamie Marraccini chews gum. Lots of it. By day, the Roanoke native, who lives in Potomac Falls, is a COO with an international technology firm. But his true passion is gum art, and he has spent countless hours creating mind-boggling works from the sticky stuff. (His creations can be seen at http://www.gumart.com/ .) The 36-year-old's most recent project is creating gum-by-numbers kits ( http://www.chewbynumbers.com/ ) for DIYers who want to make their own art.

How did you get started doing this?

I love bubble gum, I've always collected things and I hate to waste stuff. If you mix those three ingredients, that's a primordial soup and eventually there's a bolt of lightning that causes art to be created. I used to save it in on the wall of my locker in high school. It was just wads, but by the end of the year it was colorful and nice. The reactions I got from people was what fueled the desire to make more art.

How much gum have you chewed?

When I was trying to accomplish all of the chewing myself, I worked on 10 large pieces of gum at a time. And I started to develop some incredible muscle tone in my jaw. My lower jaw would kind of swell to the point where I would have an underbite. And that was where I realized I was doing this a little too much. So I started to farm out the chewing a little bit. . . . But my guess is around 50,000 pieces.

How, exactly, do you go about asking other people to chew gum for you?

You know, it's amazing, I don't have to ask. They want to do it. I rarely talk about my gum art, but eventually someone hears about it. . . . And when they see it, they're interested in participating. And I just say, "Yeah if you ever want to chew some gum, I'll supply all the gum, I'll supply the cups. You just have to chew it properly and save it."

So when you work with the gum they return, do you wear plastic gloves?

No. No gloves. Now I've learned over the years that it's best not to work with the fresh gum because you want to let it age a little bit. You want to see if there's anything wrong with it. Gum is amazing stuff. But every once in a while, someone's got a little hygiene problem; it'll make the gum turn.

What do you mean, "it turns"?

It kind of starts to rot. I don't want to gross you out or anything.

Hmm. It's a little late for that. Let's talk about your favorite gums to work with.


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