Brian Curtis

Photo by Josh Cozine

For Brian Curtis, the road to owning an outdoor-oriented and eco-friendly jewelry business like Tarma Designs was more of a roundabout. A week after graduating from Chico State in 1989—with degrees in accounting and graphic design—Curtis hit the road for the Bay Area, where he had a design job lined up. But big-city life didn’t agree with him and a year later he found himself back in Chico. “I was sitting on the 101 one day between Palo Alto and Redwood City and it took me an hour to get home—which was about 6 miles—and I just decided I didn’t want to keep doing that,” he says. Shortly thereafter, Curtis opened his own design and online marketing company, MC2 Design Group. There, he met Michael Coogan, now his business partner, as well as Sky George, creator of Tarma Designs. After working with George as an MC2 client for years, Curtis got to know and appreciate Tarma’s sustainable, outdoor jewelry line. He even offered to buy the company should George ever want to sell. A little over a year ago, George took him up on the offer. In December 2016, Curtis and Coogan bought Tarma and moved operations into their MC2 office on Mangrove Avenue. For more info, check out Tarma online at tarmadesigns.com, or on Facebook.

What’s the meaning of the stacked rocks logo?

The logo is based on the cairn, the stacked stones, which represents balance in a lot of cultures, so it’s kind of a spiritual thing.

Why were you originally interested in purchasing Tarma?

I liked the business model. I’m an outdoor advocate, and I have a Prius and solar panels, so I’m completely entrenched in keeping my [carbon] footprint small. The previous owner was an executive with CamelBak in the marketing department. So [he was] already in the outdoor industry, and decided he’d had it with corporate culture and went on a sabbatical to figure out what he wanted to do. While he was hiking the Pacific Crest Trail … he realized there wasn’t any outdoor, active jewelry for men and women that was made out of sustainable materials.

What materials are used to make the jewelry?

Recycled stainless steel, nylon poly cord, silver and white bronze in our casted jewelry. It originally started with using recycled refrigerator stainless steel—it’s durable and doesn’t tarnish. The poly cord dries really quickly, and it’s all made for outdoors people. A lot of jewelry, it can break—the clasp breaks or the chain breaks; this was built for the outdoor lifestyle.

What plans do you have for the future?

We’re just coming out with our Happy Camper line. It’s more generally outdoor-related, so we’re reaching out to more people that aren’t necessarily elite [outdoor] athletes, but still consider themselves to be outdoors people. We also started selling wearables—beanies, hats and T-shirts—with the Tarma brand on them.