Madeline Weinrib’s design aesthetic holds a special place in my heart. I vividly remember the first time I came across Madeline’s stunning collection of rugs and fabrics in ABC Carpet & Home. It was my freshman year of college and my mom and I were on an inspiration trip in New York in the dead of winter – it was freezing. When we walked into ABC Home it was as though we had walked into a toy store at the age of three. Our jaws dropped. To begin with, one entire floor of the store had been converted into a red tent. Women were invited to come to this reprieve for a rest from their hectic world. It was one of those moments that totally solidified that I have to work in a creative space. When I happened upon Madeline’s textiles and rugs I was in captivated – the colors, details, everything was so authentic and beautiful. From that day forward I knew that I wanted a little bit of Madeline Weinrib in any home I lived in or designed.
This fall, I was planning a trip to New York and I reached out to Madeline Weinrib about featuring her in this series – she jumped at the chance. I was over the moon and a little nervous. When I arrived at her 2,700 sq ft showroom on lower Fifth Avenue I was in awe. Friends, it was beyond what I had imagined – the rugs, textiles, pillows, and so many more goodies were being showcased that were out of this world. Quite honestly, I wanted to move right in. I was welcomed by Madeline and her assistants with open arms. To have the opportunity to hear the stories behind where theirinspiration comes from, where the fabrics are made and by whom, along with the history and evolution of her rug collection was one of my favorite design experiences to date. To hear things first hand from a woman I’ve admired for years was a once in a lifetime experience. As a designer it’s important to be inspired by other creative people and Madeline Weinrib is definitely at the top of my list. Her work is breathtaking.
Now, it’s time for you to get a glimpse into her beautiful showroom and studio and also get to know Madeline Weinrib herself from our lovely conversation.
I initially approached textiles in the same way I approached painting. As a fine artist, it’s important to cultivate your own point of view and create a body of work that reflects your individual voice. This continues to be a very important aspect of my work to this day.
What motivated you to move into textiles as an art form?
I was represented by a gallery in Chelsea and exhibited my paintings regularly when I started experimenting with textiles. I was interested in textiles as a medium, but not fully committed. The more I worked with textiles the more my voice as an artist and point of view started to emerge. Eventually design took over from painting, but it was a slow process, not something that happened overnight.
I was first attracted to your design aesthetic because it seems like a perfect balance of traditional style with a more modern twist. How do you manage to combine both?
Thank you, Caitlin, for recognizing this. From the beginning this has been a very important part of my creative process. As a designer, it’s my job to create designs that can be integrated into a variety of spaces and environments. This is an important distinction between being a painter and working in decorative arts.
My patterns are often inspired by traditional motifs, but by playing with the scale and color palette, I’m able to translate a familiar, traditional form into something completely new and fresh.
When you walked me through the process of producing your textiles and carpets from the start you were incredibly passionate about where they were produced. Can you tell us about your teams process from beginning a design to finding the right people to produce it.
There is no formal process – I do all of my own designing, and each of my designs evolves in a different way. Sometimes I have a concept in mind and I look for a particular type of fabric or material, and sometimes I discover a unique new material or process and then create the design that best showcases the raw components.
It’s amazing that you support these small communities and have seen them grow to love what they produce for you. Tell us a little bit about the relationships you’ve built with them throughout growing your business.
Part of my passion for designing textiles stems from the fact that it allows me to visit different countries and develop relationships with local artisans. This can be very challenging at the start when everything is unfamiliar and new, but over the years I’ve developed a dialogue and created strong bonds with the people I work with. You learn a lot about a culture by working alongside its people.
I also feel a great sense of responsibility towards the weavers – although I’m committed to working with them, the growing number of machine-made knockoffs are a real threat to their livelihood and the preservation of their craft.
Where does your inspiration originate?
Travel is and always has been a big source of inspiration to me. I visit India, Morocco, and Turkey regularly, countries with rich visual histories and iconographies. The art and architecture are incredible, but they’re often very ornate and lack a modern sensibility. When I first started designing, I extracted motifs from the traditional art, objects, and architecture I discovered on my trips and translated them through my own contemporary lens to create some new and unique.
You and I both love to travel and find our inspiration from the places we go. Where have you gone lately that has made an impact on your choices in design?
I went to the opening of the Venice Biennale this year with one of my best friends, who was the American curator. Venice is one of my favorite places to visit. It was one of the first European cities to trade with East, an influence that people often forget but that is evident in everything from Venetian architecture to the beautiful textiles, such as Fortuny. The dialogue between East and West has always inspired me and my work.
Where are you traveling to next?
I just traveled to India in late November. I be visited Mumbai and Jaipur for work, two cities that I visit often and have really grown to love. Mumbai has a wonderful urban energy, and Jaipur is a beautiful town, but it’s changing quickly and becoming more and more westernized.
Afterwards I took some time off to visit Darjeeling, which I had never visited before. This is the region where the Darjeeling tea originates and it’s filled with historic old plantations, perfect for R&R. There are a few more trips in the New Year on the horizon.
What are three essentials you find yourself bringing on each journey you take?
– iPhone/iPad – it’s funny that these are relatively new in my life, but I can’t imagine being without them, even for just a few days.
– Drawing Pad and pens
When it comes to collaborations, I prefer to consider them very carefully. I am working on a few new projects, which I’m very excited about, but I don’t want to say anything and jinx them. Experience has taught me that speaking too soon brings bad luck.
A huge thank you to Madeline for opening up her studio to us. It was such a special treat getting to meet her and be able to share her work space with Sacramento Street readers!
Photos by Caitlin Flemming