“I had a boyfriend in the ‘70s, Douglas, who was an artist and entertainer that sold miniature wind-up toys from mainland China on the streets of New York City.

We both liked objects with strange proportions and got really into miniatures. One good thing about them is that there’s always room for a lot. I don’t realize I’m collecting something until I notice more than two of any item, and I hate to have the objects I love hidden away.

I want to see them, so they have to be on display.”

“Where’d I get the hand? Probably in Chinatown [New York City]. Or Hong Kong? With certain things, especially trinkets and junk, I don’t bother to remember those kinds of details.”

“I taught dance for four years when I was in high school in Terryville, [Connecticut], and studied ballet and acrobatics. I’ll pick up any tiny trinkets I see in thrift stores — I just love dance stuff.”

“This little carousel is broken. My mother threw everything out, but I can’t let anything —
even things I got in grammar school — go.”

“I love religious shit. But never men.
Only women, medallions, and angels.”

“At one point, I wanted to make hundreds of these little chairs from champagne cork cages. Then I just stopped. But someone totally could create a ton of these, photograph them, and make a book of those pictures.”

“I have three more couples on a shelf. I have no idea where they came from.”

“My nine year old granddaughter, Layla, gave me these. She learned how to sculpt them by watching a video. She’s very focused and got really, really good at it — so much so that her classmates started commissioning pieces from her.”

“I had two huge yard sales last year to prepare for my move to Malibu.
Parting with that stuff was very painful. I can’t say why I chose to keep what I did, but I can say that those things are even more special to me now.”

“This is a real Tabasco bottle, the kind you get with
hotel room service. It’s glass. They still make them this size!”


Photography byBramble Trionfo

As told to Anthony Rotunno

Betsey Johnson is a fashion designer based in New York City and Malibu.

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