Updated: Apr 14, 2022
The month of April often has many people, including myself, warier of their consumer practices. We become more aware of what we buy, the brands we support, and the environment as a whole. I always try to think this way but what can I say, Earth Day was put on the calendar for a reason (April 22nd, friends!) We all need a little reminder now and again.
Art and the artists who produce these works often remind us too. I’m happy to say so many promote sustainable living, buying, and creating. One of these artists is this month’s Artist Spotlight feature, Margaux Mays, the founder of Margaux Bijoux. I found Margaux’s business Instagram page while just “exploring” on the app (aka scrolling through the abyss that is endless posts and videos). Upon discovering her page, my muscles relaxed and I let out a sigh of relief. “So this is why I scroll through Instagram! To find artists like this”, I thought to myself. Margaux expresses her creativity in many ways; she creates wearable art in the form of textile jewelry, craft kits, collages, and hosts DIY pop-ups and workshops.
Thoughtful Materials & Unique 1 of 1s
What intrigued me about Margaux’s page was that every piece she presents looks different. Besides her undeniable creative talent, the uniqueness of her work is due in part to the materials she uses. In her art, upcycled leather, paper, yarn, and other leftover materials are the diamond of her eye: “I enjoy working with textured materials like leather, textiles, and paper. I like making things on a small scale which is one of the reasons I enjoy jewelry making. I like creating cut paper collages because I get to play with mixing paint, painting paper, layering, and creating scenes.”
Margaux tells us that building her brand on sustainable ground was a path that just made sense for her: “I think the practice of using upcycled materials came naturally. I have always been resourceful, and concerned about nature, and animals. I care about the environment and the impact that I have on the planet.” It’s always nice to find artists who take this stance. Not only do we want to do good by supporting our friends and local businesses, but it’s an added bonus when we know that the maker engages in sustainable practices.
Additionally, it’s refreshing to hear the joys of making things on a small scale. There’s control and power in creating that way. There’s also intention. When I look at Margaux’s work, I see her care, time, and attention. Her thoughtful approach to her craft is even supported by the materials she uses. Instead of purchasing new materials, she finds leftover pieces from other artists and turns them into something beautiful: “I get some materials to upcycle from other makers with scraps that are too small to use in their work, local organizations that support a circular economy and zero waste, and supporters who donate leather and other materials they would otherwise throw away. The materials are not hard to come by, locally and online, when being intentional about finding them.”
While I was a little surprised these materials are not hard to find, I was not surprised to hear the purpose for choosing these materials based on what I know about the Margaux Bijoux brand, “to support a circular economy and zero waste”, as she says. I admire that. At one point, if you asked me to make something from discarded or recycled materials, I probably would have said it’s severely limiting to the creative process. Now, I see how it could be very freeing. You use what you have today and tomorrow, you have a new set of materials to create something completely different. Make it once, and it lives as a 1 of 1; it’s a creative process that is never repeated exactly the same way. On the flip side, this could be hard to deal with as a businesswoman, as Margaux explains: “A challenge with using upcycled materials is that once it’s used up it’s usually gone for good. This is why I usually create items in small batches. One good thing about that is that most of my items are unique because many times I can’t get my hands on the same scrap material twice!”
That’s the special uniqueness I saw in Margaux’s work. For example, recently Margaux created a necklace made of fabric, upcycled leather, wood beads, yarn, lace appliques, and an African brass bell for a friend’s birthday present. It's funny really -- just like people, Margaux's works of art have similarities but no two are exactly the same. In this way, her jewelry celebrates what makes us human.
A Worldly Influence
The second reason Margaux’s work caught my eye was the clear influence of other countries and cultures. Another one of her recent works was a necklace adorned with coiled wire charms styled after Surutia pendants worn by the Maasai women of Kenya and Tanzania. A little further down the page, you’ll also find Guatemalan Worry Doll Bracelets (my personal favorite). Margaux says according to Guatemalan tradition, children would tell their dolls about their worries at night, and by the morning, the dolls would take their worries away. Yet another piece I like are the bird earrings pictured below. The birds are called fetishes and are traditionally carved from stone and shell by the Zuni people and other indigenous cultures.
I admire the international inspiration seen here. Margaux’s global perspective on jewelry making adds yet another layer of uniqueness to her creations. It’s just not something I see everywhere. Margaux is what I call a true global citizen because not only does she care for the earth but she also seeks to learn from others near and far: “I am very interested in learning about the materials I work with, the reasons certain materials are used, and their cultural significance. I’m always seeking out interesting and special tidbits to add to my creations. I’m intrigued by the uniquenesses of other cultures while at the same time inspired by the similarities we all share. Adornment is practiced in many cultures, so jewelry making has been a great way to learn about cultures around the world.”
A Local Inspiration
Margaux’s work may be worldly, but Margaux is also grounded in the local community. Margaux actually got the artist bug from her mother. She tells us, “I have been creating and making wearable art since I was a child, and my mother was my first inspiration. An avid cross-stitcher and seamstress, she always encouraged my creativity.”
Almost like the process of upcycling materials, we see how a love of art and creativity is cyclical - passed down from person to person. She learned from her mom and now teaches people in Chicago what she knows. Let’s just say, the girl knows how to lead a workshop! It’s clear that the local community is an important piece of Margaux’s mission to “[foster] self-confidence through creativity”. Last December, Margaux lead the CoachArt Jewelry Making Club. The sessions lasted 4 weeks and involved teaching young kids how to create wearable art with tassels, rope, and fabric. Margaux teaches adults too. I can understand how cool it must be to see how creativity blooms in young kids versus in adults. Margaux tells us it’s exactly that experience that she loves: “My favorite thing about facilitating and teaching workshops is witnessing others’ creative processes. It's like a peek into the mind of others! It’s always fascinating to me to see how people put the same materials together in different ways.”
In the future, it sounds like Margaux will continue to teach while also pursuing other ventures too great to be known just yet: “I envision collaborating with more artists, makers, and organizations to create artful experiences. I see myself doing creative work for a lifetime. It may look different over the years, but it includes planning programs, events, and camps, owning an art studio and shop, and more things I can’t even conceive of right now. I consider myself a multi-passionate creative, so I will continue to try out new art media. I have a lot that I want to do and learn!”
Please check out Margaux’s website, Instagram, and most importantly, her Etsy shop! Our Friend the Artist can’t wait to see what the future hold for this inspirational artist.
Etsy Shop: https://www.etsy.com/shop/margauxbijoux
Edited by: Ariana Jenkins