There is something that draws us to the Azulina Home collection. The textural mix of cotton, virgin wool and fique fibres creates a sense of calm simplicity that we love to bring to our home. Not to mention, products made in Colombia are near and dear to my heart.
We connected with Melissa Moriarty, founder and designer of Azulina Home, to learn more about her inspiration, what drew her to Colombian crafts and get travel insights for some of Colombia's top destinations!
What inspired you to create Azulina Home?
Azulina actually started out as a ceramics company! Back in 2012 I was working and living in Medellín. My best friend was getting married that spring so I wanted to get her a gift that was uniquely Colombian, which is when I discovered the ceramics-making town of El Carmen de Viboral. I was in complete awe of the artistry and pottery-making tradition. Next thing I knew I was shipping a 20' container of blue and white hand-painted ceramics to the US and that's where Azulina began!
What drew you to Colombia?
As you know, there is something magical about Colombia. Gabriel García Marquez didn't invent magical realism, he just coined the phrase that describes Colombia's magical essence so aptly. I visited on a work trip during the summer of 2011 and fell in love instantly. On a wild hair and with the encouragement of my uncle with whom I was travelling, I decided I would take a job in Medellín working in investor relations for a Canadian mineral exploration company. I spoke fluent Spanish after studying abroad as a foreign exchange student in Argentina in high school, so the lack of a language barrier made the decision feel like a no-brainer. At first, I thought I would take just 6-12 months "off" from my career back home in consulting, but then 1 year quickly turned into 5 years.
Tell us a little bit about the artisans and artisan groups you work with. How do you collaborate with them, how do you select who you work with?
Something that is really important to me is that I personally know who I am working with, and as such, I have met all of our artisans in person. They have all spent decades honing their craft, so when we collaborate we aren't creating something new, we're simply working on a new angle or a new design together that's both appealing to me as a designer, but also functional for our customers. A lot of what we do is simply editing and fine-tuning an already beautifully made product. There's no way I'm going to take credit here - all the beauty and skill already existed before Azulina showed up!
What is the inspiration for your name - Azulina Home?
The origins of the company began with ceramics that were hand-painted in El Carmen de Viboral, just outside of Medellín, Colombia. The town's nickname is La Perla Azulina del Oriente, which is where I got Azulina from. While we no longer dabble in blue ceramics, the name remains the same.
For first-time travellers to Colombia, what are your top recommendation for: place(s) to visit, thing(s) to do, food to try?
I get this question A LOT, as I'm sure you do! If I were to create the perfect trip, it would involve some time visiting coffee farms and riding horseback in Antioquia, a night or two in El Poblado, Medellín, with an obligatory stop at my favorite restaurant Carmen. The next stop would be Bogotá where you need to order chicarrones and lomo al trapo at Andres Carne de Res in Chia, with a mandarino frozen cocktail (just 1, because you're at 8,000+ ft and it'll getcha!). Of course everyone wants to visit Cartagena, but it can be done in a weekend. I prefer smaller boutique hotels where there's a bit more character, like Casa Pestagua or Casa de Alba. My favorite store to visit is Loto del Sur where I stock up on my favorite candles, and the best coffee to take home to friends can be found at Azahar coffee. Music is such a huge part of everyday Colombian culture so Carlos Vives' Gaira in Bogotá is an awesome place to go, as is Cafe Havana in Cartagena!
What inspires you on a daily basis?
I'm going to be frank, I'm not inspired every day! When the inspo hits, it's usually when I'm outside, experiencing a new place or traveling somewhere away from home. I've found that whenever I feel stuck or uninspired, changing perspective always ignites something in me. From taking a walk at Glenstone just outside of DC, to hopping on a plane to literally anywhere, getting out of my house is the precursor to feeling inspired.
What is the one thing you are most proud of accomplishing with Azulina Home?
It took a long time to get the business going. No one ever talks about this or how lonely it can get as a solopreneur (I'm not solo anymore, but I was for a 7+ years!). It's been a grind since 2013 and it's important to me to be transparent about that. So I would say that I'm just so proud that the business is about to hit 10 years and we're finally in a groove. It's been pretty amazing to make it this far and to work with companies I have always had a design crush on, like Restoration Hardware, Jenni Kayne, and Amber Interiors.
What feeling do you hope to embody in your home?
Calm and comfortable. One of my favorite quotes is "have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful" by William Morris.
Any exciting plans in the works for Azulina Home?
My business partner Jeff joined the business in late 2020 and has been instrumental in streamlining our operations and improving our day-to-day management of the business. As a result, it's allowing us to get more product out into the world, which is really tough to do when everything you make is hand-woven. With travel finally opening up again we're excited to begin the process of getting back down to Colombia to meet new artisans and expand the line beyond just our cotton and fique fibers!