“Back in the day, your music was like your furniture,” Mikal tells me, shifting back and forth on his chosen perch—the one clear area of his work desk, which is almost the length of his studio in Bushwick. His long legs swing back and forth in his dark jeans as he fidgets with the gray, tweed cap on his head. “I’m trying to bring that back.”
Mikal Hameed is the founder of Re-Baroque, which is part of his desire to combine art and music into something new, artistic, and functional. His pieces seek the “perfect marriage between art and sound,” which is achieved through patterned canvases with high-quality speakers that connect wirelessly to any Bluetooth device. The meeting of both worlds began as a birthday gift to his partner, but soon was picked up by Anthropologie and other retailers.
As I glance around the studio, Mikal explains the basics of his projects. “I’m dealing mostly with traditional patterns right now,” he states, gesturing behind him to two speaker systems hanging on the white walls of the studio. Both display a simple, yet elegant, argyle print, encapsulated by intricately carved wood frames that have been spray painted to bright blue and baby pink. The table on which he is sitting holds several unframed pieces still in the making, in bright floral colors and other varying patterns. “Those are for a hotel,” he says, proud and excited. “They’ve ordered twenty-four pieces. That’s what I’m trying to branch into right now, more hotels and other larger clients like that.” At the moment, most orders come online from individuals who pick out sizes of frames, then send Mikal the fabric they want their speakers to be displayed in. The rest is up to him, and it usually takes about two or three days for him and his assistant, Fernando, to complete the work.
I ask him whether the type of music that plays through Re-Baroque speakers changes the meaning of the art, but he shakes his head. “The meaning of the art is for the client to enjoy,” he states. “I mean, I did a couple of country flags which would fit better with that country’s music, and I’ve done a jazz series that would work great with jazz music, but other than that, it’s the client.
“I don’t only do speakers, though,” he says, jumping off the table for a moment to survey the large, custom-size speaker system in the center of the studio. “This one is for a barber shop in town. The guy wants his logo on it, but I hope I can convince him not to do it.” I agree with him; the large, black velvet system is contained in a simple black frame, with one speaker painted bright gold to add some flavor. It’s the perfect mix of class and edge. “But the speakers are just specific to Re-Baroque. I’ve done a trumpet into a lamp—a “tamp”—and the keys turn the light on and off and adjust the brightness. And before this speaker was here, there was a snowmobile—I just got back from showing that in Germany.”
He’s also working on a headboard with speakers and lights on either side, for reading at night without having to have a bulky nightstand and lamp beside you, and a dresser that can hide all of the wires in a home (for cable, Wi-Fi, televisions, alarm clocks, or anything else that might be around) and keep them organized without taking up as much space. The entire purpose for Mikal is to make things beautiful and functional at the same time, with a personal touch that his larger competitors can’t reach. “Some people take my idea, but they don’t really do what I do,” he explains. “They’re all about the bottom line, and I’m about personalizing it and making something that really fits in with the rest of your décor.”
He’s also about keeping the marriage between art and music at the forefront of his designs—both of his parents were professional jazz musicians, but he was unable to learn to sing or play an instrument, and so he chose visual art instead. “I searched through the DNA, you know? Instead of creating an entirely new person out of myself, I searched into what I already had inside me and brought it out in a new way.”
The conversation shifts back to his recent trip to Germany. He tells me about losing his phone in the airport, only to have someone bring it to the plane just before taxiing onto the runway. He pauses for a moment, looking around his studio with the same wide smile that’s been on his lips the entire meeting; then he shakes his head and laughs. “I’m a lucky guy,” he says. “I’m the luckiest guy in the world.”