When people think of handmade products and decor, often, the first thing that comes to mind are the imperfections. Dents, uneven surfaces, and all that.
Authentic stories behind those handiworks are overlooked.
At a time when more people are craving for richer experiences, connections and encounters, we also see a rise in preference for unique, handmade goods. A symbol that embraces slow living against a backdrop of constant stimulation and speed seems to be an increasingly attractive concept.
Thus, enter the idea behind Tajmi.
We had the pleasure of speaking to Tajmi founder, Nettika, about her brand. Like other features, this brand anchors on sustainable, human-centric processes with a particularly sharp focus on collecting and curating, authentic, local stories.
Can you begin by telling us what ‘TAJMI’ means?
Tajmi is a loose translation from a word of Arabic origin, which means “to collect, gather, heap up, count”.
As a child accustomed to travel and constantly moving, Nettika has, from a young age, developed a fondness for collecting different knick-knacks from around the world. In the process, learning to spot items with unique touches and designs that she can call her own.
I have moved so many times in my life, that I have this obsession with creating a personal environment in any space I occupy. I wanted a project that would bring together my skills as well as my passion for travel, culture, art, design, craftsmanship and the concept of ‘home’.
The word ‘TAJMI’ is a reflection of her personality. An expression of her passions and inclination to collect and gather. “I am a collector at heart.”
How and where did you get the idea and inspiration for Tajmi?
Given her passions and lifestyle, the inspiration for the company has been around her from an early time. Coupled with a career working with artists, it seems a natural way and direction for Nettika to have founded a company like Tajmi.
The initial idea came with the realization that the world has become a society of waste. In her travels, she met different personalities and made friends with diverse cultures and saw a similar, underlying problem for all – the propensity to collect without care or thought.
With the drive for sustainable practices slowly permeating lifestyles around the world, Nettika wanted to start with this point. However, it is imperative to create something that also reflects her passions and personality. Today, Tajmi is a highly curated marketplace where individuals can browse through and find unique or special pieces to add to their home collections.
It is really about owning something that someone has put a lot of time and dedication into, each piece is meant to be a work of art, no matter how big or small.
This concept is created with the belief that if you are educated to collect pieces of meaning, then there is low to no probability of you throwing it away. If you learn to appreciate the things you purchase, you see them with you for a long time. Like art, you look to collect meaningful pieces that will last you a lifetime.
What are the beginnings of the Tajmi journey like?
The Tajmi idea was cemented towards the end of 2019 – not exactly an ideal time to start an international curated marketplace. This timing immediately gave rise to concerns and worries that Tajmi will have to be put to bed before it even had a chance to begin. All the initial sourcing trips were paused and as a way for Tajmi to pivot and persevere, a fluid mindset needed to be adopted.
First, there was a lot more time to build foundations for the brand – from the logo, to the website and its entire brand feel. Second, with daily changes to market and travel situations, Nettika and her team needed to identify a core product for Tajmi to assist them in their sourcing trips and product selections. Lastly, there was a need to be open to take sudden leaps.
Meaning, being able to forge ahead despite uncertainties.
I knew I’d have to pivot the sourcing trips that were originally planned. I moved to Barcelona at the end of 2020, and at that time Morocco had not yet closed their borders, and it was the closest option to me, so I just went for it. I knew there would be curve balls going into it. In the end, I think showing up in Morocco during that period worked to my advantage. I was able to get the time and attention I needed with people, as there were no tourists in sight.
“Going with the flow” has always been part of Nettika’s DNA. So, when she was stuck in Morocco for longer than planned, she saw it as a time to do more on-the-ground research, sourcing and forming connections. This particular moment of uncertainty-turned-opportunity was the deciding factor that truly launched the brand. Without this, Tajmi wouldn’t exist at all.
Having spent that time in Morocco allowed the brand to create its first collection. Additionally, the process allowed for more changes in the brand’s business model that gave way for richer and more robust processes for any upcoming collections.
The main moment was deciding to just land in Morocco and go for it; without that, there would be no shop at all. Once I finished that collection, I knew I could achieve others.
After a challenging start and that fortuitous trip to Morocco, what new ideas formed that could help Tajmi propel forward?
Since there was a bit of standstill from the conception stage, Tajmi has really only been operating for a little over a year. Spring 2021 was when the first collection from that Morocco trip came to fruition. From this first launch, there were three important steps in the process that are integral in helping Tajmi form future collections and collaborations.
One, research. For Tajmi, since the collections are region-based, some research on history and artisanal traditions gets the ball rolling. This initial step before the trip provides a good idea of what can be found on the ground.
Following closely after this is on-the-ground investigation. Sometimes, it can get quite challenging to do things at a distance. Physically scouring, searching and sourcing for items work best when looking for handmade, artisanal products. Which was why the Morocco trip was such a success – Nettika was able to spend the time needed to look around and inquire.
Which brings us to the second point, asking around. As a brand that was just beginning, it is imperative to ask questions, discover and ultimately, learn. The fluid mindset mentioned earlier also applies to this point.
I like to spend a lot of time in each region, and when I first arrive I spend time doing “recon” work observing what is typically found in the region vs what is seemingly more unique. Once I get a good idea of the difference, then I start looking for items that a tourist might not necessarily be able to locate.
Once you start to understand the region, country and specific communities better, this equips you with the foundational knowledge to move forward. The third step is establishing that link.
There are times when the brand would reach out to makers and start a conversation which would later be built upon, once Nettika arrived in the country. This serves like a hazy direction instead of going in blind. This first relationship could lead to more as Tajmi continues to widen its network and collaborations.
I have always been fairly strong at forming connections with people, whether it be friendships or meeting people during my travels. It comes quite naturally to me, and it is one of the parts I love the most – meeting new people.
Fourth, it’s not enough to just connect with artisans, sell their products and move on. Especially when it comes to handmade products, creating a community is essential. Through this step, the brand also learns different techniques and specialties between cities and countries within the region. Handmade items do not follow mechanical processes but rather, stem from culture and traditions passed down, hand to hand.
I am constantly learning when I am in each country, and this is something I really love about the role. Handmade items of any kind take a certain skill set and dedication. When you look closely, you’ll see differences in quality of materials, process, or time involved in their craftsmanship that make them stand out.
After Morocco, where else is Tajmi looking at for its future collections and from this, what is Tajmi’s main product line?
Rugs will always be central to Tajmi. Even the brand name – Tajmi – took inspiration during the research process about rug weaving.
Rugs are our strength in terms of sales and style. A stunning, or outrageous rug can absolutely change the dynamic of any room. Don’t be afraid of a little color!
Tajmi has expanded its product lines to include unique and small home decor items. Today, you’ll see a wide range of quirky items that, with just one look, you can tell are one of a kind. Since that spring in 2021, Tajmi has worked with artisan communities in Morocco, Southern France and Southern Mexico. These relationships continue to flourish as the brand looks towards new territories. Nettika dreams of exploring Africa, India and the Middle East, also renowned for their heritage in textiles and rugs.
As Tajmi does extensive on-the-ground research, speaking to artisans and learning about their craft, this adds an extra element of adventure along with trust. It is evident that this relationship not only strengthens the bonds between artisan and brand, but also brings this genuineness towards its clientele. You get beyond typical touristy design to items that show true cultural essence.
It doesn’t stop there, however. Tajmi also engages in artist collaborations which allows them to make unique pieces outside of their current regional collections. With this flexibility, the brand can offer one of a kind pieces with deep local stories as these artists come from different areas around the world.
On the website, each collection is accompanied by an editorial story, where you can learn a bit about the region and its history. Each artist collaboration is accompanied by an interview, where you see what inspires the artist and why they create the work that they do. Tajmi appreciates the process, as well as the traditions that these objects bring to the present day.
How do you envision Tajmi’s future?
The essence of the brand remains the same – to collect objects with meaning and intent.
In spite, and partly because of the pandemic, this concept of curated, handmade items is slowly but steadily growing on a global scale. More shops are leaning towards carrying sustainable, handmade products and this continues to expand and permeate diverse homes and lifestyles. As we develop a curiosity to find out where the products we buy come from, questions arise – Who made these products? Will the materials add to our environmental crisis? What’s their story?
This is where a brand like Tajmi is vital.
Our goal is to continue developing a global network of artists and artisans, creating a community. Tajmi aims to represent small creators and suppliers, connecting them with a global market. Also, I believe there are individuals that might not feel comfortable about traveling anytime soon, and this is very much okay. I hope Tajmi can provide a small escape for them.