Quincy woman manipulates metal into outfit for Barbie, takes first place in international contest

Kharisma Summers

Kharisma Sommers holds a Barbie doll wearing the "Tribal Queen Barbie" outfit she made out of copper that took first place in the international Lewton-Brain Foldform Competition. | David Adam

QUINCY — Waiting until the last second turned out to be a good decision for Kharisma Sommers.

The Quincy woman had taken second place and earned the jurors’ choice award during the Lewton-Brain Foldform Competition in 2014, and she earned the jurors’ choice award during the 2021 competition. When the deadline approached for the 2023 competition, Kharisma was too busy and figured she would sit it out.

“I didn’t have time for it, so I put it on the back seat. I wasn’t really thinking about it,” she said. “Then someone told me the deadline was extended, and I was like, ‘Well, OK, now I’m free, or kind of almost free. Maybe I can try to do something.”

She created items made of copper for what she called a “Tribal Queen Barbie” that earned first-place in the foldform competition. Several artists recognized as winners in the international contest were from the United States, but others were from Italy, Northern Ireland, Germany, Taiwan, Slovenia, England and Canada. 

“I am that person who does things last,” Kharisma said. “I try not to if I can help it. I try to plan things better. But sometimes things like this happen. This last-minute idea kind of worked in this instance.”

Foldforming is a metalworking technique in which metal is folded, repeatedly forged and annealed, and unfolded, then taking on a three-dimensional form. Foldforming techniques are used today by metal artists in areas like jewelry, sculpture, architecture, décor, lighting and tableware.

“It’s like origami on metal,” Kharisma said.

Kharisma, born and raised in Indonesia, moved to Quincy in 2010. She uses the foldforming technique with lightweight metals like copper and silver to create pieces of custom-fit jewelry that she sells online on her website, www.popnicute.com. She has sold items to customers in 35 countries.

“I’ve never really been in a store,” she said. “I’ve tried consignment, but it didn’t work out so well. I feel like my jewelry is a little bit on the more artistic side and it doesn’t really communicate to this town, which has a more classic style.”

Kharisma said she came up with the idea to create something that would work on a Barbie doll when the “Barbie” movie was released last year, but she didn’t come up with the headdress and the tribal dress until days before the deadline.

“Because I’m from Indonesia, and we have so many different tribes, I’m already exposed to it,” she said. “It’s kind of a manifestation of what I’ve experienced.”

Now she’s considering making more foldforming outfits for Barbies or even combining it with leather or other materials.

“Maybe I can make a body outfit for Beyonce’s show outfit,” Kharisma said with a smile.

Making jewelry is her business, but coming up with creative ideas for the Lewton-Brain Competition — or another side venture — keeps her creative juices flowing.

“It’s good to enter a contest, because sometimes it helps you form different ideas and different ways of implementing your skills,” she said. “I also want to make jewelry that people would actually wear, so sometimes I have to draw that line. 

“If I made more items to wear, I would want people to actually be able to wear them. I want it to be comfortable and not take an hour to put together. I’ve never done anything like that but I think it would be fun to try to make other outfits for Barbie.”

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