If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times: your home should have an eclectic mix with accessories you’ve collected during trips to faraway countries. But what if it turns out the hand-crafted occasional table you’ve *just* bought at that souk in Marrakesh doesn’t fit in the overhead luggage bin? What a nightmare that would be! Luckily, I have the perfect solution for you – and it’s called Eterne! Last month, I met up with Nagim Zamarialai, one of the charismatic owners of the exciting startup that delivers home accessories from all corners of the world. I also had some items from Eterne delivered at my own home so that I could see with my own eyes what they looked like. To loosely quote The Bangles, is this burning an Eterne flame?
Eterne has a wonderful collection of home accessories, art, jewelry and fashion items made by craftsmen from all over the world. How did it all start?
I think I first got attracted to art and culture through my grandmother. I was born in Afghanistan. Our family moved to the Netherlands when I was very little. My grandmother, who had come with us as well, always used to tell these beautiful stories about Peshawar, the town she grew up in. Most of her stories revolved around the rugs that were made there. The best weavers would use them to visualize their dreams, their fears – designing a pattern for a rug and then making it was a process that could take years.
Have you ever been back?
Unfortunately, not. Although I have to say that Afghanistan is always on my mind. In fact, when a good friend of mine bought a new house last year, I suggested he should buy a genuine Peshawar rug. Together, we looked online but much to our amazement, we couldn’t find anything. I then asked my father if he could buy one during his next visit to Afghanistan, but that would have been nearly impossible.
When Nagim and I lifted this Moroccan box from the crate it came in, we were stunned by the intricate metal inlay and the deep blue lining. I am seriously contemplating visiting Hussein Souiri, the artisan who made it, when I go to Marrakesh in a few weeks! PS: Still loving my Graham & Brown Ubud Mayhem wallpaper as you can see! Crystal lamp by Isaac Monté, fabric with hand pattern by Vlisco.
I don’t quite see how a full-size rug would fit in the airplane’s overhead compartment, no.
It’s not only that. Getting to and from Peshawar is a highly difficult and even dangerous affair. It’s a five-hour drive from Kabul. The roads are very bad. My dad even got stopped by Taliban troops during his last visit. When he finally made it to Peshawar, he found out that everyone had stopped making rugs. Decades of war had made it simply impossible for the local weavers to produce their rugs, let alone export them. It was astonishing to see that a such a centuries-old rich tradition had simply vanished. That really got me thinking. I mean, there are so many beautiful but unknown products around the world that could disappear in the near future if we don’t do anything. How amazing would it be if we could bring together these hand-crafted products in one place and show the world the craftsmanship it takes to make them? I took that idea and developed it into Eterne together with my friend Jonathan.
Okay, now I get it – I guess Eterne is an online marketplace that is curated by you. That sounds like a very ambitious affair.
It sure is, especially if you want to sell genuine, high-quality products only and present them in the best possible way. To be honest, we underestimated some things when we started out. In the beginning, we thought that all we had to do is bring together good photos of the products. In retrospect, it was one of the many hurdles we had to overcome. After we received the first pictures that artisans from different parts of the world had taken of their products, we noticed how the quality and the visual style of the photography were all over the place. That taught us to set some very strict guidelines for the product photography. We are cracking the logistical puzzle now. Getting every detail just right is a process that could sometimes take several months. You can imagine that it takes patience for everyone involved, but luckily the people who have invested in our startup have given us plenty of time.
How did you first get in touch with the artisans you’ve selected?
We started out in Ecuador, the home country of Eterne’s co-founder Jonathan. Through some people he already knew, we got in touch with CIDAP, which is an Ecuadorian institute that promotes arts and crafts. They helped us find some of the country’s finest craftsmen. We also made sure the artisans we selected had a Unesco Seal of Excellence. All the experience we gained in Ecuador helped us to do more of less the same thing in countries we didn’t know very well at first, such as Morocco and Georgia.
Georgia? That doesn’t sound like a very obvious country to go to!
It’s not exactly a country that many people are familiar with, I’ll give you that. A while ago, however, I met someone from Georgia at a festival here in the Netherlands. And he couldn’t stop talking about the country’s rich heritage. I didn’t really believe him at first, but when I got home and decided to do a little online research, I found out that Georgia actually has an 8,000-year-old civilization and a very rich history. The country was influenced by Persians, Ottomans, Russians and the Crusaders. Can you imagine what that does to the culture of a relatively small country? When the Ministry of Culture sent over some samples of local products, my mouth fell open – it was all so beautiful. For Eterne, it was a match made in heaven. And did you know Georgia also makes for an excellent travel destination?
You definitely have selected an interesting mix of products. I have the impression that some of them cost a bit more than the average consumer is used to paying nowadays.
Yes, but you definitely get your money’s worth. When you take into consideration that our artisans could spend an entire month making a really intricate vase, the price they ask is very reasonable.
I guess you’re right! I think we’ve forgotten that not everything comes off a conveyor belt in China. Time for a change!
Understanding the story behind a product is what it’s going to be about in interior design. And that is exactly why at Eterne we believe in the power of storytelling, whether it’s through video or our blog page. It’s so much nicer if the products you have in your home have a great story to them.
Five must-have items from Eterne
Okay, so now that you know a little bit more about Eterne, let me whet your appetite a little more by showing you my five favorite items from Eterne. And I can tell you free of charge that it was HARD picking just five – but here we go!
1 – Iznik vase with galleon pattern
Up until five minutes ago, I had never heard of Iznik ceramics – but now that I’ve seen it, I don’t think my life can go on without at least buying this Iznik vase with galleon pattern.
2 – Ceramic sink – Fish
Who said that bathrooms have to look sterile and boring? Certainly not me! This Georgian ceramic sink is sure to wow your guests – and you don’t have even to take the midnight train to Georgia to buy it, because Eterne delivers it right at home just for you.
3 – Totora Rug
Totora is a form of giant bulrush that grows in marshlands across South America. It’s used to make huts, boats and…this rug that you can buy right now from Eterne! It’s a material I’d never seen before – can you imagine how great it would look in your living room?
4- Mexican Day of the Dead ceramic skull
I once bought a Mexican ceramic skull but it was nowhere near as beautiful as beautiful as this one made by artisan Omar Hernández from Oaxaca, Mexico. And did you know it will haunt you for the rest of your life if you ever by cheap sh*t at Ikea again? (Just kidding)
5 – Ryad door
You can definitely make an entrance with this antique Ryad door. It’s hand-painted, hand-carved and ready for shipping to your home. Can you imagine welcoming your guests with a door like this? I know I can!