Carla English models an Ubu Clothing Jacket featuring a design created by Janet Barnette. Courtesy photo


When she first put paintbrush to canvas, Janet Barnette didn’t imagine that her vibrant, abstract paintings would someday be used as the fabric design for high-end outerwear. Now, a line of raincoats and lightweight jackets featuring her work is set to be sold at shops around the country, including those in the Smithsonian and Guggenheim museums. Manufactured by UbU Clothing, the line will be available here in Bloomington at Tivoli Fashions, owned by Barnette’s sister, Cheryl Nichoalds.

Barnette, who is retired and living in Nashville, Tennessee, says the business of creative work is a family tradition. Born and raised in Bedford, Indiana, she remembers watching her mother and two older sisters straddle the worlds of art and commerce. Her mother was the longtime owner of Delores’ Fabric Shop on the square in Bedford, which she later expanded into a larger home-goods store.

Barnette, 63, graduated from Anderson University in Anderson, Indiana, where she majored in fine art and business administration. Although she spent most of her career in sales, including 20 years as a real estate broker, she still created art, selling paintings in galleries on the side. Several of her works decorate the walls at Tivoli.

As an artist, she prefers brilliant colors, which render vividly on outerwear fabrics. “I usually can’t finish a painting until I get the hot pink out,” Barnette says. “I have to have the vibrant color to show joy, because I try and be positive.”

It was while Barnette was accompanying Nichoalds on a buying trip in Chicago in 2018 that she met Joe Leggo, owner of UbU Clothing. “I was just there for a fun weekend,” Barnette says. “But he said, ‘Send me your artwork,’ and I did.”

She’s been busy ever since. Several coats and jackets using her abstract paintings as fabrics were released this spring, and more will be released in the fall. “It’s just really thrilling to be given this opportunity,” Barnette says.

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