In celebration of Women’s History Month, March Object of the Day posts highlight women designers in the collection.

Jhane Barnes is best known for her beautifully colored and structured fabrics, and I have always been a fan of her men’s fashion, but she designed furniture and wallcoverings as well. She established her fashion company in 1976 with a pair of men’s pants having no back pockets. Acquiring her first loom in 1978, she began experimenting with innovative textile structures and bold colorings.

“Niji”, 1986, rayon/cotton/polyester blend

“Hashi”, 1986, cotton/linen blend

“Toya”, 1986, cotton/wool blend

Barnes was invited to design a line of contract textiles for Knoll in 1983, and three years later she designed her first wallcoverings for Knoll Textiles called the Knoll Wall Collection. Barnes designed three wallcoverings for this collection and each is a woven fabric with an acrylic backing for direct application to the wall. Each pattern is shown in multiple colorways and all exhibit her wonderful color sense. These are the first wallcoverings designed by Barnes for Knoll, and also the first Knoll wallcoverings by a named designer.

When this sample book was generously donated to the Cooper Hewitt in 2011 it joined an existing group of wallpapers by Barnes. These were part of a later collection designed for Knoll Textiles in 1992. While the first group of wallcoverings were all woven textiles composed of wool, cotton, linen and polyester blends, this later group contains relief designs composed of acrylic resin powder, woven paper, or wood shavings adhered to a paper backing. The textures created on some of the acrylic resin pieces bear similarities to the structures and patterns in her woven textiles.

Greg Herringshaw is the Assistant Curator for Wallcoverings at Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum.

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