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Save Your Smooches For Soenchie

Save Your Smooches For Soenchie

I can’t quite pinpoint the exact moment I discovered Soenchie Ceramic Dog Bowls but I can 100% remember being instantly obsessed and feeling like I had to have one immediately!

That was around two years ago…

I currently have two Soenchie bowls, with one more on its way, ordered moments before I sat down to write up this blog post.

Over the past few years, I have been on a mission to be as environmentally conscious as possible. Making small changes throughout our home, starting with eliminating single-use plastic items as well as plastic in general, meant that a plastic bowl was never an option for us.

And metal bowls are simply not my vibe.

Floki enjoys eating from his black and white splatter bowl which was a limited edition release, so I am really grateful to have kicked off our Soenchie obsession with one!

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Shortly after we adopted Rocket I ordered a slow feeding bowl for him, because he’s a total maniac when it comes to food. The Soenchie slow feeder has definitely helped him savour his meals and gives Floki enough time to finish eating before the little scavenger interferes!

Each bowl is lovingly crafted with care by the talented ceramicist Zelda, at her home in Cape Town.

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Zelda was kind enough to take time from her studio to have a chat with me about all things potting and how she has adjusted to the world’s new abnormal.

So make yourself a nice cup of coffee or tea and prepare to soak up the loveliness that is Soenchie…

Why did you choose the name “Soenchie” and what does it mean?

It is basically a diminutive of a kiss in Afrikaans, but with a little twist in spelling. So instead of SoenTJIE, it’s SoenCHIE. It was initially kind of made up as I wanted something original, but it also has context to what I do all day which is kiss my dogs (and sometimes other peoples dogs, when it was still allowed, or semi allowed even before the current pandemic

Can you tell us a little about your potting journey?

I’ve been potting for just over 5 years now, although Soenchie has been a creative journey for me since 2013. I started playing with clay when we moved to Cape Town as my next-door neighbour was/is a teacher and thoroughly enjoyed my Thursday evening wine and clay sessions! I slowly started building up my home studio when we moved house and am now a full-blown potter! Although, with so much still to learn, as pottery is a never-ending valley of possibilities and techniques.

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What inspired you to start Soenchie?

I wanted to make something beautiful and safe for my two boys. As they were getting older (both of them turning 14 this year) I really started to be mindful what I expose them to. This includes chemicals in the house, their food and the vessel they eat out of. I also like making useful things, so it was a natural starting point. Once I made them, friends started ordering for their dogs and then bowls for humans too and it grew from there.

What is your personal favourite design or the design you’re most proud of?

Mmmm this is a tough one as it is ever-changing. I really am so proud of the original bowls in Small, Medium and Large.

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Figuring out the cat ear bowl was also a huge moment for me but I am learning to be proud of all the small triumphs too! Like when a glaze turns out the way I intend it to.

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A lot of time, love and patience goes into creating each bowl. Can you explain the process?

Ceramics is a time consuming, risky, yet beautifully rewarding art form.

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It depends on technique, the weather, the clay you use for a specific build, the glaze, the kiln and all that goes into each of these factors. But the basic process includes the making of the piece, then it needs to dry for a few days (weather dependant), then a bisque firing of 9.5 hours. The kiln takes about 12 hours to cool down, as my kiln is very well insulated. I then sand any rough parts, wash the dust off and leave them to properly dry before applying the glaze, which is 4 layers each piece, after which it goes in for the second firing of about 12 hours to a temp of 1220 degrees Celcius. I then have to wait a painstakingly 24 hours before the pieces are cool enough to touch.

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Keep in mind that due to the high temps, the bigger the kiln the longer the wait to have enough items to fill it, to make it as cost-effective and eco-friendly as possible.

Do you have any new designs in the making?

I do indeed. Think more for humans, but all will be revealed on my site soon.

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I imagine your boys, Rio and Tiny, are the dedicated quality controllers behind the scenes! How many Soenchies do they own?

This is a good question! I don’t know! They shift between samples I am trying out of new shapes etc, to their smaller bowls when we travel as well as their home selection.  I think a min of 4 each on rotation? The great thing is that when friends’ dogs come for a visit, there is never a problem with having enough dog bowls for everyone! This makes me VERY happy, like dorkishly!

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Could you shed some light on how Covid-19 has affected you and how you keep positive during this time?

It has been tough, to be honest. From a creativity and business point of view. I am a wedding coordinator too so both my businesses fell flat pretty much since before the lockdown. I have had weeks on end where I have not been able to get my mind together, as the last thing I want to do is push sales on people right now, everyone is struggling financially. Also “using this time” has put so much pressure on me to come up with the next best thing. But there was a little relief at some point and I have been able to focus on new things, like a blog addition to my site and the aforementioned new pieces for humans. All will be shared in the next few weeks. Also – when in the heck are we going to be able to have weddings again? Events are such a big part of all our lives, so I really miss this and hope it will return with a (safe) bang!

and finally, What is your biggest dream for Soenchie?

To carry on being the maker.

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That is why I have always had a side-hustle, as I try to complement each of the platforms. I would like to employ and up-skill someone one day, but I don’t see myself ever opening a factory or mass producing. I love making. I love being able to say how much love I put into it and hoping that the joy I get from making each piece, is felt and carried through to your home. So hopefully I will maintain and grow the community of ceramic and animal lovers alike. I hope to always be allowed to create from the space of love and patience, not of stress and deadlines

I hope that after reading a glimpse behind the scenes of this stunning brand, you can see why I love our Soenchie bowls as much as I do!

Not only are the bowls beautiful, but the human who makes them is too.

Supporting small, local businesses is something that I feel is necessary now, more than ever, thanks to the Coronacoaster ride we have all had to endure.

So what are you still doing here? Start your Soenchie collection today and thank me later!

Much love and light,

Lisa, Floki & Rocket xxx

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