We Who Seek: Maya Njie
- We’re such fans of your perfumes and would love to hear about how it all started. When did you decide you wanted to start your own perfumery?
It started in my final year of university here in London. I had the idea that I wanted to pair scent with photography and visual design and decided to learn more about it. It wasn’t until about 3 years down the line that I started thinking about perfumery in business terms. It really only came about as perfume requests started to come my way.
- On your web shop, you pair each perfume with one of your family’s old photographs. Can you tell us a bit about how your perfumes draw on your heritage and tap into the power of nostalgia?
I tend to blend what I know so each perfume has had my experience or imagination as their starting point. I think being away from home and having spent many years living in the UK also helped to draw these nostalgic references out of me. Tobak is based on my grandfathers apartment and Tropica is the joy of visiting Gambia as a child. Scent is so evocative of past times that if I smell something I relate to I want to explore the possibilities.
- Like many great crafts, perfumery requires a handle on both nature and science. As someone with a background in visual arts, what was that learning process like for you?
Never ending. I am learning all the time and yet I feel like I have just started. As I don’t have professional perfumery training I might well be doing things slightly different to classically trained noses but that’s fine too.
- Part of what makes your perfumes so special is that they’re produced in small batches, by hand. What are the challenges and the benefits to working this way?
The benefits are that I am not tied down by huge MOQ’s and only produce what I can sell. At the same time my challenges can often be that my production takes up a big chunk of my working hours. I do so many different things within the business that something always has to give. It’s a balancing act.
- Do you have a favorite scent that you’ve produced? If so, what makes it special?
Yes it’s Nordic Cedar. It’s my first scent and it has all of the elements that I love such as Cardamom, Patchouli, Cedarwood, Musk and Ambergris. It gives me energy and keeps me snug.
- What do you do when you’re seeking inspiration? And are there any sources of inspiration for your work that people might be surprised by?
I get inspiration from many corners.. it can be a place I have visited or music I have heard, something I have had to drink, an imaginary character, or a stranger walking past me in the street.
- Who’s your all-time favorite artist or designer, and why?
I love the work of photographer Jamel Shabazz as I think he has a real good eye for capturing people in their everyday life. His work spans decades and really represents each chapter culturally through music, heritage and individual style.
- What do you wear to feel the most free and confident?
A colour that I love, green, blue or black. I like pinks and burgundy too. I like playing with colour combinations and layering. A nice pair of shoes.. mules or slippers have been a staple for the past 12 months.
- How do you incorporate sustainability into your life?
I buy a lot of second hand and try and revive items where I can. I try to shop locally as much as possible too. I think about to whom my money goes to and the longevity of what I buy and try and instil this into my daughters way of thinking too. I consider my supply chain, my packaging choices and offer a perfume refill service.
- What’s the most recent book you’ve read and felt moved by?
The book I have on the go is called The things you can see only when you slow down by Haemin Sunim. Ironically I do not make enough time to read very often, time to change that.
- What is the best advice you’ve received so far and who did it come from?
I am not sure to be honest but it’s usually different ways of telling yourself ‘you can do this’. We all need a bit of spurring on whilst walking uphill and I like anything that gives motivation but also allows for rest when you need it.
- What are you seeking more of this year?
More balance and time with friends and family