PechaKucha presenter Margaret Rizzio collects antique ephemera as an art form

Behind The Slides: The artist who mails toast and doll arms

Sun, 08/24/2014 - 8:15pm

    Welcome to our ongoing feature Behind the Slides, where we meet up with an artist who recently presented at a local PechaKucha night and find out the deeper story beneath the images he or she chose to portray.

    Artist Margaret Rizzio was one of the presenters at PechaKucha Night in the Camden Public Library’s Amphitheatre on Aug. 15. Born and raised in Maine, her current work uses a wide range of mediums, including printmaking, mail and assemblage, to embrace the idea of memory and the passage of time.

    Note: Rizzio's PechaKucha slides appear in the right column. Click on the photos to match them with the actual slide notes (in italics). Beneath the slide notes will be the deeper story.


    I have always been in love with ephemera, postcards, boxes labels, games, matchbooks You name it. Anything printed I love. But very specifically vintage ephemera from the 1950s and 60s. The rich color saturation of things printed during this time is true perfection to me. I especially love the printed color red from the 1950s. It is richer than a modern day red.

    This image and the previous are from a series of 120 matchbooks I made using pieces of my prints from my Bennington days and a collection of playing cards and small toys.

    Bennington and Purchase

    At Bennington and Purchase I discovered the most wonderful print studios and quickly became obsessed with making my own ephemera and also incorporating the old ephemera that I collect into the work.

    Bennington was an amazing school to attend. I learned so many wonderful things about printmaking. At Purchase I got to work in the most beautiful letterpress studio.


    These assemblages, which I am showing here become little worlds. I like the idea that at first glance you don't really get everything and hopefully want to come back to discover each layer, uncover mysteries. See where each element came from.

    This Rabbit Piece is one of my favorite pieces that I have in an upcoming show at the Good Supply in Pemaquid, Maine. It is made from a vintage cigar box, labels and antique post cards.

    The Hunt

    Another aspect of my work are the stories of where all this material comes from. I think that might be one of the most frequently asked questions...Where did you get all these things? Where did you find that label or frame? The answer is Maine. From my favorite antique shop, in Belfast to auctions up north. The hunting and collecting of material becomes part of the work. After not having access to a print studio on a regular basis my work began to move towards assemblage.

    In these pieces I use all original vintage or antique ephemera. That is very important to me not to use reproductions of anything.

    Mail Art

    So thinking about breathing new life into otherwise lost things I started to send a lot of mail. It started with my mom who, in the past 10 years, has received hundreds of pieces of mail art and post cards. These are just a few pieces of things sent. What really got me into mail also is post cards.

    Doll Arm

    I have always collected post cards but never really reflected on how brilliant they are. They are tiny pieces of art work that can be sent anywhere in the world for just the price of a stamp. I like to think of people receiving this mail amongst bills and catalogues and they can stop and enjoy this little piece of art.

    I was sending so many postcards and decided to take it further by sending mail objects. Here we have a doll arm I sent. I wanted it to greet the recipient when they opened their mailbox. I also sent all the other limbs to different people in the United States. I was sending so much mail and I really love doing it, so I decided to start a mail art subscription service, which I started about a year and a half ago, and now I have several clients across the country who subscribe who have been given the gift of mail. It is like a magazine subscription but more frequent and with mail art.


    A piece of toast sent. One thing I love about mail is that it can be a reflection of time, what place were you in your life when you received this toast? Would you do that with an email?

    In a screen-obsessed time, it is really important to slow down and unplug. I want my work and my mail art to do this. I wanted this PechaKucha presentation to make people, even for a brief moment once again, appreciate mail, cookbooks, labels, bingo boards or other otherwise overlooked printed matter.

    She is currently showing work at The Maine Farmland Trust Gallery, Turtle Gallery in Deer Isle and has an upcoming show at the Good Supply in Pemaquid. For more information about PechaKucha visit them on Facebook.

    Kay Stephens can be reached at