In The New York Times Magazine: Margaux Lange’s Barbie-parts jewelry

Posted by Rob Walker on January 24, 2009
Posted Under: Consumed

Loved, hated, analyzed, critiqued — the iconic doll gets repurposed.

This week in Consumed, a jewelry-maker whose raw materials include pieces of Barbie, the consumption icon who turns 50 this year.

Margaux Lange figures she was about 4 or 5 when she got her first Barbie. “I remember very quickly becoming obsessed with collecting as many as I possibly could,” she says. Eventually she had around 50. “I played with them, embarrassingly, until about seventh or eighth grade. In secret.” She’s 29 now and makes jewelry for a living; in her studio, along with her soldering torch and other standard tools of the trade, is a much larger Barbie collection. But these dolls are mostly in pieces, stored in stacked plastic boxes marked with phrases like “One Eye” or “Mouths With Teeth.”

Lange is still playing with Barbie, in a way, but now the dolls are not so much toy companions as elements that she breaks down and incorporates into handmade rings, necklaces, brooches and the like: work made from “sterling silver and Barbie parts,” as she puts it.

Read the column in the January 25, 2009 New York Times Magazine, or here.

Consumed archive is here, and FAQ is here. The Times’ Consumed RSS feed is here. Consumed Facebook page is here.

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AFTER THE JUMP: Some background regarding how this week’s column came about. Only for those who are hard-core curious about the way I think — proceed at your own risk (of being bored).
On November 5, I posted one of my Just Looking entries, a visual of a Small Smile Ring by Margaux Lange that, as noted at the time, I picked up from Etsy’s Storque blog.

Later that same afternoon, by coincidence, Coolhunting put up a more detailed post about the same artist. Coolhunting’s item was promptly picked up by (which noted that it had actually posted about her more than a year ago, albeit in an item that wasn’t actually about her work but about a craft-fair experience). A few days later that post was picked up by BoingBoing, whose post was promptly picked up by Jezebel. Later in November, I see from Lange’s blog, she got a fresh spate of press in the UK.

The reason I was looking at Lange’s blog in mid-December is that by then I was thinking that her work was something I might write about it another context — my column. Among other things, it was a good back-door way to address the 50th anniversary of Barbie, coming up in 2009.

This raises, or raised, two questions.

1. I float potential topics here all the time, but this site should never have a role in creating attention that I subsequently use as a hook for the column. Any chance that happened here?

I think not. While I can only assume that the high-profile blog coverage helped with the UK press coverage, I can also only assume that had no role in any of this. After all, this is a marginal site that is not monitored by big-time bloggers like Craftzine. And nobody (including Lange herself) noted my November 5 linkage. Finally, Lange had gotten previous press and blog attention before the latest round.

So that eliminated, I think, my first potential dilemma.

2. But it raised another dilemma. I wondered if doing a column on her work would have the opposite effect — suggesting that I only learned about her work by reading high-profile blogs, and thus that I’m sort of stealing from them. In other words, would I look like a biter?

I think I have a fairly good track record of citing blogs when they are relevant to the column. But in this case, as it turned out, after researching and speaking to Lange, neither the bloggy nor traditional prior coverage was relevant to what I wanted to say. Did I still need to give “credit” to the big-time blogs — even if my interest in her work had nothing to do with the blog attention?

I decided the answer was no. It would have been a distraction from the point of the column, and would have been done more out of a sort of defensiveness than to actually serve the reader. And my job is to serve the reader, which trumps any concerns about what any third party (erroneously) believes.

I guess this is all the most inside of inside baseball to most of you. I’m basically thinking out loud about issues of interest only to someone who both has a site like this, and a column in a mainstream setting, and who tries to do the “right thing.” Whatever that means.

Further diversion may be found at MKTG Tumblr, and the Consumed Facebook page.

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