Interview: Margaux Lange “Barbie’s Chop Shop”Fashion, Featured — By JGM Staff on February 24, 2010 at 8:55 am
Meet the woman who has taken the iconic female childhood toy, Barbie, to the next level. Margaux Lange has utilized Barbie in ways that were previously unthinkable. She has constructed Barbie into fashionable jewelery and accessories using parts off the the doll, turning the heads of people everywhere. She has been featured in magazines such as Elle and New York Times Magazine, and now we are proud to feature her here, at Jungle Gym Magazine this month. We talked with her to get her perspective on Barbie and to get insight on her work ethic.
JGM: Who is Margaux Lange, how do you identify yourself with Barbie?
ML: My experience with Barbie was uniquely positive as a child. She played a pivotal role in my development as a tool for acting out and exploring human relationships. I believe that extensive play with the dolls also helped to develop my dexterity and strengthen my attention to small detail, skills imperative to the craft of jewelry making. I identify with Barbie through a sense of nostalgia for my intensely imaginative childhood.
JGM: When did you start to reconstruct your favorite childhood toy into works of art and jewelry? What was your ﬁrst Barbie inspired creation?
ML: Barbie made her debut in my artwork in high school (drawings, sculptures, etc) and then again in various incarnations throughout college where I studied ﬁne Art (Maryland Institute College of Art, Baltimore, MD.) I became interested in incorporating found objects into my metalwork and because I had made art with Barbie in the past it felt natural to try her out in the jewelry realm. It was an unusual idea with a strong personal connection for me, so it felt right. The ﬁrst piece in the series was a pair of Barbie hand earrings. It seemed the most obvious at the time (2 hands, 2 ears… viola!) It started there and soon grew into the full-ﬂedged Plastic Body Series.
JGM: Do you still collect as well as construct? How many dolls would you say you go through in a month? Is every part of the doll used?
ML: If by collect you mean never-removed-from-box Barbies, no. I am not a Barbie collector in the traditional sense, though I do have a few unusual dolls I’ve come across while purchasing salvaged dolls as supplies that I keep around my studio because they fascinate me in some way. I don’t think I can estimate how many dolls I use in a month. It depends on what I’m making, or what exhibitions or orders I have to ﬁll. I have thousands of dolls and doll parts in my studio however I frequently buy more. Some parts I’m in constant need of: red lips for instance. Yes, every part of the doll has been used though some parts are used more often than others (eyes and mouths the most these days.)
JGM: How long have you been doing this? How many collections or series have you created so far?
ML: I’ve been creating work in the Plastic Body Series for almost ten years since graduating college and while I sometimes make other non-Barbie jewelry, I have not yet created another “series” or collection of other works… but stay tuned.
JGM: Some people may view your work as creepy some see it as creative. What are some of the positives and negatives that you have dealt with during your career?
ML: The range of responses to my work is a huge part of what drives me to continue with the series. I love that everyone brings his or her own baggage with regard to Barbie, indicative of their own relationship with, or feelings about the doll as well as how that individual defines wearable jewelry. My goal has been to create work that a broad range of people can relate to and I believe I’ve been successful with this. The Plastic Body Series is sought after by Art Jewelry collectors, Barbie nostalgics, and bold individuals who aren’t afraid to wear jewelry that sparks a conversation. Some people respond to its humor and think it’s clever and fun, or it feeds a sense of nostalgia for them. Some wear it as a feminist statement and others simply appreciate it because it’s unique. And others yes, think it’s creepy or weird. I encourage all responses. As long as people are reacting and talking about it, that’s a good thing in my book. I started a blog to document some of the responses I’ve found written about my work online called “Creepy but Cool.” I ﬁnd this helps me deal with the negative criticisms in a constructive, even humorous way.
JGM: In your NY Times magazine article you stated, “I think people have a hard time separating Barbie from a real woman”. Could you elaborate?
ML: There are those who are put off by my work and think it’s sinister to see Barbie dolls in pieces. For some it appears murderous to transform her as I do, and the reality of Barbie as toy – plastic and not alive – is indistinguishable from her imagined or prescribed role as: Woman. An inability to separate the “woman” from the plastic only further indicates the amount of humanness we have attached to this particular inanimate object. I ﬁnd this fascinating.
JGM: Have you ever collaborated with any other designers for an exclusive series? If not do you plan on doing so? What achievements have you made in your career so far, that you are proud of?
ML: No, I have not yet collaborated with any other designers. I’m proud of all my
achievements thus far. I’m proud of the amazing press I’ve received, the notable
publications and books my work has been featured in, and that a couple high proﬁle celebrities own some of my jewelry. But most of all I’m proud to be living my dream as a self-employed full time artist doing what I love day in and day out.
JGM: If you couldn’t use Barbie to create jewelry would you use any other toy? Which?
ML: No, I don’t think I would use another toy. There’s a real personal connection for me in choosing to use Barbie dolls which I think is part of what makes the series special for me.
JGM: What current projects are you working on and what can we be expecting from you in the future?
ML: Currently, I’m focused on custom work and ﬁlling orders for some new wholesale accounts. I’m also in the beginning stages of experimenting with a new collection which I’m not yet ready to reveal. You’ll just have to stay tuned!
JGM: What would you like to tell your supporters and fans?
ML: I appreciate the support and enthusiasm of all my fans, whether buyers or admirers. It continues to amaze me when people respond to my work. To know my work has connected with someone always helps me feel inspired and excited to create more.