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By Dennis Romero
Photos by Julie Pavlowski
OLD RECORDS, HUNDREDS OF THEM, ARE SCATTERED OVER MUCH OF THE AVAILABLE counter space in Ryan Paravecchio's kitchen. Some are still in album covers — there are '70s bands such as the Bar-Kays, plus an occasional Kool & the Gang platter — but mostly it's just records lying around, cut into strips of various shapes and sizes. The kitchen looks like the vinyl equivalent of the elephant graveyard, the place where old records go to die.
Well, not die exactly. More like be reincarnated. Paravecchio, who runs Pent Manufacturing, a one-man design operation out of Silver Lake, takes old albums and recycles them into jewelry as well as household items such as light shades and picture frames. The 30-year-old designer first came up with the idea of using vinyl as material three years ago, when he was working as an art director for commercials and music videos. "In music videos, people are always using old vinyl for props," he says, sitting in the living room of his guesthouse, which doubles as his work studio. "And after the video shoot is over, they just get trucked to the dump by the thousands."
After the former drummer — his band, 30 Ought 6, was signed to Mute Records from 1994 to 1996 — decided to leave art direction, he struck a deal with a collector who agreed to keep Paravecchio stocked with a steady supply of damaged records the collector wanted out of circulation. It took a while to fine-tune the whole process, to find just the right temperature to heat the vinyl to — Ryan's a little cagey about the details, trade secrets and all that — as well as come up with a way to mold the vinyl. And then, one night at the Short Stop, a young clubgoer was so impressed with one of his bracelets that he was wearing, she bought it off him right there for $50.
Disc jockey: Ryan Paravecchio took a tom drum left over from a Blink-182 shoot, coupled it with a dry/wet vac, and created a vacuforming device to mold his light shades. "I realized I could take something that people were throwing away and make it into something that people were excited about," Paravecchio says. "It's interesting to take a visual form of sound and turn it into something solely visual." His early designs — bracelets that look like they're made from thick sheets of licorice — have given way to more delicate pieces made from colored records. His light-switch covers elevate everyday objects to works of art with smooth iridescent and swirled surfaces. He's even created a skateboard deck made entirely from recycled vinyl. It's that kind of playfulness and innovation that landed Paravecchio in Philadelphia University's exhibition "What Is Design Today?" (which will be traveling to L.A. later this year), alongside such heavyweights as Philippe Starck.
Maybe it's the musician in him, but Paravecchio still holds a certain respect for the records themselves, maintaining that he "only uses the ones that are messed up or defective in some kind of way. There's actually this other company that just started a couple of months ago in Seattle that makes switch-plate covers. But they use really good albums that they get from Goodwill and places, with these really pretty labels, and there's nothing even wrong with the records." Paravecchio shakes his head at such sacrilege.
Back in the kitchen, he pulls a Barbra Streisand album from a pile and looks at it for a second. "See, that's one of the ones I couldn't really cut up," he says. He thinks for a minute before adding: "Wait, you can't print that I'm saving the Barbra Streisand records. People will think I'm . . . nah, she gets saved." He thumbs through the rest, reading the names aloud. Jimmy Lynch. Becky Carr. Paravecchio pulls a copy of Perry Como's Make Someone Happyfrom the stack. "I can't cut up Perry Como," he says. "I've got Italian grandparents, you know. They'd kill me."
Pent Manufacturing is available at Plastica, 8405 W. Third St., (323) 655-1051; Sirens & Sailors, 1102 Mohawk St., Silver Lake, (213) 483-5423; MOCA Store, 2447 Main St., Santa Monica, (310) 396-9833; Patrick Reid, 705 Montana Ave., Santa Monica, (310) 395-9991; or email@example.com.