Lexington businesswoman expands vision to create haven for global, local artists

One local woman, after a year of successfully operating a small business in downtown Lexington, has launched another venture to showcase the hard work of creative artists and and inspire new ones.

Karen van Heerden teamed up with Lexington interior designer Kelli Limehouse last year to create a trio of businesses at a single location on Main Street. In addition to Limehouse’s decorating business, LimeHouse Home Interiors, they also founded The Haven Coffee House and Shades of Life Gallery and Gifts.

While people enjoyed lunch and dessert at The Haven or shopped for a handcrafted gift at Shades of Life, van Heerden,who hails from South Africa, stepped away from the kitchen to begin work on Esihle Design, a combination art gallery and clothing and jewelry shop, in the bottom level of 121 Main St. Partnering with her is Joanne Greyling, a fellow South African and the sous chef at The Haven.

Esihle Design is now open in downtown Lexington with gifts from all over the world. (photo by Rachel Ham)

Esihle Design is open in downtown Lexington with gifts from all over the world. (photo by Rachel Ham)

People can find an array of one-of-a-kind, handmade items at Esihle Design, from home décor and original artwork to jewelry in sorts of shapes and sizes. Items are not unlike those found upstairs at Shades of Life, but van Heerden envisions the new space becoming more than just a place to shop.

“This is another part of me,” she said while working on a beaded chandelier for a client.

In fact, van Heerden and Greyling’s husband, Abraham, who owns Kalahari Creations and Bosvelt Farms, want to teach other artisans at Esihle Design and make the space more of a “working gallery.” People can learn to design goods that are “esihle,” a South African word for “beautiful,” through woodworking, graphic design, pottery and more.

“We want this to be a school of creativity,” van Heerden said.

“We can teach anything that can be created … from scratch,” Abraham Greyling said.

Van Heerden said art and jewelry-making classes can integrate in her and Limehouse’s women’s ministry, Life Restored International, as a form of therapy.

Karen van Heerden wants the shop to be a place where people can see pieces coming together alongside finished ones. (photo by Rachel Ham)

Karen van Heerden wants the shop to be a place where people can see pieces coming together alongside finished ones. (photo by Rachel Ham)

Van Heerden has continued to import unique items from around the world using connections with organizations like the Hillcrest AIDS Centre Trust that pay women a fair wage for their handcrafted goods. Some items, however, had a shorter journey coming from pottery makers living in Lexington and Irmo.

“It’s a combination of local and international artists,” van Heerden said.

Van Heerden and the Greylings want to infuse more culture into downtown Lexington with their classes and promotion of local artisans who already are working in the area.

Van Heerden said she dreams of Esihle Design being a launching pad for a version of First Thursday where people can come on a regular basis to explore the talent that people living in their town have to offer. She’s also open to the shop hosting exhibits and art talks.

“We are trying to give life to local artists,” she said. “There’s enough talent here (to make it work).”

More information about Esihle Design and updates on upcoming events can be found here.

Categories: Business

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