Barley Massey: Eclectic Eco Designer

Barley Massey

Welsh-born Barley Massey is a designer with a restless enthusiasm for recycling. Some of the results are entirely functional, such as her footstools, pillows, and scarves, which reveal a handmade aesthetic that is bright and highly durable. But the purpose of other works, such as her commissioned costume designs or the “Urban Clearway” and “Road Works” series, question the directions and proportions we expect of the built world around us. Massey, a graduate of the textile program at Goldsmiths College (University of London), employs recycled materials in a variety of structures: weaving, knitting, knotting and sewing as well as other structural inventions that take her fancy. Her work appears on the theatre stage, in installations and the home but everywhere an industrial quality of colours and simple structures unite the eclectic range of projects.

Massey admits that recycling was not something she considered as a student, but instead became a matter of necessity when she set up her studio as an independent designer. She explains an “attraction to materials that are not so precious that if something goes wrong there is a huge loss” drives part of her eco-friendly approach. Her materials of choice are readily available rather than obscure; tire inner tubes recycled from local bike shops are one of her favourites. Unique to her work is an effort to use these recycled materials without denying or erasing their synthetic, or in the case of rubber, industrial qualities. Rather than the soft palette of the eco-warrior, Massey makes work suited for the entirely urban recycler.

Her recent projects are varied enough to make anyone wonder how she fits it all in. Fabrications, her studio and gallery space in London, opened six years ago and hosts theme based exhibitions curated by Massey, supports up-and-coming designers, takes on students for work-experience placement as well as acting as an outlet for Massey’s designs. With plans to “re-define, re-brand and re-furbish” the gallery this year, the gallery continues to be the centre of Massey’s energies. Outside the gallery, her work can also be seen at the Truman's Brewery on Brick Lane during London Design Week (see and the Eco Design Fair (see

FiberArts magazine (Jan./Feb. 2007: 26-27)