Malene Barnett was always deeply creative: as a child, she loved painting, and quickly found her way into bold textile design by her teen years.
By the time she hit college, and attended FIT, the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, she knew that her perfect blend would be in fashion illustration and textile surface design.
Emerging into adulthood, Barnett founded her Malene B design studio and the Malene B Atelier design practice, which is based in fine art and bespoke productions. there, she works with custom pattern designs and colorful, rich textures to achieve out-of-this-world home decor pieces.
The Malene B Brand
Barnett’s work is greatly inspired by Caribbean culture and the global African diaspora, combined with the urban style of Brooklyn, New York. Her aesthetic is modern and historical all at the same time, as she seamlessly blends style inspirations from every time period, all around the world.
“I consider color and patterns a language with a psychology,” she shared on her brand’s website. “I’m intrigued by the idea of how style and technique can trigger dreams and memories—identify a people or a place. That idea works with my current body of work.”
Carpets, Textiles, and Ceramics
For years, Barnett focused her attention on crafting luxurious rugs adorned with abstract designs. The artist’s handmade (that is, hand knotted or hand tufted,) rugs put the focus on artistry and craftsmanship above all else. With the attention to detail being so strong, it’s no surprise that her hand-woven pieces easily act as the bold centerpieces of any spaces they are placed in.
But after years of, as she called it in an Architectural Digest interview, “translating other people’s vision with carpets,” she wanted to get back to her artistic roots – while trying something completely different.
“I’m an artist, first and foremost,” Barnett said. “I was eager to touch something. I wanted to get back to making.”
In order to try out a whole new art style, the creator decided to take a ceramics class to expose herself to something she had not previously tried. After some work, she grew to love hand-building, and started crafting clay vessels inspired by home decor of the Kassena people in northern Ghana.
“With ceramic, you have so many colors, you can get overwhelmed,” she told AD. “Texture is what is important to me. Coming from carpet, which is tactile, I wanted a similar experience.”
“Drawing on my love of custom pattern designs and rich textures is what drives me to work in mixed-media—acrylics, watercolors, pastels, fine yarns and clay,” she shared on her website. “I am interested in pushing these mediums into art and designs that look and feel multidimensional.”
Malene B is also a certified Minority Woman Owned Business Enterprise, which has led her to her latest entrepreneurial endeavor.
Black Designers + Artists Guild
In November 2018, Barnett founded the Black Designers + Artists Guild, a collective of modern artists and design industry professionals throughout the African diaspora.
The idea for the BADG was ignited when Barnett became frustrated with lack of black creators visible in the bespoke art and design space. After noticing there were no black experts on several design industry panels she attended, she took to Instagram to voice a larger problem. After receiving an incredible response on the matter, she decided to kick start a project that would foster inclusion and diversity – and leave no excuses for why black artists wouldn’t have a presence in the luxury design industry.
The guild’s constantly-growing directory of talented creators around the world is a great resource for homeowners find designers and decorators, media pros get in contact with designers to features, encourages to designers commission artworks, and more. The BADG makes it easier for pros, homeowners, and trendsetters to connect with diverse talent in art and design.
The Next Generation
Barnett’s career has never stopped growing: the Malene B brand keeps expanding, and her personal quest to discover new art forms is beyond impressive. But the artist is also committed to passing down her wisdom and findings to the next generation of creators.
Not only is the BADG supporting emerging black designers and introducing them to a wider public audience, but Barnett herself is making herself available for students who are on their own way up.
In December 2018, Barnett went back to her FIT roots to judge and act as keynote speaker for the Fashion Institute of Technology’s latest Stark Carpet Design Competition. There, she helped select the student textile design projects that stood out as exceptional, and was impressed with the level of talent coming out of her alma mater’s current classes.
We can’t wait to see how Malene Barnett continues to be a creative force and guiding light in the interior design, textile, and fine art industries!