Behind the Screens: Remembering Barbie


There are few things we love more at FV than telling stories through pattern, material, color, and texture.

Flat Vernacular officially began as a company in 2010 after I fell madly in love with the blurry lines between art and design, which I first encountered and explored through making sticker wallpaper as the backdrop for my senior thesis at art college. 

Yes! These are all stickers. Hand-applied. Want to see a time lapse video of a sticker wallpaper project? Check it out.

In 2019, FV was asked if we would participate in the show Barbie: Dreaming of a Female Future at the Birmingham Museum of Art. My answer was an immediate YES! I couldn't imagine a more fun project (albeit complex if we think deeply about what Barbie represents and does not represent for so many women and girls and people) to work on. Originally, the curators wanted us to donate some of our wallpaper, but I had other ideas. I designed and our studio created two large scale pieces for installation in the museum. The first was "If The Shoe Fits" which is a 12' piece comprised of hand-applied Barbie shoes to pink wood panels, then coated in resin. The design is inspired by historic quilt patterns, in part because quilting is a domestic art form and therefore unserious and/or dismissed (take a look at artist Faith Ringgold's work for a masterful use of quilts and quilting in her body of work). Referencing a craft felt appropriate for the conversation behind this piece, too. I tend to prefer process heavy projects, whether they be months of research and painting or hours spent adhering teeny tiny things to huge pieces of wood. I research, I collect, I harvest ideas from weird parts of my brain, then I spit them out as something new. 

Process and Patience

We started out by sourcing hundreds of shoes, then sorting them by style and color. I made different arrangements and we created a small sample to see how the materials would act when put together. Then, we began! Slowly. Very. Slowly.

The two most nerve wracking parts of this piece were pouring the resin and transporting the huge piece down to Alabama.

The Final Piece:

The second piece was a little less complicated but equally bright and phenomenally sparkly. We created a simple trellis/basketweave pattern made entirely of hand-applied gemstones which were adhered to pink wood panels and installed piece by piece in the museum. The final piece, titled "Brighter Futures," now lives at the amazing Magic City Acceptance Center in Birmingham, Alabama.

Yes! Each gem was glued by hand. There's no other way. 

The Final Piece:

The whole show was fantastic. You can read more about it here.

Leave a comment