I recently got in touch with a fellow Garden Route girl, Stefni Muller, and found out a little more about the inspiring bespoke jewellery that she spends her days creating.
Stefni and I were friends of friends during highschool, both privy to the idyllic, seaside upbringing that Knysna afforded us. Knysna kids, many will tell you, are a little different. When I discovered Stef’s eclectic range of thoughtful, handcrafted rings and pendants in Knysna last year, she did nothing but reaffirm my belief in the importance and authenticity of locally conceived products.
I asked her 7 questions because 7 is my favourite number, and because I have a persistent love of alliteration that I will always find a way to include.
1. Tell me a little bit about yourself – who you are, what you do, the
things you love.
I’m still trying to figure out who I am. I don’t think that journey ever ends, but if I had to sum it up in a few words… creative surfing traveller head over heels in love with dogs! I am most comfortable in outdoor spaces, where I can hear or see the ocean, and I’m most at home when I can feel the sand beneath my feet. Adventure and exploration is the key element to my creativity, it keeps me and my work raw and humble. I feel that my products should be honest.
2. You grew up in Knysna. How much of an influence has that had on the style of your jewellery?
I actually lived in Pretoria for the first 13 years of my life and moved to Knysna at the age of 14. Knysna has had a major influence on my work in general, but mainly because I had the privilege of living the lifestyle that ultimately fuelled my creativity… it’s all about the lifestyle.
3. How did you come to be a jewellery designer? What has the journey until today been like?
Jewellery Design and Manufacture wasn’t my first choice. To be honest, I didn’t even know anything like it existed.
I enjoyed working with my hands immensely but it was the hardest four years of my life. I struggled to express myself in metal, and there wasn’t much freedom in the design or manufacturing process.
I stuck it out and got the degree, but I was on the first plane out of here and swore that I’d never pick up a paint brush, or make jewellery again. I spent two years following the summer between South Africa and England and it was absolute bliss.
After a two year break I was more passionate than ever before. I had needed to refuel. I woke up one morning, had my last cup of tea saluting the ocean in front of my house on the English coastline, booked a plane ticket home and opened my own creative studio trading under Stefni.
I can’t say that jewellery design was what I’ve always dreamt of doing, but looking back I wouldn’t change it for the world. I now am a diverse creative with the privilege of balancing my time between a few disciplines I am absolutely passionate about.
4. Describe your jewellery - who do design it for and who do you envision wearing it?
Raw and honest. I’d like to think that there is no pretense in my work. That’s the way I approach the manufacturing process, too. I melt my own metal, roll
it myself and make everything by hand. I takes much longer and is more labour intensive, but it gives my product a truthfulness that machinery doesn’t come close to.
I don’t make jewellery for the money, but rather for the love of who it will end up with. I would like those who have a close connection to nature to wear my jewellery; those who still know the worth of thought-provoking, handmade things.
5. What materials do you like to work with?
Brass is a favourite. Silver at times. And then all things found! On the street, at second hand markets, or on the beach. I like to take things that served a specific purpose but are no longer of use and celebrate their existence within my jewellery. I also incorporate a lot of fabric and thread… they are key elements in my work.
6. Are there any other designers/artists/crafters either locally or
internationally that you admire?
Faith47, Andrew Thomas Breitenberg from One Street Herald and Banksy (to
state the obvious) are graffiti artists that I admire, all of whom challenge societal rules, expose the truth, share and inspire. Artists? There is only one… Peter van Straaten… need I say more? (He is also my ultimate!)
7. What inspires you?
The ocean, adventure, photography, old school anything! Foreign language films, travelling, third world countries, mountains, sunshine, rain… I LOVE it when it rains and it seems like everything gets purified, cleansed and renewed.
Fabric also inspires me. You will lose me in a fabric shop. I don’t need it but I will buy it! The English coast surfing scene is also so beautiful. And most of all my dog and partner in crime in most adventures, Roxy dog. The list can go on forever… every day is an artwork waiting to happen!
Stefni’s range is available at French Kisses in Knysna and Plett, at T&Co in Cape Town, and at Gatsby & Gold in London. She has previously exhibited at the Design Indaba, Kamers vol Geskenke and at the Food Wine Design Fair.
Do yourself a favour and go check out the rest of Stefni’s incredible one off pieces on her website. I am particularly partial to her gorgeous heavyset rings, each of which is crafted from sleek, matte metal and studded with some or other arcane, compelling keepsake. She takes the things that we stumble upon and put in our pockets and gives them another life.
All images by Cornelius M. Muller