“Design, to me, is like breathing. It is an essential part of my life.”
Belgian-born Valérie Barkowski has made her mark with award-winning homeware textiles sold across the world. Currently residing in Marrakech (Morocco), her work has taken her to Paris, Mila, and Ibiza amongst other countries. One of her projects brought her to India, where she collaborated with Anuj Kothari, founder of No-Mad 97% of India to create a brand truly based on the heritage and craftsmanship of the country. She discusses her influences and inspirations as one of the contributors for Verve‘s upcoming Design issue…
What does design mean to you? “I could answer that question with one word or many sentences but it would all boil down to the same thing. Design, to me, is like breathing. It is an essential part of my life.”
What are some themes you explore in your work? “I am fascinated with timeless products. I like working on ancestral techniques, spending time with artisans, and exchanging ideas with them. It is one thing to be a designer, but to work in tandem with a skilled artisan is irreplaceable. There are no borders in my explorations, I am always curious for knowledge.”
How has the field and its perception changed from when you started out? “The scene was much quieter when I started 20 years ago. A whole legion of people are now invested in exploring the realm of artisans.”
What are some changes that you’d like to see in Indian design? “Local designers don’t look to the West for inspiration anymore; they are conscious of the richness of their own country. When I began working in India, I fell in love with khadi. Indian consumers are accustomed to having products made by hand, but for outsides it’s a privilege to have access to handmade things. I also like how brands have increasingly started showcasing the making of their products; it’s nice to see them giving credit to artisans.”
What inspires you? “I am inspired by vague things like a vegetable that I see growing in my garden or a stain of painting in a workshop. There is no end to what can trigger the artist in me – contemporary art, photography, travel, a fisherman in Senegal, a flea market in Brussels, street food in Thailand, a trek in the desert, a flower – the list is endless.”
Is there a specific object, technique, place, event that really encapsulates your design sensibility?
“I did a project in India more than 10 years ago where I embroidered the body of an Ambassador. I enjoyed working on this project. I relish new challenges as they help keep my grey cells in action.”
Who are some people whose work you admire?
“Vandana Shiva, Paul Duan and Boyan Slat. I admire people who try to save the world. Considering how we live today, it’s the only thing that really matters.”
In the world of Indian design, who do you see as a rising star?
“Ravi Vazirani has a nice mindset. I also had the opportunity to work with Rubel Dhuna, a young architect from Mumbai and thoroughly enjoyed it.”
Have you read about Ashiesh Shah from our ‘Talking Design’ series? Check it out here.