This week we introduce you to the talented Siya Ndungane, Founder and Creative Director of bespoke South African jewellery store, Butter Jewellery. The brand offers an online service of unique, timeless handmade pieces catering to women with a love of luxury. Continue reading as Siya offers an inspiring account of how she went from studying towards a Law degree to having her pieces adorn SA’s most loved celebrities…
Full Name: Siyanda Ndungane (formerly Stofile)
Educational Background: I studied LLB at Wits University then NMMU. I later took a course in Jewellery design at Nouvus Design School in Pretoria as well as a course in garment construction at LISOF
Current Title/Position: Creative Director of Butter Jewellery
Current City: Pretoria
Siya, as the founder of Butter Jewellery, your pieces have received great exposure, and have resulted in a feature on South African lifestyle show Top Billing! Take us through the motivations for starting Butter Jewellery. Has jewellery-making always been a passion of yours?
Growing up I enjoyed creating. I was fortunate in that my mother was willing to fund my hobbies. I used to play around with beading; I learnt to crochet and later took decoupage classes. I thoroughly enjoyed using my hands and the reactions I got when I was done.
Butter Jewellery started while I was studying in Port Elizabeth. A family friend purchased a few pieces for herself and offered to sell my work to the parents at her Preschools. I later started stocking small boutiques and selling at the flee market. The more I did, the more recognition my work received. The final ‘push’ came from Claire Mawisa. She unknowingly gave me the validation I needed and she believed in my ability, even more than I did. It was then that I made the decision to pursue jewellery design full time and it has been the best decision I have ever made.
It is always very difficult for me to explain where my creativity and ideas come from. Unlike most designers, I don’t sketch or plan; I merely combine colours that I think might work well together.
What I have come to accept, is that when your ability is God-given and you embrace it, God continues to give. I created some incredible pieces and all I ever do is allow my creativity to take control. I try to create pieces that can stand out so it often takes a while before I am done with a piece. There are pieces I take 2 months to complete, I try not to release anything until I am 100% happy with it.
When looking at your beautiful pieces, it is clear that you are truly talented. However, talent does not always equate to success. Could you perhaps describe what other attributes you believe have contributed towards Butter Jewellery’s success?
A lot of prayer, hard work, planning ahead. There are days I am up till 4am in the morning, working. The important thing is to give your chosen field as much respect as you would if you were an attorney, a teacher or a doctor. I take a lot of time planning, doing research and exploring ways that will ensure that Butter Jewellery stands out. I try to provide women not only with an outstanding piece but also with a tasteful service that makes them want to support Butter Jewellery. The quality of your service matters. I am not perfect and some days are more difficult than others, but the vision I have for Butter Jewellery, keeps me going.
What is next for Butter Jewellery?
I would love to open a jewellery store or 2, but I am not rushing it as location is important. I know that there are a ton of people, throughout this continent who have the same ability as I do, most are far more talented than I am. When I really allow myself to dream, I see them raising their children and making a ‘real’ living just from their God-given gift. I see them understanding that by being creative and not mathematically or scientifically equipped, you are not at a disadvantage; if you allow yourself to really believe, you’ll understand how far you could truly go.
What do you believe the African arts and crafts industry needs?
Easier access to funding
As the founder of your own business, what have been your biggest challenges and how were you able to overcome them?
Starting a business is a challenge on its own, keeping it going is an even bigger challenge. I’d have to say my biggest challenge has been pushing through when everything seemed to be going wrong.
What does a typical work day look like for you?
Everyday is different. I recently started “50 days of Butter Jewellery” on Instagram and everyday I wear a different piece. I make sure that the next week’s pieces are ready by Friday and I update our website and blog weekly. Between orders and deliveries, weekdays and Saturdays are often spent on the road and I’m forced to rest on Sundays.
Advice for aspiring jewellers and entrepreneurs?
Think it through, very carefully. Business is not for the faint hearted. If you have the ability to create, keep creating. Whether you do it as a hobby or full time, just create.
Morning or night?
Early morning. I prefer the 3am-7am slot
If you could have lunch with any woman, who would it be and what would you order?
Khanyi Dhlomo and I would order coffee & more coffee. Just so I could stay alert and soak up everything she says.
I wish I knew how to:
Dance like Beyoncé.
African women are…
The work ethic of China
Worst money mistake…
Haven’t made any yet
Motivation in 3 words…
Prepare. Pray. Persevere.
Connect With Siya & Butter Jewellery:
To place orders Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
All images in this article as well as the Home Screen have been provided by Siya Ndungane.