“A store for those who are inspired by travel and craft and want to create a home that’s full of soulful moments and memories.“
That sounds right up my street!
We Are Nomads is a beautifully curated online store founded by Jane Badu, another former Londoner who has recently relocated to the North. Jane reached out to me recently to introduce her gorgeous website to me, and I was delighted by the lovely selection of products —and stories— has has lovingly brought together.
Inspired by her travels —particularly within Morocco which you know is one of my favourite destinations— Jane has brought together a community of extremely talented and creative ‘local’ artisans based across the globe, from the UK, Morocco and Egypt to Ethiopia and Swaziland. All have been carefully handpicked by Jane for their skilled craftsmanship and love of natural processes.
Included in Jane’s discerning edit are ceramics inspired by Islamic art by Ayah Ceramics (Egypt) alongside textured ceramic pieces by Michelle Ceramics (UK) that explore shape and colour. Hand-built ceramics by Naked Clay may be the most recognisable of We Are Nomad’s UK brands, having built a devout following via Instagram in recent years, but I was also delighted to discover the work of Bulgarian-born Eva Radulova, the woman behind Eradu, after falling for her organically shaped slip-cast porcelain pieces in Jane’s shop, especially the cream fruit bowl, with its organic waved edge reminiscent of sand dunes, or shallow waves on a beach.
While Jane naturally has a keen eye for a beautiful ceramic piece, she has also assembled a beautiful complementary collection of candles, artwork and textiles alongside.
While I was already familiar with Oré Mi, an independent wellbeing brand founded in South London by Karen Olla in 2019, which melds her Nigerian heritage with her London upbringing, it was lovely to discover Cornish candle company St. Eval, a B. Corp certified brand who have been perfecting the art and science of making candles for over 28 years! Each candle is hand-poured, using a mixture of vegetable and mineral wax and are 100% vegan.
I seem to have an inherent weakness for all kinds of handmade basketware —believe me, I do not need anymore basket in my home!— but the colourfully woven designs Jane has selected for We Are Nomad’s edit, from Ethiopian brand Salem’s Design’s, and Swaziland’s Swazi Baskets, could certainly tempt me further. The latter are made from grass picked in the ‘eTjebovu’ & ‘Mantenga’ areas on the slopes of the mountains in Swaziland, which is then dried out and then made into ropes, which are then coiled, weaved, and/or sewn or finger-knitted.
Lastly are the pieces Jane has sourced from Morocco; which offer a fantastic cross-section of all the designs I was lusting over when we traversed the Medinas of Marrakech, wishing I had had the foresight to book an extra suitcase for my flight home. We Are Nomad’s blankets and throws are hand-woven by Maison Ben Yamna, an artisan weaving workshop based in Fes which uses traditional weaving techniques. Then there are rugs from Soufiane Zarib, which specialises in vintage Berber and large-scale modern luxury rugs, as well as Sabra and Mud Cloth cushions. And finally, Moroccan ceramics, which include distinctive green and yellow pottery unique to the village of Tamegroute in the south of Morroco, formed using an ancient process that has remained unchanged throughout the years, as well as a careful edit of pieces from one of my favourite design stores in Marrakech —Chabi Chic— created by Parisians Vanessa Di Mino and Nadia Noël, which has a very popular store located underneath Nomad restaurant in the heart of the Medina.
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An interior designer by trade, Jane believes in creating spaces that will stand the test of time, with nods to craftsmanship and travel memories, as well as future heirloom pieces. Her careful curation of authentic items made by local makers she’s met on her travels and sourcing trips captures my own aesthetic when it comes to curating a ‘home full of soulful moments and memories,’ that I was eager to learn more about her brand journey and plans for the future.
Happily, she took a few moments out of her day to answer my questions… read on to learn more!
Let’s meet… Jane Badu, founder of We Are Nomads
Can you tell me about the inspiration behind We Are Nomads, and your creative background prior to this?
The inspiration for We Are Nomads came from a trip I took to Marrakech in between freelance roles. Whilst in the city I was amazed by how much craft there is taking place around you. It’s a city which is modern in its approach to interiors but also one that respects and celebrates traditional crafts. It was a great antidote to minimal Scandi-style interiors. I’m also very passionate about African craft and want to give it more of a voice over here in the UK. Many people still think of Africa as a continent full of poverty but it’s full of creativity. Alongside running the shop, and for the past 15 years, I work as an interior designer and create spaces that tell brand stories.
How do you go about sourcing the homeware collections you stock?
My sourcing prior to Covid was all done in person. I would travel meet artisans and pick up products to bring back in my suitcase. I love to see products in person, pick them up and touch them. Each season I try to source products that are not available elsewhere. I will create a look and feel board and base the range on the country they are created in. For example, when I think about Morocco, those soft pinks, oranges and rich greens come to mind. I will base the colour range and textures on that, I like to create a feeling or a mood with collections. During Covid, this was increasingly difficult as travel was so restricted. During that time I connected with British makers who I had not met but loved their work and bought pieces from them.
What emphasis do you place on a) the craftsmanship and b) the sustainability of the products you choose to sell?
Craftsmanship is key to the products that I sell. Each piece is made by hand, and this is where the soul of the product comes from. I think we are so used to seeing perfect products with no personality that people are kind of desensitised to the fact that real people are behind these pieces. This is particularly relevant when it comes to fast homeware. There are many high street shops that sell items at a price that almost certainly means that the people who create the pieces are paid very little. I think of sustainability as something that has to include the well-being of workers in countries such as Indonesia and Bangladesh. Big industry thrives on the idea that workers are invisible and we should only focus on price, it is dehumanising.
Can you provide a little insight into your typical working day?
My interior design work is a typical 9-5.30 day. This will involve creating mood boards, directions for the design and creating visuals to sell in the new design. I work on the actual website and bones of the shop in the evening or at weekends. It’s quite challenging to fit everything in but as a growing business I will sometimes be working on the website or an order quite last into the night. I started the website with very little and boostrapped everything. I do all of the photography, updating of the website and the marketing. I am hoping to start to collaborate more with other creatives and give myself more time to plan and grow quicker.
What are your long-term ambitions for We Are Nomads?
I would love to create a circular economy in a much bigger way with the shop, and travel to meet more artisans to work with. Travel is something that I cannot live without, it’s fascinating to bring back crafts and create a connection with people who are hundreds of miles away. I am also looking to grow the interior design service. I think people are so overwhelmed with interior design content that I would like to create a space in which people feel confident about creating a home that speaks to them and not something that looks good for social media. I’m all about people telling a story with the space whether that’s displaying fabric that has been collected or creating dinner tables that inspire questions from guests.
All imagery © We Are Nomads