#femalestofollow in May
We were over the moon when the lovely Gisele Human from WAIF Jewellery agreed to be our debut babe in the Dear Rae #femalestofollow project. She is a fierce, one-woman powerhouse who consistently pushes the boundaries in our industry, and we feel super honoured to have stolen 2 minutes of her time.
Here’s what she had to say…
Image: Anke Loots
What brought you to the start of your business adventure?
I’ve got a very strong drive for independence. Not just as a woman but as a human being. I studied and worked in the advertising for five years, and although it was great having a secure 9 – 5 job, I disliked how foreseeable everything was. So I took advantage of my situation: My mother is a jewellery designer, and although I don’t have the formal skills, I learnt from her and created a product and started selling it. From here on, I plan to branch out into homeware, furniture and sculptural art. It’s probably not the most sensible way to go about doing things but I just had to break the mould. I haven’t been able to transition to full-time WAIF, but I’m working towards it very, very hard.
How do you feel being a female in South Africa and more specifically, a female business owner in South Africa?
The older I get, the harder I find to ignore gender inequality. Women are perceived as ditsy, helpless, weak and hesitant. But that is so not the case. The only reason some women are like that is because of the female role models that we’re taught from a young age to look up to. Women can often work harder than men and yet are paid less, given less credit and get stuck in middle management while the men take the top positions. This is a cultural hangover of patriarchy and it will move along like all bad hangovers. So whenever I have the chance, I try to uplift the women I know by encouraging them to be more courageous, ask for more, and be as ambitious as their male counterparts. I know a lot of talented women and I see them taking second best too often. It’s time we believed in ourselves as much as the world believes in men.
Image: Travys Owen
Image: Travys Owen
Looking at your jewellery, there seems to be a clear fascination with the female form. Have you always had this fascination, or if not, when did it start?
I grew up pouring over books on Matisse, Egon Schiele, Henry Moore, Lucien Freud, Picasso, and I remember being struck by the radicalness of Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, and how taboo the painting was. Today, the female form continues to offend. We’re allowed to see male nipples, but not female nipples, on Instagram. Women aren’t allowed to breastfeed in public. So in a way, my Reclining Nude Lady brooch is a protest, a #freethenipple if you will. At the same time, it’s also an ode to all of those artists who celebrated curves in a way that the modern world does not.
Dear Rae is a big fan of brass and we absolutely love how you present the material with your jewellery. How do you think your medium (brass) influences the end result of your products?
The affordability of brass means that I can experiment, play and learn as I go with the medium. My earrings are sometimes enormous, and you certainly couldn’t do that with 18 carat gold. I also brush the metal and give it an elevated, glamorous quality, something you don’t always associate with brass. I love changing the meaning of things.
Image: Travys Owen
Even though things may seem idealistic to an outsider, what parts of your business do you still feel insecure about or struggle with?
I would love to expand my business, to hire someone to help with production work. I’m probably nearing that threshold, but on this side, it’s very scary and hard to gather the courage and take the leap and allow someone to become reliant on a salary.
What are you most proud of in your business?
I’m really proud of the aesthetic I invented for my brand.The combination of the brushed brass quality with the bold, organic shapes is my signature and that I am proud of.
Is Waif your sole income and if not, what is your side hustle?
I’m still freelancing as a copywriter in the ad industry.
What South African #femalestofollow can you recommend to our customers?
I recently discovered the work of Ello Xray Eyes. I’m sure that’s not her name but it’s a good artist’s pseudonym. She’s kinda Memphis but without the rules of Memphis. She’s on Instagram as @ello_xray_eyez