Today on Pearls And Heels I interview one of my favourite jewellery designers. Shirley Anyango is an artist who cuts across different art forms. She says, “I am good with my hands, I love beautiful and unique things and so I try to make them. At the moment, I express my art through jewellery design. I am also a wife and mother to 2 lovely toddlers, if lovely and toddler can sit in the same sentence.”
- What do you do and what impact do you think it creates in your industry or the world?
I own and run a brand called Apar Gadek, which creates exciting jewellery and accessories with beautiful unique designs. Because I also love to write, I incorporate the compelling stories behind the creation of the jewellery pieces I design and make. My goal as a designer is to disrupt the jewellery industry in Kenya and the world through artistic one of a kind designs. I want my craft to play a part in improving the livelihoods of the artisans I work with by providing gainful employment.
- What things would you change along the way if you had a chance to go back to the past?
Rather than pursue the BA course I did at the University, I would have straight away fought to study an artsy course as this is where my heart was even at the time.
- What would you say are the top three skills needed to succeed at your current job?
Artistic abilities, an eye for detail and knowledge of current trends.
- What do you love to do, that makes you light up when you talk about it?
I love to share my creative process with people who appreciate the effort and who see the same beauty I see in my creativity. Creating excites me especially when new ideas pop up in my mind and I can imagine what the possibility of those ideas could be. I’m at my best when I’m creating. Luckily, my passion to create is also my hobby and my current career. The hours spent completing work no matter how long are usually the most rewarding and fulfilling.
- What motivates you to keep going?
The appreciation of what I do from those who consume my works of art is what keeps me believing that I’m on the right track and that I should keep going.
- How do you define success?
Feeling a sense of accomplishment in what you do, and being content with what its benefits are.
- What is more important for you, passion or purpose or both?
I believe that your passion is your purpose, because we as humans are all accorded gifts, or this is what I think anyway. Being passionate about something means that you have found your purpose. Without being passionate about what you do, are you really living the best life that you possibly could to fulfil your purpose? Or could your purpose be to help others pursue their passions?
- A lot of people like to talk about success but not failure. We are told to embrace failure on our road to success. Is there one time you failed at something you were working on that taught you valuable lessons that you can share? What lessons were those?
My entrepreneurial journey has been one with more failures than successes. No one ever prepares you for the business of pursuing your passion. For example, just because I make beautiful jewellery or accessories and my customers love the pieces does not translate to a successful business in terms of sales or profits.
Having tried various different methods to improve sales and having taken bets investing in different markets and different ideas, I can now say that a good product does not guarantee the success of your business. You must find the right formula that works for your business in order to be successful. I am still searching for this formula.
- Have you ever faced imposter syndrome? How do you deal with it?
Imposter syndrome is something which affected me greatly earlier on at the beginning of my design journey. I continually doubted my abilities and second-guessed myself all the time. With the frequent praise and sales I received for my designs, I started to believe more and more in my abilities as an artist. Age has also been a contributing factor as I find that I am now a more confident version of myself at 40.
- What advice would you give somebody just starting out in your line of work?
It’s important to be patient. The creative industry is an industry of waiting. You do not get instant results. There are of course exceptions, but for the most part, results begin to show after years of consistent work. Sometimes you don’t even get a clear direction of where you are headed, but you learn every day from your mistakes and your successes as you get better at your craft and then eventually you see results.
- Are there specific books or movies or podcasts you would recommend to somebody for them to get a better sense of what success is or what success could be like? This is an auntie moment to pass wisdom
I feel like every person knows what success means to them. I don’t believe that success has a particular look that we can all adopt. I believe that success is a very individual and personal pursuit. Today’s world has given a very narrow definition of success which does not resonate across the board. Finding your own definition of success would require shutting out all the external noise from the world and figuring out what you hope to achieve as an individual. Once you achieve those goals, that is success.
Every now and then, I listen to a podcast called The Hidden Brain by Shankar Vedantam. It’s a very well-researched and informative podcast that covers various different topics. Another podcast I would recommend is Mantalk KE which I find very interesting and Informative. The hosts of this podcast also take time to research various topics as well as share their experiences.
- What do you like to do outside of work?
I spend a lot of time drawing and putting ideas on paper, which would still be considered work. Before turning this business into a serious pursuit, it was first a hobby which I did in my free time. This has not changed really. I also like to write fiction for fun.
- What would you like your legacy to be?
I would like to make an impact in people’s lives even if it is in a small way. One of the artisans I work with, for example, said that he hopes to one day move his family to more decent housing. Knowing that my business creates opportunities that can better people’s lives is the only legacy I would like to leave. Most times we imagine that we can change the world, but it is rare for a single person to have a worldwide impact. It is however more realistic to make a change in your immediate environment. If every single person can do this, the impact would be felt worldwide.
You can check out Apar Gadek on Instagram at www.instagram.com/apargadek and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/apargadek.
Check out Pearls And Heels: Wambui JL
Pearls And Heels: Immaculate Juma
Jewellery and Fashion Design: Miss Vavavum of ‘Own Your Culture’