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Rising Stars 2013: Songezo Baleni


With his range of fine woven jewellery, this Durban-based entrepreneur is making tracks in the industry. Tell us about yourself… I am a Durban-based jeweller, specialising in the production of fine woven jewellery. I use the traditional grass weaving technique to produce my creations and I recently started experimenting with braiding techniques. What kind of jewellery do you make? I make everything from rings and earrings to necklaces, cufflinks and bracelets. Where do you draw inspiration from? My upbringing, mainly. I looked after cattle while growing up and I used to weave grass. Now I look back at those stitches and apply them to metal. I also enjoy following the trends of well-known international jewellery houses. I’m always on the lookout for new ideas so I’ll check out what they’re doing in terms of contrasting colour and metal and try to apply the weaving and braiding techniques to come up with my own designs. What has been the highlight of your career so far? Exhibiting at Design Indaba and showcasing my work last year. I usually only supply to galleries and boutique stores so I don’t really get to interact with customers but I could interact with people at the Design Indaba and meeting people who loved my work was hugely inspiring. I also connected with a few international buyers at the Indaba so I got to expand my footprint. What are your biggest challenges and how do you overcome them? My biggest challenge is definitely the manufacturing process. Sometimes I’ll come up with an idea and I have a clear picture of what I want it to look like in my head but often struggle to bring it to life during the production phase. There are times when I get discouraged because a specific piece won’t come out as well as I thought it would but I have to keep trying and pushing. Often these pieces will end up turning into something completely different. It’s hard to try to be creative and stick to the design. At the end of the day it’s those test pieces that actually end up being great designs. What’s the best part about your job? The best part of my job is seeing an idea go from my head to paper and then putting it through the manufacturing phase before I achieve the end product. I also love the response I get from customers saying they love my work. Check out Songezo’s creations at songezobaleni.blogspot.com. Text Katharyn Williams-Jaftha