By Luke Netzley
Pasadena Weekly Deputy Editor
Sout Pasadena’s Anitra Terrell was at the lowest point in her life after losing her job.
She reflected on her happiest memory: an eight-week trip to Ghana as a Fulbright researcher in 2006.
“A museum near where I lived at the time was told I was going to Ghana and asked me to become a textile buyer while I was there and buy various African fabrics for their permanent collection,” said Terrell.
During her travels, she worked at the university in the mornings and afternoons, and then spent her evenings in the marketplace. Terrell also spent time in rural villages to see how African textiles were handmade. She also learned about the local art.
“It was such a transformative experience, and I was immediately drawn to it,” Terrell said. “I fell in love with the culture and artistry of these ancestral crafts, the kind that have been done the same for generations.”
From crossing rope bridges over the idyllic roofs of the Ghanaian rainforest to learning the art of bargaining in lively marketplaces, Terrell gained invaluable insight into Ghana’s art and culture.
“I was fired in 2013 and, like many others, I was not sure what to do at that time or where to go next,” said Terrell. “So I sat still and thought about the happiest moments of my life. The time I spent in Ghana came up repeatedly, and I said, ‘Whatever I do next, I want that experience to be a part of it.’
With a bachelor’s and master’s degree in marketing, Terrell wanted to use her business experience to highlight artists and share works of art that meant a lot to her. Then, one day when she was out shopping for bedding, she was inspired.
“We often go into stores and think ‘OK, this is cool,’ but that does not speak to you,” Terrell explained. “It was the moment of the light bulb. I said, ‘If I’m in the store looking for something that speaks to me, my experiences and my culture, I’m sure many others are too.’ And so I decided to create a home decor brand that pays homage to the different types of African art and interiors to help other people find more of these objects and create that sense of connection to African art and culture. ”
Armed with her previous partnerships with artisans across the African continent and a burning desire to share her love for their ancestral crafts, Terrell started Reflection Design in a studio apartment in South Pasadena, where she used her bed as a cutting table and stored fabrics in the closet.
“South Pasadena is such a warm and beautiful place,” Terrell described. “It has definitely helped to inspire the colors I use and the fabrics I buy. My first big pop-up was at West Elm in Pasadena, and the community was very welcoming to Reflection Design.”
The business has grown into a thriving online market and has been presented by Architectural Digest, Essence Magazine and HGTV. Terrell works directly with artisans in Ghana, Uganda and Kenya to buy baskets, wall art, tableware and pillows for customers around the world. They are drawn to the store by the visual beauty of the products and their rich history.
“It’s like having a heirloom in your home, like a blanket that belonged to your grandmother or a cigar box that belonged to an uncle of yours,” Terrell said.
“Every time you see that object in your home, you are reminded of that person or maybe a story or an experience you had with those that evokes fond memories. It is the same with art. Many customers that I either want to travel to Africa or have many of them have relatives who were in the peace corps, and they say, ‘Wow, this reminds me of the trip I took to Nigeria 30 years ago. I’ve not seen this kind of art since its.
“Just as we have our heritage. We also have pieces from our travels or from special occasions. I think the more things we have in our home with meaning, the more meaningful we create a home.”
Terrell will continue to form retail partnerships with artists and artisans across continental Africa and will also design its own art.
“I want to encourage people to shop a little,” Terrell said. “Many larger retail chains may have similar products, but check with your local companies first. Often the smaller companies have a closer connection to the craftsmen themselves, so you know you are getting something authentic and the craftsman is getting a reasonable salary.”
To visit and stay in touch with Reflection Design, visit their website, reflektiondesign.com or social media on Facebook and Instagram @reflektiondesign.