Ser Mujer es Saber Tejer

To be a woman is to know how to weave. - Wayuu Proverb

Our new line of Wayuu bags and mochilas are here! You can click here to shop and see photos.

We're working as fast as possible to get them online, so keep checking back throughout the week for updates. The bags are already starting to sell out so I recommend you act fast if your heart is set on something. 95% of the bags are a one-of-a-kind and we won't get them again.

I've been familiar with the Wayuu mochilas for a long time and have often thought about offering them, but I didn't truly consider it until two years ago when I went to the region where they're made, La Guajira, for a weekend trip.

It's a quick 90 minute nonstop flight from Bogotá, but despite the "short" flight it feels like it might as well be worlds away from the big capital city.

Side Note: Wayuu mochila is the proper term for the crossbody bucket bag made by the indigenous Wayuu community- more about that below. Also, Wayuu is pronounced WHY-YEW.

The landscape of La Guajira reminds me of the Serengeti. It's dry, desolate and a large number of its inhabitants are indigenous Wayuu who live in huts. It's a bit shocking after a short flight from Bogotá, a cosmopolitan city of 8+ million that boasts spinning studios, hipster bars and Uber.

It wasn't until that trip that I realized how completely radical it is that women in that type of a stark, homogeneous environment create such brilliantly colored and designed bags. Nearly all of the indigenous Wayuu don't have electricity or running water, let alone Pinterest. Their ability to mix/match colors and patterns to create a perfect-looking mochila is astounding. Even more so that each back takes 20-30 days to make, on average. 

It's jarring but also incredibly beautiful and inspiring.

Since that point in time I've been to La Guajira several times, with the intent to meet Wayuu artisan women, see where they live, understand their culture and start to build relationships.

For me, that is the most important part of my job. I want to shake the hands of the women who make the bags I'm selling to you. 

I've since partnered with a couple different communities and hope to continue to support more going into 2016.

Our handbag line is a mix of Azulina-designed bags (like the short totes and pom pom mochila totes) and one-of-a-kind traditional mochilas that I hand-picked during one of my recent trips. I buy whatever I think is beautiful. 

When I contribute to the design process I always keep something traditional about the bag, whether it be the shape or the geometric pattern. There are 15+ traditional Wayuu patterns, all of which have names and tell stories.

The color combinations usually differ depending on where they're made. In the north, Alta Guajira, a region that is constantly in a drought, the bags have more Earth tones. In the southern part of the peninsula, where there is more greenery (although it's still very dry), the bags tend to be more bright and colorful. From time to time I'll see some hot pink bags coming from the North and it just tickles me... Sorry. Had to do it.

The bags are crocheted and take between 15 - 35 days for one woman to make. Our large totes take 30+ days to crochet, the traditional mochila takes about 20-25 days and the smaller totes take around 15-20 days. These all fall into the category of "single-thread" mochilas, as seen above. We'll carry some "double-thread" mochilas if I think they're beautiful and I know where they come from - the only difference being they crochet with 2 threads for each color instead of one, taking less time to create the mochila and is technically less "fine", but frankly, I think it is ALL excruciatingly difficult and beautiful work.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. No?

I can't wait to share more going forward about our work with these communities, the women who crochet our bags and the culture of the matriarchal Wayuu community. 

Thank you for coming on this journey with me and helping us provide ongoing economic support to these communities in La Guajira, Colombia. Between you and me, I think we can make a valuable difference in our artisan partners' lives.

Con Mucho Amor,

Melissa


Azulina + Marina Orth Foundation: Teaching Girls to Code

Today we have a BIG announcement and to celebrate Azulina is donating 20% of this week's profits to our new charity partner. To shop, click here.

Azulina Founder Melissa Moriarty with Maureen Orth, Founder of the Marina Orth Foundation, at the Marina Orth School in Medellín, Colombia

Azulina Ceramics is officially joining forces with the Marina Orth Foundation to support education in underprivileged areas in and around Medellín, Colombia.

Celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, the Marina Orth Foundation, a 501c(3) charity, supports five schools and 3200 children with laptops who begin learning how to code in the third grade and speak English from kindergarten. 

We are initiating the partnership to help further the Marina Orth Foundation's support of information technology, English language and leadership education in five schools, two of which are in the town of El Carmen de Viboral where our ceramics are made. The children of our artisan partners attend these schools!

Melissa and Maureen with Girls Who Have Learned to Code and Build Video Games on Computers provided by the Marina Orth Foundation

Connecting with the organization's founder, Maureen Orth, was nothing less than serendipitous. The three pillars of her foundation: bilingual education, technology and leadership, are perfectly aligned with the skills I believe are critical to the success of Colombian children in the 21st century. 

In my case, becoming fluent in Spanish was the primary reason for my being able to start an international business and work with Colombian artisans.  I am thrilled to partner with an organization that invests in bilingual education. Children of the artisans I work with attend the schools that Ms. Orth’s foundation supports.

To celebrate the partnership, from November 2nd to November 6th, 20% of all profits made at Azulina's online store shop.azulina.com will benefit the Marina Orth Foundation.

Con Mucho Amor,

Melissa

Founder, Azulina Ceramics


I'm an MBA Reject and Everything's Okay

Not a lot of people know this, because it still feels pretty embarrassing.

I was rejected by 100% of the MBA programs I applied to. I only applied to two. But still. Zinger! 

I felt stupid. I felt like a failure. I felt like I didn't have a bright future.

I know a lot of people have a tendency to think we have to follow a certain path to get to where we want to go, particularly when it comes to being a leader or starting a business, and it's all BS. 

The programs I applied to (Kellogg and Berkeley) have world class social entrepreneurship programs and I thought they were the ticket to my being a successful social entrepreneur (entrepreneur who seeks out both social and $$ profits). I always dreamed of starting a business and felt like I needed an MBA to do that. I needed the network! I needed the business foundation! 

Azulina may not be on Oprah's Favorite Things (some day!!), and maybe it hasn't been the most graceful 2.5 years starting a business in a foreign country, but I figured out how to start a business that does real good, and it came together without getting an MBA or having a business degree. I majored in Communications.

Through Azulina I've helped a family-owned workshop from a small town in rural Colombia get their ceramics into stores all over the US and in a couple weeks I'm announcing a new partnership with a foundation that's investing in bilingual education in public schools in the very town where our ceramics are made. If it weren't for my being bilingual I would never be where I am today, so it's a cause I'm super excited to support.

I didn't know it at the time, but everything I've done up until now was what I needed to start Azulina - all my internships in event planning and public relations, learning to speak Spanish as a foreign exchange student in Argentina, holding a leadership position in my sorority (Delta Gamma!), working in technology consulting, volunteering as a a pro-bono consultant in Honduras, reading every marketing/sales/business book on the market... I needed all of that to start Azulina, I didn't need an MBA to get here.

Perhaps if I had gotten an MBA I would've been fully funded two years ago and working with a pack of allstar interns, or maybe the network would've gotten me into Oprah's Favorite Things, but I'm still alive. Azulina is still here and doing well.

People love Azulina's ceramics. A family-owned pottery workshop is selling their products in 45 stores from Maine to Hawaii. I am still Azulina's only employee. I've learned to be real scrappy. And things are okay.

Most importantly I am proud of what I'm doing every day, I'm excited about what's to come and I feel comfort in knowing that those rejection letters didn't mean much after all.

Con Amor,

Melissa

Founder, Azulina Ceramics

One Final Note: Thanks to the depression that ensued after being rejected I called my world-traveler uncle for moral support and booked my first trip to Colombia.

Jennie's Perfect Fall Quiche

I'm in Boston today and fall is just starting to hint that it's on the way. Best feeling ever.

To celebrate the beginnings of fall I wanted to share a delicious quiche recipe that my dear friend, Chef Jennie, makes. 

Quiche is such a great and versatile dish. You can serve it for any meal of the day and you can use any ingredients (vegetables, cheese, meat) that you happen to have in the fridge! 

If you’re willing to put a little extra time into the preparation, this pie dough recipe from Alice Waters is to-die-for. It’s perfectly flaky and delicate (reminiscent of shortbread), without being overwhelmingly rich. The key is not letting the butter melt as you pinch it into the flour – the chunks are what give it its decadent texture.

 

Perfect Fall Quiche

with red pepper, zucchini leek, bacon and goat cheese

Ingredients    

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 180 g  cold unsalted butter
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ cup ice water
  • 4 eggs
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream
  • ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
  • 2 small to medium zucchinis, cut into ¼” rounds
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • 2/3 cup goat cheese
  • 200 g bacon, cut into ¼” slices 
  • 2 leeks, only (mostly) white parts, sliced into rounds
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • Olive oil
  • Sea salt
  • Black pepper


Instructions

1. Make dough

a. Combine flour and salt in large bowl

b. Cut butter into ¼-inch cubes and incorporate with fingertips only so as not to melt the butter.

c. Once butter is incorporated into dough but not overmixed (still with noticeable individual chunks), stir in ice water little by little with a fork and bring together into a loose ball. (You may not need all of the water.)

d. Divide in half, wrap in plastic, flatten into thick disks and refrigerate for at least half an hour. (Dough can be made several days ahead of time and frozen, just thaw out in refrigerator before using.) 

2. Prepare vegetables

a. Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in medium skillet over medium heat and sauté red pepper until it caramelizes and starts to brown. Season with salt and pepper and then remove from pan.

b. In the same pan, cook bacon over medium heat until crispy. Remove from pan and place on a paper towel-lined plate.

c. Cook zucchini in bacon fat and sprinkle with fresh thyme stalks. Let cook until slightly browned on both sides (about 5  –  7 minutes, shaking or flipping zucchini rounds halfway through). Season with salt and pepper and then remove from heat.

d. Meanwhile, heat 1 tbsp butter in a small skillet and sweat leeks until soften and golden (about 5  –  7 minutes).

3. Blind bake dough

a. Preheat oven to 400 °F (200° C).

b. Remove one disk of dough from refrigerator and roll out to 1/8 ” thickness, and fit into quiche or pie mold. Place in freezer for 30 minutes to set shape.

c. Remove from freezer and line with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Fill with pie weights or dried beans and bake until crust begins to turn golden, about 15 minutes.

d. Remove pie weights and continue to bake for an additional 10 – 15 minutes until base of the dough turns golden. Remove from oven and reduce temperature to 350 °F (175° C).

4. Prepare quiche

a. Combine eggs and cream in bowl. Add nutmeg and season to taste with salt and pepper. (The salt should be the last thing that you add, just before pouring the mixture into the pie crust.)

b. Evenly spread half of the zucchini, half of the red pepper, bacon, leeks and goat cheese over bottom of tart dough. Fill with egg mixture and then decorate top with remaining zucchini and red pepper. 

c. Bake until just set, about 20 minutes.

5. Enjoy! Serve with a fresh green salad or creamy tomato soup.


About Jennie: Jennie Levitt is a private chef whose training includes instruction in a series of restaurants, bed-and-breakfasts and organic farms in rural Italy along with some of the finest restaurants in Paris and Bogotá. She has launched and managed her own Mediterranean catering company in Aspen, Colorado, a rotating lunch restaurant in Paris, and most recently a series of pop-up dinners and cooking classes in Bogotá, Colombia. Her cuisine is based on traditional Mediterranean recipes that she learned at the source and now seeks to recreate with the best local ingredients in a warm, convivial environment.

New at Azulina: Fall 2015 Collection

I'm excited to share that this Fall we are launching several new shapes and sizes. Starting today!

Today we are launching our newest piece in the Azulina Collection, the spoon rest.

Over the past year we have been working to expand our line of ceramics to include smaller decorative pieces. We've found that the spoon rest is the perfect kitchen accessory and a great complement to our line of dinnerware. 

The new spoon rest comes packaged in a beautiful white gift box with a navy bow, making for a great present on the go. Just like the rest of our ceramics it is dishwasher safe and 100% handmade by skilled Colombian artisans.

If you want to send a quick thank you, a hostess gift, or a "You Go Girl!", it's already packaged and ready to go. 

What else is coming up this fall?

October 6: Coaster Sets

November 3: New Navidad Serving Sizes and New Serving Pitchers

 

If you want to be the first to know, enter your email address below to get on the Azulina Insider's list!

 

Con Mucho Amor,

Melissa

Founder, Azulina Ceramics

Thank You, Christi

This post feels hard and uncomfortable to write but I feel compelled to do it, to honor a beautiful soul and the family she left behind.

Today we are laying to rest a very special member of the Azulina family, Christi Pearson. It's been a sad, confusing and shocking week. I've been quiet about it, not really sure how to process the loss. 

Last week Christi suffered a fatal fall while poolside with her friends and family. She was the owner, brains, energy and head cheerleader of A La Carte, our home in Atlanta and the team of sales representatives that covers the southeast. She was a young mom to three.

I spent several days with Christi and the rest of the A La Carte team just two weeks ago in Atlanta. Life was good. Business was good. Everything was great.

As most who know her can confirm, Christi is a whirlwind of energy and so full of life it's contagious. Her laugh is the type of laugh you hear all the way down the hall. I love working with her.

She just can't be gone so quickly. I don't want to use past tense to describe her.

I first met Christi when I wandered into her showroom in Atlanta last January, unannounced, with a bag full of Azulina plates. I was on the hunt for a new sales rep team in the southeast region.

Unlike all the other showrooms I walked into, she and her team happily invited me in and gave me their full attention - they were kind, excited and happy to meet a new face. The next day I got a call and they agreed to rep Azulina Ceramics.

They took a big risk bringing in a brand new ceramics line that no one had ever heard of, started by a girl who had never worked in the industry.

This just goes to show the type of person Christi was - she was the type of person who went out of her way to support other small business owners and entrepreneurs. She did everything in her power to make her friends, colleagues, family and clients succeed. She built a booming business that everyone wants to work for/with.

Christi's sudden passing has been a shock to all of us.

For me personally it really jolted me in a way...that almost makes me feel selfish and guilty. It's made me realize how much time I spend worrying, gossiping, and complaining over....nothing, when instead I could be smiling...or traveling....or loving....or helping...or walking down the street and enjoying the sunshine on my face.

Life is too short and beautiful to worry about the petty stuff. 

Thank you, Christi, for the time that we had together. Thank you for believing in my little idea, for being a HUGE part of Azulina's success and for always supporting women business owners. We will all miss you, your southern twang and your big infectious laugh.

I'm sending so many prayers and love to your family right now. 

If you who would like to do something for her and her family, a fund has been set up for the children at:

Sun Trust Bank

1170 Buford Highway

Cumming, GA 30041

Attention: Mary Hale

 

Con Amor,

Melissa

Founder, Azulina Ceramics

 

Introducing: Pacifico

The newest Azulina pattern is here. Please meet Pacifico!

Our newest bright yellow and turquoise fish-inspired pattern is here and we are so excited to share it with you!

Our mission in creating Pacifico was to create dinnerware specifically for the beach house - where memories are made each summer with friends and family...where you host your annual clam bake and dine outside in the warm sunshine.

It's happy, full of life and 100% hand-painted, like the rest of the Azulina collection.

You can shop for it here: shop.azulina.com

Behind the Scenes: Making Pacifico

We worked alongside resident artist José Ignacio Vélez, who has spent his entire career designing patterns and creating ceramic art, and Margarita, the only artisan in the workshop who has mastered this pattern.

It was a two-year process of trial and error before we created our perfect beach house dinnerware!

If you scroll down you can see a few photos of the creation process with José and Margarita.

José Ignacio Adjusting the Platter Decoration

José Ignacio Adjusting the Platter Decoration

We didn't love the first "draft" of the oval platter - here was Jose's Sharpie edits

We didn't love the first "draft" of the oval platter - here was Jose's Sharpie edits

The final product: Oval Serving Platter in Pacifico

The final product: Oval Serving Platter in Pacifico

Margarita painting the Everyday Mug - click to shop

Margarita painting the Everyday Mug - click to shop

To see Pacifico in person visit your nearest retailer that carries Azulina or sign up for our newsletter to see where you can find us next! 

You can find a list of our stockists by visiting this page.

To shop online and see the whole collection please visit the Azulina Tienda.

If you like the new pattern and want to share it with all of your beach-loving friends, that would be awesome!

Have a beautiful day!

Con Amor,

Melissa

Founder, Azulina Ceramics


How I Started Azulina

“We have to continually be jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down.”

 - Kurt Vonnegut

This is the quote that started everything for me.

It is visual, it is relatable and when I first read it, it described the mindset I needed to start this whole shebang.

At the time, back in the fall of 2012, I had already come across our blue and white ceramics, but I didn't yet know how to manage the ideas flying around in my head.

I knew there was an opportunity, I felt like there were more people out there who would also love these ceramics and I thought that I was in the perfect position to start a business selling Colombian dinnerware back home in the US.

Now it's easy to see, but I struggled to connect the dots at the time.

With the help of my uncle's entrepreneurial advice: "go big or go home", "the customer is king", "just do it", among others... I took the leap and figured everything out as I went along.

I wanted to write this because I know so many people who are on the verge of making a big decision. Given some of the experiences I've had over these past three years failing/succeeding/crying/sighing, I want you to know that you will develop your wings on the way down.

Photograph by the lovely Eva Drago

Photograph by the lovely Eva Drago

I promise.

I first laid my eyes on these hand-painted Colombian ceramics three years ago, I shipped a 20-foot container two years ago, and today, Azulina's dinnerware is sold in over 35 stores all the way from Maine to Hawaii.

I'm sharing that not to brag, but because while I accomplished all those things, along the way I had no clue what I was doing.

The important part is that I figured it out.

I'm nowhere near where I thought I would be two years ago (my goal was 100 stores by now and a container a month), but I am moving along consistently and learning important lessons every single day.

It's hard. It's lonely at times. But goddamnit it's worth it.

Sometimes it's nice to hear it from someone else before you decide to take the leap.

So. Just do it. (and tell me so I can cheer you on from the sidelines!)

 

Con Mucho Amor,

Melissa

Founder, Azulina Ceramics

 


A Chance Meeting in El Carmen de Viboral

I had the most “magical realism” moment on Tuesday.

I arrived into El Carmen from Bogotá to work on some new projects with our workshop, to get our newest patterns out the door (follow us on instagram for a sneak peek) and to meet with a local foundation investing in IT and English programs in nearby public schools.

I needed to get to Medellín from El Carmen for a meeting the next morning but hadn’t yet scheduled the transport.

For the 90 minute drive from El Carmen to Medellín, private taxis cost more than my plane ticket from Bogotá so the next best option is a public bus that turns a 90 minute drive into a three hour drive. Not ideal, but I don’t yet have my helicopter to reduce the travel time down to 10 minutes (someday).

As I was bemoaning having to take the bus a young woman was purchasing a few pieces of ceramics in the workshop’s storefront. She looked hip, like she probably lived in Medellín, so I asked if she was going to drive down to Medellín and if I could join her?

Kind of brazen but I was getting desperate.

After hesitating for a bit (understandably) she said she'd take down my phone number and call me when she was planning to head out of town and back to Medellín.

An hour later she called and I stuffed myself into her small SUV with four other passengers. The woman in the front seat welcomed me in with a, "quien es esta niña tan hermosa?! Bienvenida!!" (translation: Who is this beautiful young woman?! Welcome!)

Turns out my newfound friends are the granddaughters and great-granddaughter of the guy who FOUNDED the town of El Carmen de Viboral, where our ceramics are made. He was one of the original potters!!

It was…beyond serendipitous. It was brilliant.

The great-granddaughter of the town's founder, who I first approached in the shop, is writing her anthropological thesis on the ceramics tradition of El Carmen. She also lives in Bogotá, like me.

We chatted about the history of the town, the different techniques from one workshop to the other, painters who are branching out on their own and creating new designs, the opportunities for growth and education... We laughed about how everyone has the same reaction when they see the ceramics in person, “that is hand-painted?? By a human??”

It was surreal and a special moment for me - I really needed it. 

Even after two years this journey to start Azulina and get our dinnerware out into the world is still difficult and lonely at times. I am full of self-doubt on some days. It's a blessing to have experiences like this to remind me of my purpose and why I'm doing what I'm doing.

On Tuesday evening as we were winding through the hillsides and going down the steep hill into the valley of Medellín I got my spark back.

Thank you, universe. 

Con Amor,

Melissa

Founder, Azulina Ceramics