Oluwatosin is the Creative Director at Jedidiah’s Place and has a City and Guilds Certificate in Creative Techniques in Textiles, a Diploma in Jewellery Design and Repair and was tutored privately in designing and making leather handbags in the United Kingdom by Katherine Pogson. She is at present working on another diploma in Jewellery design, which has a business module. She has handmade and sold accessories over a five-year period. She is also a Barrister and Solicitor of the Supreme Court of Nigeria and has practiced law for over 20 years. Let’s meet her…
Q & A
- Please introduce yourself and your background.
My name is Oluwatosin Lewis. I am a Lawyer by formal training and was called to the Nigerian Bar in 1992. I was in full time legal practice from 1993 till 2013 when I started my business – Jedidiahs Place. I am what you will call a Designer Maker. I work in different kind of media. I also run my own law firm along with my business.
- Please tell us about your work. How did Jedidiah’s Place start?
Jedidiah’s Place is an accessory design and manufacture business. Our main products are genuine leather bags. However, we have introduced series of small leather and fabric goods, some semi precious stone jewellery, craft kits for adults and children and one-on-one training. We are also in the process of publishing some eBooks. The whole concept of Jedidiahs Place started some eight to nine years ago through a simple act of one of my cousins resident in the United Kingdom. She sent me a book on glass painting and said when she saw it in a bookstore, it had reminded her of me! I was really surprised as I had only taken art in the fourth form and had refused to continue art studies because I felt it was rather impractical. I thanked her nicely and put the book away. Almost a year later, I came across the book and sat down to go through it. It seemed interesting and so I decided to try my hands at some glass painting. I got some glass paints and asked a carpenter to cut me some glass panels. The first set of six paintings I made sold the very day I made them. At the time, I had not yet framed the glass or even cured the paints and could not put prices on them and buyers were like whatever it costs, I want that! And more people placed orders for some. And I thought hmm! It created a thirst in me for knowledge. I wanted to learn how to make anything that could be made. I bought books and taught myself how to make anything I found interesting. And so I had this huge hobby where I created a lot of different things when I got back home from work. And I sold a lot of my work. Glass Paintings, Jewellery, Handbags, Mosaics, Greeting Cards, Fabric Paintings, Decorative Paintings on wood.
- Where did the idea for Jedidiahs Place come from? Where do you find the inspiration for your designs?
In 2013, I took stock and realised that I had invested heavily in this hobby! Although I had never been able to take time out for formal training, I had a lot of equipment, books and supplies. I even had a registered trademark. I then decided it was time to make it a business and be serious about things. I draw a lot of inspiration from nature. Planet Earth is full of colour and texture and I love those two things.
- Can you remember one of the first things you crafted? What makes it memorable?
I think those would be a set of two glass vases that I painted and embellished with crystal beads in different sizes. The set were inspired by our local tambourine (Shekere). I had done just the two and my father had purchased them when he saw the work in progress. I get easily bored, so I had not repeated the design. However, anytime I go visiting my parents and see the set, I grumble and say to myself – those should be in my living room!
- How long does it take to design and make a particular work? Can you give a short summary of the processes that go into each one?
The design process can be a long drawn out one as a designer takes note of his/her surroundings daily. I make notes and quick drawings in a notebook or sketchbook I have with me at all times. I also put down notes on my phone as ideas come to me. Some of those ideas might not see the light of day for another year. But one day, everything gets put together. Once the idea crystallizes, in bag making, the next step is to create sketches of the bag design, tweaking each successive sketch until satisfaction is achieved. Then decisions are made about which materials to use and what colour scheme would be best. Then, patterns must be made and mock-ups and prototypes created before the bag goes into production.
- What are the challenges you face in business?
The main challenges I face are the availability of skilled labour, getting good supplies of good quality raw materials, the fear of bank loans to finance the business and the fine balancing between premium quality and the price the market is willing to pay.
- What is your most popular item?
Our most popular item is a leather and lace handbag lined with vibrant Ankara fabric. It is available in three different colour ways. The one below is black guipure lace overlaid over black leather and trimmed with orange and yellow leather.
- To what extent do you draw upon your Nigerian heritage for your work?
My love for colours means our Nigerian fabrics have a natural magnetic pull for me, so I tend to line my leather bags in Ankara or have Ankara or Aso Oke accents on my bags. I also love to use semi precious stones locally available in Nigeria in jewellery making. Our card making kits have die cut Ankara pieces so that cards made using the kits would be uniquely Nigerian.
- What are your goals for the future, both work wise and life?
I would love to grow the business to a stage where I would hire a full time business manager and other key staff and just be what I really am – a Designer Maker. I want the business to be known for premium quality with several outlets both locally and internationally, which would of necessity lead to employment and growth opportunities. I spend too much time managing the business and this kills my creativity. I also believe that there is latent creativity in each person that just needs to be identified and then nurtured. I would love to teach and train people who would want to learn how to make one thing or the other but are unable to find the time to undertake some formal training. I have been there and I know what that is like. This is why we have now launched our creativity kits (The Explore! Series). Oh, and I would like a nice big light and airy studio in my home so that I can rest from Lagos traffic. To be honest, I find that I do work better and I am more productive when working from home.
- What would people be surprised to learn about you?
I struggle with social media and social engagements and I am in the process of learning a new skill.
- For someone who wishes to take up this kind of career, what kind of advice would you give them? Also, if you could give one piece of advice to youths who want to start their own company, what would it be?
I would say that self-development is key. Learn all that you can, whenever and wherever you can. Training must be continuous as the industry is growing in leaps and bounds and you don’t want to be left behind. I would also say to both parties – hang on tight; it’s not going to be a smooth ride. However, it’s a worthwhile ride that you will be very glad you made and will do over and over again if given the chance. The most important thing would be to get up each time you fall and realise that each failure is a step in the right direction. Seek and listen to advice but also listen very carefully to your instincts. As a Christian, I would say above all pray about any and everything.
- And finally, I would like to give you this opportunity to share two to four images of your work and tell us a little about each.
Here goes another beautiful entrepreneur, maximising her career in Law and chasing after her passion. We are truly inspired by Oluwatosin’s story.
I hope you were inspired reading too.
Don’t just keep that idea as a thought, you can make it a reality today. Just START!
Keep up the great work.
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