Elke ist Grafikdesignerin und lebt und arbeitet in einer der wohl bekanntesten Weingegend Südafrikas, im rund 45 Auto-Minuten von Kapstadt entfernten Stellenbosch. Inspiriert von ihrer Großmutter entwirft und fertigt Elke wunderschöne Paper-Art Kreationen für Kinder und verwendet dafür vorwiegend Wasserfarben. Es freut mich sehr, mit Elke ein sehr interessantes Interview führen zu dürfen...

Please tell me something about yourself and the beginning of your own business.

I studied design at Stellenbosch University and then worked as a graphic designer for a few years, before heading to the UK. On my return in 2011 I started Bright Owl, doing the normal range of design projects for clients.

Then, two years ago, God challenged  me to start preparing to adopt a child and I had to figure out how to use design in a way that makes it possible for me to be a more full-time mum than my current work would allow. And that´s where the idea of paper goods for children came from. While there are many beautiful things available for adults in South Africa, there´s little in the way of well-designed paper products for children. And so Bright Owl Paper Goods was born...


What does a typical working day look like? Are you happy with what you are doing?

I love early mornings (especially in the hot summers), so I tend to get up between five and six and do a few hours of Bright Owl work. (It helps that my sister, who´s a landscaper, has an early start too.) On the days that I work for our church´s media team I head to the office for the day and work on the paper goods in the evening again.

On my Bright Owl days I tend to stay home, for an uninterrupted stretch of work. The best part is working on new illustrations, but there´s also plenty of admin, planning and web design to keep me busy. Writing and taking photos for a new blog post is always fun too! By about six o´clock I´m ready for a swim in the dam, followed by supper and a bit of time in our edible garden. By then I´m ready for another stretch of work and can usually get a few more hours done.

I have to pinch myself occasionally - to work like this is an immense privilege which I´m very grateful for and try not to take for granted...


Where do you get your inspiration from and how would you describe your style?

My biggest inspiration is God - He is the Creator and the ability to create is a gift from Him. My mum and grandmother were a great influence - they spent many hours drawing, painting and crafting with us when we were little. Only now do I really appreciate the value of what they imparted - imagination, perseverance when things go a little wobbly and enjoyment of the process!

The clean lines and beautiful colors of Scandinavian design also inspires me hugely!

My hope is that my illustrations reflect a sense of child-like wonder, with a hint of adventure and a touch of whimsy-sparking imagination and creativity in little hearts and minds. And that the words will help to show children that they are valued and loved. (There´s enough in the world that tells them the opposite...) 


You have been presenting your pretty illustrations at Kamers Vol Geskenke, where local designers show their work. How was your experience there?

It was fantastic - hard work, but worth every moment! I met so many inspiring people and I´m astounded at the level of creativity that South Africa has to offer. Especially the generosity with everyone approaches their craft. You´d think people would hold their skills and knowledge close, but instead they give and share freely, building a creative community that´s open and caring.


On your lovely homepage you talk about your adoption plans. What would you recommend women with the same wish?

Hmmm, I think you might need to ask me this again in a few months, when I´m a mum - I suspect my answers´ll be a little wiser then. But for now I´ll say this...

If you have the emotional and physical capacity for a little one in your life, start finding out more! It´s taken me two and a half years to get to this point, mainly because there was a lot I needed to figure out on a practical level (and the actual process takes a while too). So start, even if it´s just a little step each month. Just the preparation process itself is already rewarding!

And don´t be too daunted by the fact that you´re tackling this as a single mum (if you are). I´m in awe of the level of support and encouragement I have, not only from friends and family, but also from many strangers-turned-friends. If you know you´re supposed to be doing this, let the criticism pass you by and cherish every word of support.

And lastly, write it down! Keep a journal of the process. We forget so easily, but the paper remembers and on days when your´re discouraged, look back at everything that´s already happened.


You lived in the UK for a few years. If you compare your lifestyle in the UK with the one in South Africa... What are the main differences where do you like it best?

I loved living in London! The opportunities for traveling the rest of the world are endless and we enjoyed the richness of living in a city with such a deep history. Walking around Borough Market on a snowy winter´s morning is a pretty special memory to have...

South Africa is my home, so my heart will always be here. Funnily enough, my time in the UK opened my eyes to the beauty of living in South Africa.

Every country has its share of problems and South Africa is no expect ion, but there´s something exciting about living in a place that´s figuring out its identity, culture and creativity to the extend that our country is. The potential is breathtaking...


What does a perfect weekend in Stellenbosch look like?

Goodness, we´re so spoilt for choice! After a week of work we usually take it easy on a Friday night. On Saturdays we tend to spend a bit of time in the house and garden - we´ve just planted an edible garden and watering the baby carrots with a cup of coffee in the hand is a wonderful way to start the day! The afternoons are usually taken up with friends and family. (We´re at the point in our lives where children´s birthday parties are a regular feature!) Sundays start with church and, whenever possible, breakfast with our mum. An afternoon nap is a wonderful treat and we´ve often end up having friends over for supper on the stoep in the evenings.


My favorite restaurant - Without a doubt Meraki in Stellenbosch! A super-talented friend of mine owns it and the white,

                                               light space, great coffee and delicious food makes it a lovely space to work in. It´s a local

                                               gathering place and there´s always someone to chat to.

                           ... beach - I´m more of a "mountains and rivers" kind of girl, but if I had to choose a beach it would be

                                              Blouberg. We used to meet there with friends on Boxing Day and my youngest sister and her

                                              husband got engaged there, with all of us joining them on the beach afterwards.

                         ...market - In Stellenbosch it would have to be the Slow Market - we like to go early, enjoy a good coffee

                                              and shop for fresh produce.

                      ...vineyard - So very many to choose from... Kaapzicht is the family farm of friends of ours, so it´s definitely 

                                              got a special place in our hearts, with many memories.