Through the series Creativity Chronicles, we catch a behind-the-scenes glimpse behind the work and vision of the creatives that together shape the collective and what it represents.
Andrew Farrugia is the co-founder and general manager behind the instantly-recognizable Te fit-Tazza prints, which capture the essence of Malta’s multi-faceted, ever-evolving identity while paying homage to its rich heritage. We caught up with Andrew, as he shared his personal and professional journey that spans across the continents and miles.
Tell us something about yourself, something not related to your project/design or business.
When I find the time I try to learn a new skill which is not related to our business. Some time ago, I completed a diploma at ITS to improve my cooking skills as food plays an essential role in my life. I also ended a Graphic Design course way before we started Te fit-Tazza, which in hindsight it turned out to be pretty helpful. I want to find some time to learn more about gardening, so maybe one day I will be able to grow my food.
When I need to switch off from the world completely, I pack my bags and spend three days camping where time seems to slow down and I appreciate the essentials.
When was the first time you had any idea about your project/design/company?
When I was younger, I had the opportunity to study in Japan for a year and work in Canada for two years. During this time, I was immersed in two completely different cultures and ways of living. This period was probably the first time I started looking at Malta, our history, and our identity as unique in their way.
Does your project/design/company have a significant name? If so, what is the meaning behind it and how did it come about?
When we were discussing the project, we first agreed on what we're going to work on and what to document. We knew that we needed to go out and explore so we decide to spend some days going from one village to the other and visiting squares, narrow streets, band clubs and anything which we thought of as quintessentially Maltese. During one of these outings, the word Te fit-Tazza came up, and both Craig and I liked it straight away.
The number of positive comments we received throughout the year was quite surprising.
Did you gain a formal education in creativity? What, do you feel, played an important role in your creativity?
Since secondary school, I always studied accounts and economics until I discovered some basic marketing classes during my year in Japan. During this year, I also had the opportunity to take a Japanese ceramics class. This mix of subjects helped me realise that no matter the discipline, there's always a process to follow to achieve great work.
Thanks to the internet, I was exposed to every kind of work and my curiosity to combine logical thinking with the freedoms offered in a creative industry kept growing. Throughout the years I learned to trust that proper groundwork will lead to the best work you can get out there and once it is out there be ready to accept any feedback knowing deep down you tried your best and anything from there onwards its part of the learning process in a much bigger important process.
Where do you draw your inspiration from?
Observing the world around me is probably my biggest inspiration. Analysing everyday life and wonder why things happen the way they do. I believe that by looking at the past, one can better understand the present, so why not imagine the best future possible and try to get some perspective on the decisions of today?
When you first started thinking about your project/design/company, did you think you would be in the place you are now? Is it where you hoped to be?
Our priorities throughout the years didn't change. Craig and I always wanted to work on a project where we are allowed to explore and push our boundaries with no external restrictions. Documenting the Maltese identity and telling our story through various products we can market and sell was something that we felt was possible to achieve.
I would have never imagined that three years later, we would be where we are today. Our focus is still the same, but as the company grows, we face new challenges with every opportunity. Having our own retail space and buying a second brand was not something in the initial plan but vital to keep working on our vision today.
How do you find the right balance between planning and allowing creative ideas to flow?
One of the first steps during the planning stage is to determine the framework and parameters for that project. This step helps us understand the priorities and the resources available to deliver the best results. When we move on to the creative part of the project, ideas need to fit the overall scope of the project. Coming up with ideas when you have unlimited time and resources is easy, narrowing it down to simple tasks, deadlines, and figuring out the way forward is the tricky part.
In the last year, we were able to understand better when we are in the planning stages of a project on so we need to have logical thinking and when to switch to creative thinking where there are no right or wrong answers as long as you trust the framework of the particular project.
Many times ideas that don't fit the project at that time end up becoming a separate project or part of a natural progression of that same project.
What has been the most highlighted event/milestone for you, so far?
Probably one of the most critical milestones for Te fit-Tazza that can often get unnoticed goes back to 4 months before our launch. We were receiving printed samples every day, but we found nothing we liked. We had around ten prints from two Collections, and we were at a crossroads as we couldn't keep working unless we sorted out the printing and the overall final product.
After 18 months of research, we finally cracked it. I remember calling Craig to inform him we're good to go and we should shift focus to delivering the best work we can for the launch (which we had already confirmed even without any finished print in hand).
Our Series 2 Launch at The Splendid in Strait Street was another significant achievement for the team. This lead to the opportunity of acquiring the Souvenirs That Don't Suck brands which opened new doors we did not imagine possible.
Do you still feel that same passion about your business as when you first started, or when you had the initial idea?
During our planning stage, one of the most important factors we take into consideration is the reasons why we're doing what we're doing. We know that if we compromise on this, we will end up working on projects which we don't want to and work stops being motivational.
A simple example of this during the initial months of our company was the Clubs Series. We wanted to test our creative process to develop a new collection, so we opted for a subject both Craig & I connect to so the research and learning process is something interesting even if the project never materializes.
Recently we decided to stop our merchandise business so we can focus on the creative & retail side of the company. We knew that in the short-term, we would lose a revenue stream, but in the long run, we can focus on the main scope of our business and have fun doing what we like.
What most helped you get to where you are now and what helped you follow through with your ideas?
At the core of it all, we're three friends that understand each other's individuality, needs & wants. We sit down, discuss and agree on the fundamentals, the best way forward, and assign responsibilities so we get the ball rolling.
From there onwards, we follow our process and company workflow, which we fine-tuned for the past three years and started chipping away the massive list of tasks which will lead to the final idea originally agreed.
When you agree on the fundamentals of the project and empower the best people to deliver, you don't need to discuss every little detail and allows you to be more efficient.
If you could start the project over again, what would you change or do differently?
Looking back, knowing how the smallest decisions turned out into great opportunities, I can't imagine changing some of the tough moments we had. Ultimately without the less favorable outcomes, you don't learn and figure out new solutions to reach new heights.
We would have loved to have more resources available when setting up The Splendid Exhibition or when refurbishing the shop in Sliema, but both instances pushed our team to the limit, family and friends came together to help, and at that stage we realized that this project turned into a small community based on mutual understanding, shared interests and support.
What is the one thing that you want people to come away with when they see/use your design, purchase your product, or get to know of your company?
At the very least we want everyone that interacts with our company to feel welcomed. We understand that it's impossible that everyone likes everything we do, but even when disagree, we can make sure the personal experience is pleasant and respectful.
If you dig deeper, we're ultimately a group of individuals working together to develop two brands both with their own individual story. We love the fact that we share this journey with some many great people.