Kpellé Designs inspires black women to embrace African culture

A native of Delaware, Gwanyan Barker empowers black women and promotes creativity through his inspiring jewelry business.

As a craftswoman, machinist and artist, Gwanyan Barker dedicates her craft to empowering black women through her African-inspired jewelry business.

Owner of Kpellé Designs, Gwanyan Barker./Photo courtesy of Gwanyan Barker

Through Kpellé Designs-based in her home in Bear, Delaware-Barker has spent the past seven years creating African-inspired pieces like scarves, hair jewelry, ear cuffs, necklaces, earmuffs, jewelry noses and more to inspire black women to embrace their cultures.

“My mission is for individuals to feel inspired, empowered and educated about the power to beautify themselves in culture,” she says. “As an African, it is important that I represent her wherever I go; Kpellé Designs is an extension of this feeling.

In order to embrace her own culture, Barker, a first generation Liberian-American, named her business after her father’s tribe, which is one of the largest populations out of 16 Liberian tribes. The culture of the tribe is rich in many ways, including its history, dialect, quirky accents, friendliness, and of course, food.

LEFT TO RIGHT: Gwanyan Barker modeling the Protect Your Energy gold earring and Cowrie Cluster earring./Photo courtesy of Gwanyan Barker.

“They are well-known and self-sufficient farmers. I admire the sustainable lifestyle, ”she says. “Plus, the fact that they use their hands and tools to do their jobs is also how I do mine. When I work with my hands and / or my tools, I feel like I am paying homage to them.

The majority of parts manufactured by Kpellé Designs are handcrafted by Barker, a computer numerical control (CNC) machine or laser machine using materials such as brass, sterling silver, wood and acrylic. With brass, however, it can discolor due to moisture over time, so Barker offers a step-by-step jewelry care process as well as a free polishing / buff service to all of its customers for s. ‘ensure that all the parts can stay beautiful for longer.

Not only does Barker create amazing pieces, but she also educates her subscribers through her podcast, Kpelle podcast, in which she discusses self-care for creatives, poetry and current affairs. She also has a YouTube channel—Gwanyan barker– which focuses on headgear tutorials, behind the scenes shots and more. His podcast has been airing since January 2021 with the help of his producer / sound engineer friend Trey McCloud.

Gwanyan Barker wearing the Sembe scarf. / Photo courtesy of Gwanyan Barker

“A large majority of my clients wanted to wear my jewelry and accessories, but some of them involve skill, ie headwear,” Barker adds. “I integrated the tutorials to help those who might have been hesitant to buy or for those who bought and wanted to learn more. … Also, to give a transparent view of my experience and my journey with jewelry design or small businesses in general.

Barker has big plans for Kpellé Designs over the next few years as she prepares to grow and grow the business by onboarding employees and ultimately striving to become a brand in stores.

Kpellé Designs can be seen on its website, Instagram, Pinterest and at various shows and festivals throughout the year.

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