SOUL DESIGN ARTISANS
Meet our team and some of the artisans we have connected with whilst travelling in Africa. Their warmth, talent and craftmanship have inspired us, and we've worked together with them to create our collections.
Originally from Zimbabwe, Abi met Lee by chance through a friend’s contact when we were looking for someone to help clean our studio. Each time she finished her work in our space, she would try her hand at beading in the studio and helping us with packing orders. With her hard working ethic and determination starting to shine through, it wasn’t long until she became a full role time role becoming our Assistant Production manager on the SOUL Design team.
Lee and her young daughter, Leane, live locally in Muizenberg nearby her sisters and other friends and family from Zimbabwe. Being a mother herself, Lee is brilliant with kids who come and make their own beaded bracelets in our workshop space and her gorgeous friendly nature always makes people feel at home when they visit SOUL.
“SOUL design team is like family; caring and considerate. I’m really grateful to work here”
Nontembe is our Production manager and the limbs of SOUL design; she puts it all together and holds it in place. She was one of the starting blocks of the brand, beginning working with Abi in 2010 and now, not only, is she a crucial part of SOUL Design, but she is like family to us. Originally from the Eastern Cape, South Africa where she grew up with a big family of 4 immediate siblings and lots of cousins. She moved to Cape Town when she was 18 years old.
After a few years spent working in a supermarket, she decided it was time for her to do ’something for me’ and so she took a placement at Learn to Earn, an incredible NGO focused on up-skilling people in sewing and creative skills. She was able to start working 'designing things and using my hands in work which I love’. It was through Learn to Earn, that Abi was introduced to Nontembe and she started working for SOUL part time that quickly grew into full time. Litha, her little boy, was born in 2014. Unfortunately he lost oxygen during his birth and as a result, he has been challenged by his health ever since and underwent open heart surgery in 2019. But this courageous mama continues to amaze us all at SOUL design with her strength and growth, you can read more about Litha’s story here.
“When I'm in the Studio I feel like I'm at home, I'm happy to be here. When I went through all the trauma of my son’s health, I always felt better being here as I get the support and love from SOUL Design.”
A creative at heart, Nonthu, took the plunge to follow her artistic passions in 2018. Shuffling her work life as a domestic cleaner to work weekends, she freed her weekdays to take a 3month course at Learn to Earn, the same incredible NGO as Nontembe trained through... It was through Learn to Earn, that we were introduced to Nonthu to consider for SOUL Design in early 2019. She is now our Retail manager and oversees our Kalk bay shop.
Also originally from the Eastern Cape, Nonthu moved to Cape Town when she was 10 years old with her mother after her parents separated. Nonthu has a beautiful, warm energy and often uplifts SOUL Design with her wise words and positive take on life. People love meeting her in our shop; we were recently emailed from a lovely customer in Canada who decided to contact us off the cuff and let us know how ‘exceptionally helpful, friendly and knowledgeable about our products’ she is and followed up by letting us know how ’truly lucky (we are) to have someone like her’ - we 100% agree!
"For me, work now has a purpose. I’m just happy to be here."
Abi has been working with Fred since 2012 after initially meeting him in a market in Kenya. Based in Nairobi, Fred learnt brass-smithing from his father; it’s a skill that has been past down a few generations in his family and he now runs a successful business employing over 8 people, including 2 of his brothers. We’ve always leaned to working and designing with artisans with skills that are rooted in African culture, where we create a relationship between modern designs with authentic craft.
Fred and his team create all of our unique SOUL Design pieces by hand, often using traditional techniques of wax casting by making moulds from molasses, then heating brass in a simple clay furnace in the ground and pouring molten brass into the moulds. Fred is also incredibly talented at intricately cutting brass designs by hand - our favourite example of this skill is in our Acacia Earrings design.
“Working with SOUL Design has really helped so many families put food on the table. I hope SOUL will continue to grow and leave a long-lasting kudos.”
Elizabeth is an inspiring Zimbabwean female entrepreneur with a tailoring business in Masiphumele, a local township closeby to Kalk Bay. She learnt to tailor in her home country and then moved to South Africa in 2016 and set up her own business in a country where employment was going to be tricky and now she currently employs a team of 5 people.
Her positive and ‘can do’ attitude to life makes her a joy to work with and we co-colaborate with her on making our SOUL Design clothing. She also makes up all our homeware cushions from the African fabrics we source from the continent and her team sew all our fabric gift purses we use on our orders.
“It is rare to find somebody who truly believes in small businesses like us and supports us to the extent where you always bring your work to us and you trust us…you are empowering small businesses to say yes we have the room in the World out there to shine and show how talented we are….because of SOUL Design 5 families are being able to be supported."
Patience is our studio manager, she is our newest member joining our Kalk Bay team in 2023. She sadly lost her job in lockdown and went through a tough patch trying to look after herself and 3 children; we met her and started to help her out starting her dream of baking with making Kumba cookies that she sells in our shop (all profits going to Patience).
We loved her energy and wanted her to join our team and she now keeps our space, plants and everyone in it happy and well. Being a naturally good cook, she prepares healthy staff lunches everyday for our team. She is learning how to make beaded jewellery.
“I’m happy to learn and grow each and every day. I’m more confident and I have developed communication skills than before I started working at SOUL."
Since opening our first retail space in 2021 and with our company growing, we realised we needed to collaborate with another team of brass-smiths. On a 2022 trip to Kenya, Fred introduced us to Shem who has a workshop in the heart of Kibera, a township area in Nairobi. Shem is young creative entrepreneur; as is common in Kenya, entrepreneurship is seen as an opportunity of taking your future into your own hands and after learning the art of jewellery making, Shem opened his own workshop at only 23 years old and he now manages a team of over 20 men and women!
Shem’s enthusiasm is a great energy to work with and we love collaborating with him on new designs - often done scribbling ideas on paper over tea in his home near to his workshop. We are also excited to have started making some new brass homeware pieces with him.
“My dream is to create more and more employments to the jobless people."