Cape Town-based jewellery designer, Abi James, has been making African inspired jewels for over a decade, creating beautiful pieces of art, one masterpiece at a time. Getting the chance to meet the creative mind and hands behind Soul Design Jewellery (@soul_design_jewellery) and having the time to sit and truly appreciate her African craftsmanship with a bohemian flair only made us even more passionate about her unique style that her pieces represent. There are so many things to look at and capture on camera. We are captivated by what’s on the mood board, which are small glances into her inspiration. Her desk sits in front of a big window that brightens up the studio and undoubtedly brings out some of the creativity while she’s working. On it, lays a myriad of materials and metals including brass, bone, wood and precious stones, waiting to be used on one of her stunning designs. Then there is the scented candle, a staple at Abi’s studio, that makes the room smells heavenly. You can imagine that we had lots of questions for her about how she started out as a jewellery designer, what it’s like running her own business and how she manages to stay balanced throughout her busy schedule. Here’s what she told us:
Tell us a little bit about you and what you do.
I’m Abi and I run a jewellery business called Soul Design. I’m from London originally and found my way to Africa after university and have made this continent my home since then.. I live in cape town, where my studio is in my home.Each piece of Soul jewellery we make is inspired by Africa and made by hand on the continent. I like to use the term ‘nomadic workshop’ to describe how our pieces are brought together. Travel and connection are very much the driving forces behind the production – working with entrepreneur brass smiths in east africa, bead traders across africa, which are all brought and beaded into jewellery in our little studio in BoKaap, Cape Town.
What inspired you to start Soul Design?
I was working for accessory brands before I started Soul and started making jewellery on the side. I’ve always loved making jewellery since I was a little girl. Traveling and living in different African countries brought access to amazing artisans and creative talent that I started incorporating into my jewellery.
What are some of your daily inspirations, challenges and rewards as a busy entrepreneur?
I suppose bringing all the elements together, I have a multi tasker style brain but I do struggle with accounting/financial planning etc, and can get drawn into admin/orders and design over other elements that I find harder – Outsourcing is the way though..!
What do you find is the hardest challenge balancing your work and personal life?
At the moment my studio is in my home, which I love, but I’m looking to see how to find a space that feels perfect and soulful to move our brand so I can get my spare room back!
What does self-care mean to you? What do you do to keep sane?
A daily yoga practice is my aim and gives me some space before I start my day. I’ve started to really need it everyday the more I do it! I also have monthly facials and the odd massage.
Must have beauty products?
What types of exercises bring out the best in your body shape?
Yoga, cardio – switch circuits.
What 3 tips would you give to women who want to start a business?
Allow yourself time to get it going and evolve and be prepared to be flexible…and If you can remove the financial pressure at the beginning which can kill creativity sometimes, perhaps by keeping your existing/part time job can really help.
Take us through an average day in the life, the first thing you do in the morning through to the last thing you do at night.
I start my day with an early morning yoga class and coffee and then get into the studio by 9am, everyday is different. Packing orders, people popping in/designing/liaising with our artisans…I also do an art class once a week every Wednesday morning. I end my day with a glass of wine and seeing friends!
What does your perfect day in Cape Town look like?
Beach, mountains, good food, good wine, friends, family…all the ticks please.
Where are your three favorite destinations to travel to alone/with family/friends? Do you have any trips planned?
I loved Bali…I also love Zambia- south Luangwa is seriously special for safari and some wilderness. I also love Lamu island in Kenya.
what is your philosophy when it comes to food?
Everything in moderation….yup im still working on this one!
What is your favourite home cooked dish? Who inspired your cooking?
I love asian food, rice noodle stir fries with coriander and nuts are a favourite of mine to cook.
Can you share your favourite recipe with us?
Beef fillet with thai red curry paste and then cook in coconut milk in the oven…served with sweet potato mash…always gets the thumbs up.
Something you can’t live without?
What is next for you?
I’d love to look at something more in the retail world for Soul, a collaboration concept, ideas are flying around!
Is there anything we have not asked that you would like to talk about?
I’d love to mention our recent colab. Soul x Petrichor colab. Petrichor is the smell of rain falling on the earth. It’s also a brand of 100% natural oils based in Cape Town. Together we have created a range featuring lava beads that absorb and hold onto oils all day, each scent evoking a feeling or memory.
Sweet or Savory? Savory
Hot or cold? Hot Always
Lips or Eyes? Eyes…though id love to say both≥
Smoothie or Juice? Juice
Yoga or Pilates? Yoga always
Coffee or Tea? Coffee in the morning and herbal tea rest of the day
Curated by Ségo Elliott
Soul Design Jewellery