Who's who

A look behind the scenes at Kisma

This product’s-shop on High Street shows how close a destiny and a friend are to each other. Tracy Jeffery opened the shop Kisma, which means destiny, almost four years ago. The artist has devoted her life to share her and other’s arts and crafts with the rest of the community: “Every day is a surprise. On Monday I am usually doing boring stuff such as admin. On Friday, when everyone is in a good mood, I am on the floor in the shop to make it look nice and at the other days I am working on the Facebook page, in the studio, behind the counter and in the shop. There is no day where I’m doing the same, it always changes.”

When you walk along High Street from the Cathedral to Rhodes University, the tiny shop is in an alley behind the coffee shop Mad Hatters. Next to Kisma is a second hand shop called Nearly New. From the outside you see some plants and a board with the name and ‘Welcome’. The creativity immediately overwhelms you when you set your first step in the shop. There are two tables in the middle and all the walls are covered with jewels, candles, bags and other handmade items that you have probably never seen before.

“I think it’s a bit scary to have my shop right on High Street. I couldn’t even leave my doors open. This is much safer. Locals have to talk about us to find us. International people or South Africans from other towns keep their eyes open and see the sign on High Street.  You can’t buy mouth to mouth advertising and that’s worth the most”, says Jeffery. She adds that she cannot afford the rent for a building on High Street or New Street.

Jeffery moved 13 years ago to Grahamstown. She already lived in the Eastern Cape but this town was a new experience. Jeffery wanted to sell her recycled stuff but she couldn’t find a place to sell it. Her solution was to go to markets to sell her merchandise and to create an online shop. Later on she organized the Eastern Star handmade market every two months in 2010 and 2011. She has met lots of crafters and artists at this market. Also there were a lot of customers who got inspired and became happy by looking at the handmade arts and crafts. So she started Kisma at the end of 2011. This year was economically not really great. “So the fact that we are still open must prove something”. Nowadays there are almost 50 artists and crafters who sell their various products in this shop and there is over 600 likes for the Kisma Facebook-page.

“What we sell is a little bit different than normal,” she says when a customer walked into the shop. “And that is what people need”, continues Jeffery. “I think everybody is in their own way creative. My goal is to inspire them who haven’t done something. So that they all leave the store with new energy.” Not only customers walk into this shop. Also artists and crafters come over to deliver new material to sell. According to Jeffery, a quarter of them brings their stuff and disappears immediately. The other artists take their time to have a conversation. All the crafters and artists bring samples first. Jeffery approves the samples in the shop and will take more if customers actual buy it. The crafters and artists don’t have to pay the shop, make their own selling-prices and will receive 65% of this price if their stuff is sold. “I’m not here to take their money or make money of people. 35% is a perfect percentage to put into the shop,” tells Jeffery. She also says that she goes sometimes to markets to ask people if they want to sell their crafts in her shop. Since there are some 50 artists, she has to be picky. “I don’t like to say no, but sometimes I have to.”  She keeps in contact with the crafters through e-mail and by phone but they also pop in to check the stock.

Jeffery says that she actually has two full-time jobs: the shop itself and her website. On her website she is currently selling her own stuff. “I want to melt it together and put it under one umbrella,” she says. But she didn’t decide yet how to approach this. “It’s confusing to sell other’s stuff on my web shop so I just promote the shop there but only sell my own stuff.” Another of her projects is a market to celebrate Christmas and the birthday of Kisma, which takes place at the beginning of December.  Everyone is welcome to eat cake and chat.

“A couple of years ago a woman came in the shop and she loved a stained glass nativity set but she couldn’t afford it. An entire year later she came back with an envelope. She saved money to buy the set. It was sold out but the crafter made a new one for her. Things like that make a bad day the best,” Jeffery says with a smile on her face. She said that the thing she loves most about her job is to create new things that people like. The worst is money. “We, the people behind this shop, won’t become rich but we are able to keep on going and learn as we go. And at least we live in a creative space.”

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Inside Kisma. Photo: Rose Bergsma

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The shop from the outside (dog is posing). Photo: Rose Bergsma

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Some handmade necklaces. Photo: Rose Bergsma

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The owner of the giftstore Tracy Jeffery. Photo: Rose Bergsma

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