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Getting to Know WAIF

Hello all!

We hope that you have been having a wonderful summer so far! In this edition of "Getting to Know...", we are focusing on the makers of WAIF. Artist Gisèle Human is the founder of WAIF, a small independent jewelry design studio based in Cape Town, South Africa. Gisèle opted for a more organic, asymmetric approach that is entirely informed by the laws of nature. Every piece is made by hand by Gisèle herself and a small team of suppliers and interns. We love WAIF because they master a delicate balance in between elegance and statement wear. With every curve intentionally meant to compliment the natural contours of the female form, WAIF is hard to not fall in love with! We took some time to speak with the creatives behind WAIF via email for a quick interview and would love to share our conversation with you! Get to know them a little bit more:

Why WAIF? Where does the name originate from?

The name was actually suggested by a good friend of mine who was quite aware of the aesthetic that I was forging from early on. I was working with brass sheeting and cutting small, ‘waif-like’ shapes. She suggested it and it worked perfectly. Traditionally, the word ‘waif’ yields negative connotations, generally it refers to a thin, downtrodden, broken woman. But by including the voluptuous curves of the Sitting Lady and Reclining Lady brooch, I believe I’ve managed to turn it around.

What inspired you to start WAIF?

I was working full-time as a copywriter in the advertising industry. Although I still freelance as a copywriter, I had to create an exit strategy for myself. My mother is a jewelry designer and helped me get on my feet by teaching me and giving me the actual tools to pursue jewelry design and production. 

Is there a story behind your designs? It's so intriguing, we'd like to know more!

My pieces are first and foremost inspired by nature. It’s the single greatest artist throughout history and it’s given me every idea I’ve ever had. The non- symmetrical, imperfect, oblong, amorphous shapes reflect pebbles and rocks as well as human shapes like the outline of an ear or a nostril or an eye.

Tell us more about the creative behind the magic, Gisèle Human. Could you give us a quick bio?

Born in Johannesburg, South Africa, I now live in Cape Town with my beloved border collie Olive and boyfriend Travys Owen. We work from home and enjoy collaborating on shoots, walking Olive at the park or beach, and cooking amazing food. Despite creating glamorous jewelry, I am very unglamorous, and tend to wear overalls, dungarees, beanies and no make-up. Most people find that pretty surprising, but the truth is making jewelry is not glamorous at all, most of the time you’re covered in grime and dust!

What is a typical Waif day like?

Some Waif days are spent entirely in the studio making pieces at a fast pace while blaring music or podcasts and having cups of tea. Constant inspiration and energy are what drives this kind of day as well as some or other deadlines. Other Waif days are spent shooting, sourcing materials, dealing with supplies, or delivering orders and stock to local stores. It’s always pretty different which makes it a lot of fun.

Where do you see Waif in the future? What is the #1 goal?

I’d like to expand my business and hire some production assistants. From there on, I’d like to increase my reach by stocking stores outside of my town and area, both internationally and locally. I’d like to expand into other materials, and create some bigger items such as homeware and small pieces of furniture. I’ve already made some bowls and mobiles so homeware and decorative ornamentation is definitely the next step for me.


We hope you enjoyed Getting to Know WAIF! Stay tuned for more! In the meantime, you can shop WAIF here.

Thanks for reading

-Ark + Nomad-


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