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Michelle Rigby - "Kariba Studios"




Can you introduce yourself and your brand? 

Hi I’m Chelle. I was born in Zimbabwe and raised in Australia. I have an Artisan Jewellery & Silversmithing business called Kariba Studios. I specialise in custom work, but also source a range of unique & original pieces of jewellery by other artists.


Where does "Kariba" comes from? How did you get the idea to do jewels?  

‘Kariba’ is actually a town in northern Zimbabwe situated on the south bank of the Zambezi River. Lake Kariba is the world’s largest man-made lake. The name literally means “where the waters have been trapped”. It is one of the most beautiful places on the earth, teeming with beauty and wonder.

I remember as a young girl having this amazing moment, looking out over the lake, and being completely overwhelmed by Gods creation. I still remember thinking “wow the world is a beautiful place”. Kariba Studios would later be birthed from this experience. Creativity and crafting has been a part of who I am since I was a kid. I come from a line of artists. I had a particular love for jewellery and even collected gemstones and rocks from a young age. I always knew I would end up doing something creative.


How did you start?

I studied at a very well known College of Fine Arts here in Sydney. My degree covered the design and the craft of ceramics, jewellery and textiles. After completing my degree, I found myself unsure of how I would make a career out of my newly acquired skills and subsequently spent a very long season, away from all things creative.

My jewellery making actually started out on a whim after a trip back to Africa. I felt inspired and had this crazy idea to make African style beaded jewellery. I started out selling at a local market, and It didn’t take me long to realise I could make a full time job out of it. I worked in the markets for many years before I had my children. While my kids were very young, I had a break to focus on motherhood. In the years leading up to re-entering the work force, I knew I wanted to specialise in Silversmithing. It had been many years since I had even picked up any tools and I knew I needed to study and practice before I could achieve this. Like many artists I know, I spent hours teaching myself technique and practicing the skills I needed to achieve this.


How is it to be an astisan ?

It’s a dream come true actually. I can’t believe that I get to do what I’m doing. For many years I believed it would not be possible to make a living out of my creativity. I discovered that the line between hobby & career wasn’t as unattainable as I had first believed. Stepping out, and not being afraid to fail were key lessons on my journey.


Are you drawing the jewels before starting to make it ?

My work is a mix of both my designs & customers ideas. It is unique in that I get to help clients create something many of them have dreamed of for years. There is a lot of drawing and designing in these early stages as I work with the individual.

When I make my own designs, it is often something that develops as I’m creating. I find my creativity flows best as I “play”.  Unlike working with clients it is very rare for me to draw a design before I begin anything and the detailed drawings usually come later.


You're saying on your website: "There is a joy knowing a piece is not only one of a kind, but is a unique representation & expression of the individual." Would you consider your art as a way to tell the story of someone?

Each piece is definitely a representation of the individual. This is what makes what I do so unique. I love that both parties have had a key role in the creation of a piece. This is where it becomes a unique piece of art.


If you had any advice to give to someone who wants to start a project, what would it be ?

My advice to people is to JUST START. There will always be things that will hold you back. The fears and uncertainty usually scream the loudest. If you love what you do, just step out and have a go. As in the meaning of Kariba (where the waters have been trapped) we need to tap into the gifts inside. Ultimately we are made in the image of the GREATEST creator and He has placed that uniqueness in every one of us. If we can just find the water source, it can’t help but overflow and be beautiful.

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