‘Another meaning under the glitter’

Duo decides what is cool.

Not many would consider the threat of losing your job or a 15-foot tumble off a roof a lucky break, but that’s how the gals behind Barbie’s Basement Jewellery (BBJ) see things. And that says a lot about why their “little-girl glitter jewellery” appeals to grown-up bent girls of all sexes and persuasions.

When Robin Woodward, 31, heard that she might lose her switchboard operator’s job, thanks to cutbacks, the promise of freedom unplugged her eight-year-old inner child the one who used to make Barbie jewellery and accessories, not for Barbie to wear, but to sell. The severance, she reasoned, would buy a lot of glitter.

Then the very worst thing happened: She didn’t lose her job. Still, she kept the hope of a glam career in jewellery design sparkling part time, until the “oh-I-really-like you” of her life, Ange Beever, 30, took a nasty spill – fractured skull, foot smashed in three places, intensive care, but, best of all, workers compensation for a year. While convalescing, Beever, a display artist, pitched in with production and the business took off.

“I got in there and made things a little more efficient,” says Beever. “Robin gets a little caught up in the detail, like looking for a bead for five minutes.”

In year two of their working relationship, sales increased 1,000 percent – more than $40,000 in the first quarter of this year. About 100 vendors, including stores in Athens and New Orleans, carry their line of rings, necklaces, pendants and very cool belt buckles.

The jewellery? Think Wonder Woman on pink sparkles encased in plastic on a silver buckle. Or Pee Wee Herman. Or Magnum PI. Whatever music, Hollywood or pop art icon comes to mind, chances are BBJ has immortalized it. If the icon is cool, that is, and cool is what BBJ decides is cool. That means no Barbie stuff.

“Mattel would sue us,” says Woodward. “I don’t like to intellectualize stuff like that,” Beever adds, “usually for simple reasons.”

“The images have to be funny, sexy, retro, gender bending, playful, fun, bent,” says Woodward. “A little girl in Thunder Bay can wear our ‘Princess’ glitter ring, but it means something else when a queen wears it on Church St. There’s usually another meaning under the glitter.”

“It has to have our energy in it,” says Beever.

For a dose of that energy, look for the duo’s performance art, which they do for fun. They perform as Beever, a drag king, and Trixie, a trailer-trash slut, at such places as the Bovine Sex Club and Strange Sisters. “We perform rude fantasies,” says Woodward. “But usually the femme is central, dominant, making the butch fulfill her fantasy.” Like Beever had to fall off a roof to figure that out.


Oh, and back to the deeper meaning of Barbie’s Basement Jewellery. Says Woodward: “Trixie sometimes does dirty, nasty things to Barbie.”

Right. This is performance jewellery.

You can see it next weekend at the hip and free DUDE, the Downtown Urban Design Event.

* Other DUDE vendors to check out include witty pillow-maker Yasmine Louis, Solstice bodycare products and Jump Clay ceramic artist Diane Hamilton.


6pm-Midnight. Fri, Jun 14.

11am-6pm. Jun 15.

The Latvian House.

491 College St.

(416) 535-2468.

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Culture, Media, Style, Arts, Toronto

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