Margaux Lange creates Barbie jewellery for grown ups, her work is exquisitely beautiful and in my experience, it provokes the most extreme reactions from customers which to me is a great thing!
Margaux is one of my all time favourite jewellery designers and I’m very happy to share this interview with you. We first published this interview last year, but used it again in the first issue of our zine and I thought it would be nice to introduce Margaux to some of our newer customers and readers. I hope you enjoy it…
Where do you live?
I recently moved from Brooklyn, NY to Beacon, NY which is a small city about 80 minutes north of New York City.
Can you tell us about your artistic background?
I’ve identified as an artist for as long as I can remember. I knew pretty early on in grade school that I wanted to go to college to study art. I received my BFA from the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore, Maryland.
What does Barbie mean to you and why did you choose to work with her?
I used to be obsessed with Barbie as a kid and I would spend hours crafting precious details for her miniature world. Playing with Barbie dolls helped me to develop dexterity and strengthened my attention to detail, which coincidentally, happen to be skills imperative to jewelry making.
Barbie made her debut in my artwork in high school and then again in various incarnations throughout college (drawings, sculptures, etc) I became interested in incorporating found objects into my jewelry work. Because I had done other artworks with Barbie in the past, it felt natural to try to find a way to combine the doll with my jewelry. It was an unusual concept with a strong personal connection, so the idea felt right. The Plastic Body Series continued to grow from there.
Your work tends to provoke a reaction, what’s the most extreme reaction you’ve had and how did it make you feel/how did you deal with it?
Iʼve heard just about every possible reaction to my work by now. The range of response is a huge part of what drives me to continue with this series. I love that everyone brings his or her own baggage. Itʼs indicative of their own relationship with, or feelings about Barbie, and it also speaks to what people deem “wearable” in regards to jewelry. My goal has been to create art that a broad range of people can relate to and I believe Iʼve been successful with this.
I started a blog that pulls together some of the various comments about my work I’ve come across online. It’s called Creepy but Cool (the single most popular feedback phrase I hear). This blog was my way of coping with and sharing some of the responses. Whether positive or negative theyʼre always interesting to me.
Can you describe the environment you work in/your studio?
My studio is in a bedroom upstairs in our house. There are 5 main “stations” in my studio.
1. my jeweler’s bench, where all the silver fabrication magic happens
2. my layout table, where orders are assembled
3. my soldering station
4. my cutting and resin table, where all the Barbie faces get cut and pigmented resins
get tinted and mixed by hand
5. and my storage area where all the doll parts are kept in their labeled bins.
An average work day consists of?
An average work day at my home studio is usually split in two: one part computer work
and one part studio work. From 7:30am – 11am Iʼm at my computer dealing with emails
and all other work related computer tasks. After lunch I head to my studio to design and
fabricate jewelry, usually until around 6 or 7pm.
What do you listen to while you work?
Most of the time I listen to public radio or podcasts while I’m working. My favorite podcasts include: This American Life, Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me, Real Time with Bill Maher and Studio 360.
Your worst/most embarrassing work based mistake?
An embarrassing moment in my career that comes to mind is when I unknowingly gave my necklace to a con artist. The short story goes like this… I agreed to loan a one-of-a- kind necklace to a guy who claimed his company was interested in borrowing the piece for a magazine shoot. Instead he ended up being a scam artist and had intended to sell my necklace. He defrauded lots of other artists as well and stole thousands of dollars worth of art goods.
I reported him to the police as did many other victims and luckily he was caught before my necklace had actually been sold. It was eventually returned to me. He was found guilty of “Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree” and sentenced to 5 years probation. As awful as it was at the time, I learned a lot from the experience. In retrospect, there were red flags I chose to ignore. I should have trusted my gut and not him. I am thankful there was a just and happy ending, and now that necklace sure does come with an interesting story!
Your favourite piece so far?
The Yes Neckpiece (above) is a favorite because it’s a very personal self-portrait. It commemorates my engagement to my (then) fiancé, now husband. It’s a Barbie and Ken encased in silver and 14k gold, embracing. The word “Yes” is written in gold wire script below them. The Barbie hand has a raw diamond and gold ring on her finger (my own engagement ring is made of raw diamonds and gold.) The Barbie also has some of my actual red hair framing her face. It was wonderful to make a piece with myself as the wearer in mind for once. I don’t actually own a lot of my own jewelry. This is one I will always treasure.
What is your proudest moment as an artist?
One of my proudest moments was my first art jewelry opening in New York City at Julie Artisans’ Gallery in the Spring of 2004. I felt fortunate to be represented by such an important Art jewelry gallery so soon out of college. I was also particularly proud of the collection I presented as it was a culmination of a few years worth of exploring working
with Barbie. My family and friends were all there to support me that night which was the
best feeling ever.
What do you do when you don’t work? Any hobbies?
When I’m not working I like to enjoy time with my hubby, spend time in nature, spend
time online, watch movies, read books, and be with family and friends. I collect hands
and rusty old washers (the small round variety with the hole in the middle, not washing
machines. haha) I actually find a good many of them on the ground when I’m out
Where do you see yourself in 5 years from now?
I see myself working in a large, sun-drenched studio! My current workspace in our rental house is quite small. My husband and I are planning to buy a home within the next year so I’ve been doing a lot of daydreaming about my new, bigger, better studio set-up where I’ll have a properly installed exhaust system, plenty of storage for the Barbies, etc…
Other than that, I see myself continuing on, rockin’ it as a jewelry artist with perhaps an
assistant or two. I will likely continue on with the Plastic Body Series, however I plan to
start a different series of jewelry in addition to this work. So many ideas, so little time to
Anything else you’d like to share?
There’s a quote that I cut out of a magazine when I was in high school which has hung on the wall of every studio space I’ve occupied since. It reads:
“For a very long time everybody refuses and then almost without a pause almost
everybody accepts” (I have no idea who the quote comes from unfortunately)
What I prefer to read into this rather simplistic quote is… if what you enjoy doing or choose to pursue with your life seems weird or odd to others, it doesn’t matter. And often with enough time, people eventually come around and stop refusing and start paying attention.
So at the risk of sounding completely cheesy self-help slogan-ish… follow your dreams people! No matter how strange others may think they are. Oddballs with unique ideas make the world go round.
As a little girl (and as a not so little girl) I loved playing with my Barbie, she was an inspiration to my imagination and I could lose myself in her world. I love that the 2 designer interviews I’ve blogged today both cite Barbie as an inspiration too.
You can buy Margaux’s work on Hannah Zakari.
I hope you’ve enjoyed both interviews today, I’ll be blogging more zine articles over the xmas hols but you can still request a copy of issue 2 by emailing me your address. Issue 1 is no longer available in print I’m afraid, but we’ll have everything up here soon.