Remember how we promised to construct our own Barbie electric chair this weekend? Well, we failed miserably. The epoxy was hard to work with and we were sawing away for like three hours trying to cut up pieces of wood (and slicing open some flesh in the process), but we weren't able to fry Barbie in the manner we wanted. We haven't given up though! Trial and error is all part of the scientific process... or so we hear. We contacted Jessy Ellenberger—the 22-year-old college student who conceived of the project for a science fair when she was in middle-school—and we asked for tips and some help. Suffice it to say: Jessy rules. When we asked her if she'd done anything else weird with Barbie dolls as a child she said:
[My sister and I] made Amazonian Barbie once. We took the clothes off of one of those with the really long hair, and we put her in my mom's giant ivy plant. Then we took the head off of another Barbie, and put her head on the other Barbie's hand. My dad thought it was so awesome that he took a picture.
Check out our interview with the mad scientist after the jump.
Was this your first Barbie experiment?
I wouldn't say so, no. I've always been altering Barbies, even since I was little. Though none of those went this far - mostly just coloring hair with markers, building tiny Barbie parachutes and throwing them from the top of the playhouse, that sort of thing. I'd say the electric chair is the first notable one, though!
So you grew up playing with Barbie then?
Not in a good way, but since my relatives always bought them for me I found ways to make them fun, I guess. My sister and I normally just had them battle or it turned into a weird soap opera if we weren't cutting their hair and such.
So now that you're all grown up, what do you think about Barbie in general? What does she represent to you?
Honestly, I've hardly thought about them for years until I had to go hunt one down for the science fair. I think if there's any doll I hate, it's those Bratz dolls. They make Barbie look like a good role model. An anorexic fake role model, perhaps, but I suppose that's better than an alien hussy with a giant head. I think, honestly, that I should have made one with a Bratz doll. Maybe next time, if I don't make a Ken one.
How did you come up with the idea for the Barbie electric chair?
You know, I really am not sure. When I made the initial one in middle school, I made it with a friend. I think that we just wanted to put a Barbie in a weird situation. We both had Barbies lying around that we never played with, and it just seemed like a funny idea. We were just very weird kids, I guess.
How did your teachers react to it?
I don't think many of them liked it at all. I mostly just remember the female teachers being especially disgruntled about it. I pretty sure people were thinking we were completely deranged at that point even though we thought it was pretty harmless. I'm surprised they didn't try to put us into counseling! I can't even remember the grade we got on it, but it was pretty low.
So do you have anything else on Instructables?
Yep, I have two other projects on the site and I've been registered there for a while now. I did another instructable on how to lose weight, and one where I build bookshelves out of large print encyclopedias. I just like making things in general, so I think it's nice that I made my way to the site because they have such a great interface and it makes it so easy to explain your project to other people.
Your Barbie chair got linked on Boing Boing, which is one of the most popular sites on the internet, so I'm sure you're getting a lot of attention over this. Have you gotten any weird hate mail or anything? And more importantly, has Mattel contacted you?
No hate mail or anything. Slighty nasty comments on other sites, though, but it's nothing I didn't expect! I figured people would get worked up by it. And Mattel hasn't contacted me, thankfully. Can you imagine? I'd probably be quite worried if that happened.
Yeah, they're litigious jerks. So you're in college right now?
Yep, I'm going to University of Louisville. I'm a public health major, actually. Though I'm thinking more and more that I'd like to just build things for the rest of my life!
You should! You're good at it! Have you been overwhelmed by the attention the chair has gotten for you?
Thank you. Really overwhelmed. I put the project up, and I didn't think I had done as well as I should. I kept thinking people would say it was awful and no one would like it... and then out of nowhere, it was extremely popular and ending up all over the net. I just didn't see it happening like this. Now I feel like I need to update the chair and make it better.
What do you think of capital punishment?
It's not something that I can say I'm absolutely for or against. I just don't know if it's better to have someone live their life in jail, and have to face the consequences of what they did, or to kill them. What is really the worse punishment? I think it varies from case to case. And I think some people will always scream for the death of a killer. Eye for an eye, you know. The really cynical part of me tends to say that perhaps taking those people out of society through capital punishment might be the better option - why do you want to support someone that has committed such terrible acts with your tax dollars? So I'm not sure what my opinion is, I guess. I'm still working it out in my own head. But I'm happy we're phasing the electric chair out. Lethal injection is a much better method, and one that's less likely to fail.