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The Dart: Artist ‘paints with string’

Nancy Ziccardi, a retired social worker originally from south New Jersey, has always enjoyed working with her hands.

She plays the guitar and piano and teaches music at Cahaba Mental Health Center, but now she’s doing something else with her hands –– making rugs out yarn, string, rope and other fibers.

“It’s real interesting,” Ziccardi said Friday while working on one of her pieces at her studio on Martin Luther King Street. “It’s kind of like painting with string. It’s real different.”

A lot of the material she uses has been collected over the years, and now she is putting it to use.

“What’s really funny about it is that I’ve collected string and yarn and all this junk for probably 10 years, and some of it is from my mother’s sewing box,” she laughed.
She learned how to crochet as a child, but she never really got into crocheting until this year.

“When I was a kid I crocheted, and so two art degrees later and how many years later at 64 years of age, I’m going back to crochet and fiber to spite my education,” Ziccardi said. “I’ve been making small ones, but during Trump’s inauguration, which is kind of my joke, I just got real big and made these big ones.”

Ziccardi said several of her pieces are inspired by nature.

“I’m really interested in the colors of water, and then the sky colors, the blues and Payne’s grey,” she said. “I can get real bright and funny, but I’m real interested in natural colors.”

Ziccardi said she picks one color, and as she works her way out from the center, she starts to develop a color palette.

“Right now, it’s a process of color, and actually most of them are round, so whatever I color I start with in the center slowly moves out, and then I start collecting my colors,” she said. “I guess you start working your palette.”

While making one of her rugs, one of the things Ziccardi has to do is make sure she keeps it flat. One piece she made ended up curling up into a basket shape.

“Every piece you do, you learn something. I’m sure every artist will tell you that,” she said. “Learning from my mistakes, I could be making baskets. It was very unusual … so that may be interesting.”

She also has to keep in mind the material she uses to make them.

“What’s really important is the integrity of your piece, that the materials are not going to die in 10 years,” she added.

With around 20 pieces complete, Ziccardi is aiming for 30 in hopes of getting them in Gallery 905 for people to buy.

“I’m kind of obsessed with it now. Instead of doing something else, I come over here. I’m like what’s the next color now? How am I going to fix it,” she said.

Anyone interested in seeing her art can stop by her studio, River City Studios, on Martin Luther King Street next to Holley True Value.