12 March 2009

Spotlight on....Margaux Lange

A few weeks ago, I read an article in the NY Times Magazine called Deconstructing Barbie by Rob Walker, about an art jeweler named Margaux Lange who uses Barbie dolls to make jewelry. My interest was piqued so I looked at her website and blog- and was enamored with her work and inspired by the fact that she recently quit her day job to pursue her art full- time.

(Photo: Margaux amongst her muses.)

Can you talk about how your career is unfolding?
This is a tough one to sum up in a few paragraphs so I'll try to just hit the major biographical bullet points:

• worked at a production jewelry company after college - didn't love it, but it helped me to realize that working as a pair of hands for someone else was definitely NOT what I wanted to do with my career.

• approached two major art jewelry galleries with my "Plastic Body Series" and was immediately taken on: Julie Artisans' Gallery in NYC and Facéré Jewelry Art Gallery in Seattle.

• steadily applied to more juried shows and took on other gallery representation for my one-offs in various other galleries across the US.

• debated grad school but decided to move to NYC instead.

• decided I needed to diversify my price points, so I opened an etsy shop to sell my production pieces, which are more paired-down works in the series that I make in multiples at a lower price than my one-offs.

• worked temporarily for several jewelers in NYC doing contract labor before ending up working for a woman who had a wholesale jewelry business and ran a gift boutique in Brooklyn. Working in retail and learning about running a wholesale jewelry business taught me a lot!

• created a wholesale catalog for my work, and took on my first few wholesale accounts.

• found my dream studio 5 blocks away from my apartment.

• quit my part-time job to pursue my jewelry full time!

Do you have a ritual that gets you ready and rarin' to go to the studio?
I wake up, make myself some iced coffee (summer or winter - always iced) and sit down at my desk to deal with my computer related business tasks of the day: making lists, emails, blogging, bills, printing shipping labels, etc. After that, it's breakfast and a shower and I walk 5 blocks to my studio to start making work.

Can you describe your creative process, do you start with sketches? Do you play around with materials?
Most of my ideas will start with sketches, but other times I just begin arranging and playing with the Barbie doll parts or metal to see what interesting patterns/ shapes emerge.

What inspires you?
Humans-- human behavior and interactions, relationships, faces, expressions, bodies. Feminism, gender, pop culture. Patterns, colors, repetition, multiples, unusual or unexpected materials.

What is the most challenging part of your art or art making process?
Balancing the business side with the creative side and the time split between the two. And staying on top of my emails - a never ending battle for me!

What do you like to do when you're not making jewelry?
When I'm not making jewelry I really enjoy "nesting" ie: decorating and redecorating my apartment, looking at and buying other artist's work, etc. and spending time with my boyfriend and our crazy cats. When the weather's nice, outdoor activities also inspire me and keep my creativity on track. Exploring NYC and visiting my hometown of Lake George, NY are also at the top of my list.

I saw that you have a blog dedicated to some of the more notable reactions to your work, Creepy but Cool. Did you expect people to react to your work so strongly when you first started? How do you deal with this kind of feedback?
No, I didn't expect that people would react so strongly when I first started. Barbie is a loaded subject matter and that is an important aspect of my work. The range of responses I get to my work interests me. I love that everyone brings his or her own baggage. It is usually indicative of an individual's own relationship with, or feelings about the doll, as well as what may or may not define "wearable jewelry" to an individual. My goal has been to create art that a broad range of people can relate to and I feel I've been successful with this.

What is on your current reading list?
I read a lot about feminism as well as business related books. Currently on my nightstand:
Full Frontal Feminism by Jessica Valenti
The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron
The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf
Be Heard Now! by Lee Glickstein
The Artist-Gallery Partnership by Tad Crawford and Susan Mellon and the book that my boyfriend wants me to read because he insists I'll really like it: The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman.

What does a typical week in your life look like?
There are no typical weeks. That's the thing about working for yourself, it's constantly fluctuating depending on what hat I have to wear that day, what deadlines are in front of me, or what needs to get done in my business and/or personal life. I love that my job also allows for a lot of flexibility in my schedule. Also, when you work for yourself your job doesn't really have set hours, so when I'm not in my studio making jewelry, I'm usually at home dealing with something
business related via the computer, etc. It's really more like a 24 hour job.

What projects are you currently working on?
I just completed a large collection of work for a designer boutique in Paris called Colette. The shop has been transformed for the month of March in celebration of Barbie's 50th birthday. Various designers were selected to honor the icon with limited edition exclusive works for this special month long presentation. I'm also in the early planning stages for a solo show happening in December 2009 at Luke and Elloy Gallery in Pittsburgh PA.

Do you have a dream project?
I'm not sure I have a dream "project" per se, but I can happily declare that I am living my dream! Since August I've been a full-time artist. Ever since I was a little girl I've said, "I want to be an artist when I grow up" and now I am. Making art has always been what I enjoy above all else, so it was just a matter of finding a way to earn my living from it. I have the best job ever and I remind myself of that often.

What artists, mentors, jewelers, books, friends etc. have had an impact on your development as an artist and creative person?
Kate Cusack: fellow artist and best friend. She has been my number one influence and support system for my art career ever since college.
Other people who stand out as having impacted my career:
Mrs. Wilson: my high school art teacher and first ever jewelry/metals instructor
Kirsten Rook: my most inspiring college professor and jewelry instructor
Todd Reed: art jeweler whom I admire. I met with him when I lived in CO and he reviewed my portfolio with great feedback (which at the time I presented to him in a shoe box, gasp!)
Susan Kasson Sloan: took an epoxy resin workshop with her at Haystack in Maine, she's fantastic.
My parents: who've always encouraged my creativity
• and of course my web & graphic designer (aka: my amazing, supportive boyfriend David Balogh)
As far as books: one of my all-time favorites is Art & Fear by David Bayles & Ted Orland.

What words do you live by?
"For a long time everybody refuses, and then almost without a pause, almost everyone accepts" - this is a quote that I cut out of a magazine when I was in high school and has been hung on the wall of every studio I've ever occupied. It has yellowed and is really beaten up now, but it still gives me comfort to see it there on my wall.

Also, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" (thanks Dad)

Margaux Lange lives and works in Brooklyn, NY. She re-Members Barbie™ fondly! Her Plastic Body Series Jewelry Collection is the result of her life-long fascination with the icon, and a desire to re-purpose mass produced materials into distinctly handmade, wearable artworks. Take a look at her website, her blog, and her etsy shop!!

Thanks Margaux!!