By Luke Netzley
Pasadena Weekly Deputy Editor
South Pasadena’s Anitra Terrell was in the lowest point of her life after losing her job.
She reflected on her happiest memory: an eight-week trip to Ghana as a Fulbright scholar in 2006.
“A museum near where I was living at the time got word that I was going to Ghana and asked me to be a textile buyer while I was there and to purchase various African fabrics for their permanent collection,” Terrell said.
During her trip, she worked at the college in the mornings and afternoons, 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 instantly drawn to it,” Terrell said. “I fell in love with the culture and artistry of these ancestral crafts, ones that have been made the same for generations.”
From traversing rope bridges above the idyllic canopies of the Ghanaian rainforest to learning the art of haggling in bustling marketplaces, Terrell gained an invaluable insight into the art and culture of Ghana.
“I was laid off in 2013 and, like a lot of people, I wasn’t sure what to do at that point or where to go next,” Terrell said. “So, I sat still, and I thought about the happiest moments in my life. The time I spent in Ghana surfaced repeatedly, and I said, ‘Whatever I do next, I want that experience to be a part of it.’”
With bachelor’s and master’s degrees in marketing, Terrell wanted to use her business experience to uplift artists and share pieces of art that meant a lot to her. Then, one day while she was out shopping for bedding, she was inspired.
“We often go into stores and think, ‘OK, this stuff is cool,’ but it doesn’t speak to you,” Terrell explained. “That was the light bulb moment. I said, ‘If I’m in the store looking for something that speaks to me, my experiences and my culture, I’m sure a lot of other people are, too.’ And so I decided I was going to create a home décor brand that celebrates the various types of African art and interiors to help other people find more of those pieces and create that sense of connection to African art and culture.”
Armed with her past partnerships with artisans across the African continent and a burning desire to share her love for their ancestral crafts, Terrell started Reflektion Design in a South Pasadena studio apartment, 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 definitely helped inspire the colors that I use and the fabrics that I source. My first major pop-up was at the West Elm in Pasadena, and the community was very welcoming to Reflektion Design.”
The business has grown into a thriving online marketplace and has been featured by Architectural Digest, Essence Magazine and HGTV. Terrell works directly with artisans in Ghana, Uganda and Kenya to source baskets, wall art, tableware and throw pillows to customers around the world. They’re drawn to the shop by the visual beauty of the products and their rich history.
“It’s like when you have a family 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 item in your home, you’re reminded of that individual or maybe a story or an experience you had with them that brings back good memories. It’s the same with art. A lot of customers that I have either aspire to travel to Africa or they’ve been in the past. Many of them have relatives who were in the Peace Corps, and they say, ‘Wow, this reminds me of the trip that I took to Nigeria 30 years ago. I haven’t seen this type of art since.’
“So just like we have our family heirlooms. We also have pieces from our travels or from special occasions. I believe that the more things we have in our home with meaning, the more meaningful of a home we create.”
Terrell will continue to form retail partnerships with artists and artisans across continental Africa and will design her own art as well.
“I want to encourage people to shop small,” Terrell said. “Many larger chain stores may carry similar products, but check with your local businesses first. Oftentimes the smaller businesses have a closer connection to the artisans themselves, so you know you’re getting something authentic and the artisan is being paid a fair wage.”
To visit and stay connected with Reflektion Design, visit their website, reflektiondesign.com, or social media pages on Facebook and Instagram @reflektiondesign.