DOLL ART: Jennifer Edwards recycles secondhand Barbie dolls and dresses them with a tribal theme.
DOLL ART: Jennifer Edwards recycles secondhand Barbie dolls and dresses them with a tribal theme. Yvonne Gardiner

Recycled Barbie dolls dressed for new lives

THE Barbie doll, since its invention in 1959, has enjoyed longlasting popularity and lots of costume changes.

Ballina artist Jennifer Edwards searches secondhand shops for discarded and unloved Barbies, and gives them a new life.

She has created the "tribal Barbie", adorned with op shop jewellery, scraps of material and trinkets.

"The first idea came from nature - I saw the palm frond and picked it up," Jennifer said. "I'm an artist, and always looking for beautiful things. I put the Barbie doll in the palm frond. Each doll takes me two to three days to make.

"I took the recycled dolls to the markets at Bangalow and Byron, and sometimes I'd set up at Lennox."

Jennifer had no idea her doll art would turn into a business. She estimates she's now transformed about 250 of the Barbies.

"Everything I've got on the dolls is from the op shop," Jennifer said. "I wash the material and the doll. It has to be perfect. They're all different. I've found they're really popular.

"It's a tribal theme. I was brought up in the Caribbean. My father was an engineer and he took us travelling."

The Barbie doll was invented by Ruth Handler, the co-founder of Mattel, whose own daughter was named Barbara. Barbie was introduced to the world at the American Toy Fair in New York City. Barbie's job was to serve as a teenage fashion doll.

The Ken doll was named after Ruth's son and was introduced two years after Barbie, in 1961.

By recycling these distinctive dolls, Jennifer feels she's doing something good for the Earth.

"I keep a collection of 20 dolls to sell," she said. "Recently I sold eight Barbies to the Aboriginal child care centre in Ballina.

"Adults buy them for themselves. I take photos of all the tribal dolls I make."

Jennifer earned a degree in painting from the Lismore College of the Arts in 1991.

Apart from the dolls, she also uses her artistry to decorate guitars with seashells.

"Art takes you into a peaceful zone, another dimension," she said. "I put on really nice music and it's like a form of meditation."

Phone Jennifer on 0402 325 508 if the tribal Barbie takes your fancy.

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