Artist: Margaux Lange
Location: Brooklyn, NY
Website & Blog:
Margaux, would you describe your work for us?
My Plastic Body Series is art jewelry made with sterling silver, Barbie dolls and epoxy resin. It is an examination and celebration of my own, as well as our culture’s, relationship with Barbie.
What kind of training did you have which helped you achieve your current level of artistry?
I was first introduced to jewelry making in my high school (Lake George, NY) which was and still is, very fortunate to offer jewelry courses to its students. I’ve been a studio jeweler for the past six years since graduating college (The Maryland Institute College of Art, Baltimore, MD May 2001) I was a General Fine Arts major and took a variety of courses in various mediums until I decided to concentrate on jewelry. For me jewelry was a way of getting art off the wall and on to the body so it could be shared, experienced and quite literally felt.
After college I took an epoxy resin workshop with art jeweler Susan Kasson Sloan at Haystack Mountain School of Crafts that forever changed the techniques I utilize in my metalwork and has enabled all sorts of exploration with color.
While it is my fine art background that has given me the foundation necessary for conceptual exploration in my jewelry work, it is personal experience (i.e.: my childhood spent obsessed with Barbie and her miniature world) that I credit for the success of this series. Barbie was immensely important in fueling my creative life as a child, not to mention developing my nimble hands and dexterity, skills imperative to the art of jewelry making. I love that what I adored as a child has become the focus of my career as an adult.
How did you first get the idea to make jewelry out of Barbie dolls?
Barbie made her debut in my artwork in high school. I once did a project where I took a bunch of Barbie dolls and delicately painted on their plastic bodies, transforming each of them to look like something else. One was made into a carrot, another a zebra, etc. I even painted one with a suit and tie, a beard and a moustache to look like a man. Later in college I did a series of drawings: self-portraits of myself holding Barbie dolls, balancing her on my head, sitting her on my shoulder, in a sense wearing her. I was interested in combining alternative materials and/or found objects into my metalwork so it was really only a matter of time before she became a part of my jewelry.
Jewelry seemed the best form for my art in exploring the subjects I was interested in. It made sense to address issues involving women and the body through jewelry, (a form of adornment predominantly associated with females) using Barbie, the ultimate female icon. The queen of accessorizing became the accessory!
What is your creative process like? How do you go about designing a piece?
Sometimes there’s a storyline to my pieces and I’ll have a particular idea I wish to explore (depending on the doll parts being used) and that will serve as the concept that shapes the piece. Other times it’s purely about design and arranging shapes and patterns within multiple elements. And sometimes it’s both, where I start out with a pattern or design in mind and by the end a concept has evolved. My design process varies a lot from piece to piece.
I usually tend to work in smaller time segments throughout the week but aim for at least 15-20 studio hours total per week. The business end of my jewelry ends up requiring a lot more time away from my studio than I ever imagined it would: spending time on the computer with emails, my website, blog, etc.
I also currently have part-time outside employment as well to help make ends meet. Unfortunately at this point in my career it’s a necessity but I’m confident that it won’t always be. That’s what I’m working towards: successfully making a living off my art!
Is there a tool or material that you can’t imagine living without?
Barbie and Ken!
What inspires you to create?
Humans are especially what inspire me to create. Bodies. Faces. Popular culture. Barbie. And other artists and art jewelers who make fabulous work. I’m drawn to art that employs multiples of something, patterns, work that plays with our sense of scale and art made out of found, unexpected or unusual materials.
What inspires you to keep going when the work gets frustrating or tough?
The people who appreciate and support my work are what keep me going through the tough times. It’s important to have a support system. I’m very fortunate to have a few amazingly supportive artist friends. Also, when I get emails from people saying how much they love my jewelry or share stories of their Barbie experiences, I feel such a sense of accomplishment and it reminds me of what I love about art: it’s ability to connect on a personal level.
One of the biggest joys for me has been the way others receive my jewelry. It continues to amaze me the range of responses I get regarding what I do with Barbie. Some people respond to its humor and wit and think it’s pure fun, or it feeds a sense of nostalgia for them. Others weigh in on the feminist edge and relate to its statement. Some are creeped out and think it’s dark and disturbing to see “body parts” cut up. Others think it’s just simply bizarre. I love that everyone brings his or her own baggage and reaction to the work, indicative of their own relationship with, or feelings about, the iconic plastic princess as well as what defines “wearable jewelry.” One of my biggest goals has been to create art that people can relate to. I believe I’ve been successful with this.
What is your best piece of advice for those who would like to rise in their level of artistry?
Pay attention to your “voice.” Everyone has one that is uniquely their own and it’s hard to uncover at times. (Especially with the influence of teachers, mentors, fellow artists, friends, or family who sometimes offer resistance or persuade you away from your own true voice or vision.) Strive to unearth not only your personal strengths and talents but also that which gives you a deep sense of satisfaction and you will find yourself excelling naturally.
Also, and this is hugely important, surround yourself with positive people: those who support and encourage you to do what you love. It can be painful and difficult to weed out those who bring you down, but sometimes it’s crucial to your personal and professional growth.
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