News & Politics

Meet the DC Woman Who Makes Elaborate Political Dioramas Out of Peeps

Barbara Martin's "We the Peeple" project salutes her Democratic heroes—in marshmallow.

Barbara Martin has always been crafty and hungry. When working at a craft magazine, Martin entered a Peeps diorama competition “mainly as a ruse so that they would send me free Peeps, which they did,” she says. But her snack and artistic interests did not fully meet until after she co-founded the Brand Guild, a DC marketing and public relations firm that counts DryBar and SoulCycle as a clients. She made Peeps dioramas for some of her clients—a miniature marshmallow hair salon, for instance. But when she made one of Michelle Obama riding at SoulCycle, Martin’s hobby turned into a full-blown marketing strategy.

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Marshmallow Mobama Goes To PeepCycle (2 of 3). Tag your #SOUL bff! #soulcycle #peepcycle #secretseevice #peeps #peepsofinstagram #bldcpeeps #guilded #guildedpeeps

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Now, Martin has spun out her dioramas on a dedicated Instagram account named We the Peeple. Launched as part-showcase, part-submission for Washington City Paper‘s annual Peeps contest, We the Peeple features marshmallow versions of Washington figures Martin finds inspirational. Don’t expect a miniature Paul Ryan practicing Peep-90X—Martin’s a Democrat. So far, she’s re-created the likenesses of Representatives Mary Gay Scanlon, Annie Kuster, Lori Trahan, Lois Frankel, Ayanna Pressley, Ilhan Omar, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. She decided to kick off the series with a local figure: Eleanor Holmes Norton. 

“I wanted to re-create the State of the Union because it was such an amazing moment with all of the Congresswomen in white. There was one shot of one line of women featuring AOC, a few other people, and Eleanor Holmes Norton. I figured I would have to do Eleanor Holmes Norton just because of her connection to [DC].”

That doesn’t mean the GOP is completely off limits, though. She’s created a Trump chick sitting next to two obliterated marshmallows—a dismal sight.

“I’m such a fan of Rick Wilson, who wrote the book Everything Trump Touches Dies, and I thought that would be hilarious in my brain. I found a combination of toasting and microwaving peeps [to melt them]. I killed several peeps in the process.” She also had to special-order orange Peeps from her wholesaler.

Scroll through We the Peeple’s feed, and you’ll find a planking Ruth Bader Ginsburg alongside a scene of Pete Buttigieg, whose diorama was inspired, in part, by his Peep-friendly first name and the extremely online personas of himself and his husband. (Buttigieg approves.) A sign in the “crowd” reads “BOOT EDGE EDGE” in Arabic.

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Peep for America. #wethepeeple

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What makes some figures more Peep-able than others? Easily recognizable features, such as glasses, an accessory, or in AOC’s case, bright red lipstick. “AOC was difficult because I could not add red lipstick to her face, which is such a characteristic of her. Once you start adding facial features to one you have to add it to all of them.” So she let Ocasio-Cortez’s earrings and glasses do some storytelling work instead.

Expect more presidential contender Peeps on your feed, Martin says—she’s determined to feature women candidates next. “I think my resistance can come from kind of a happy place,” she says.

Staff Writer

Brittany Shepherd covers the societal and cultural scene in political Washington. Before joining Washingtonian as a staff writer in 2018, Brittany was a White House Correspondent for Independent Journal Review. While she has lived in DC for a number of years now, she still yearns for the fresh Long Island bagels of home. Find her on Twitter, often prattling on about Frasier.