Europe, Getting Lost (Travel), Look At Her

Look at Her: Sonja Jean on Creating Memorial Jewelry, Exploring Iceland and Her Wish for More Diverse Travel

In this new feature on The Bohemian Mermaid, I’ll be interviewing local and international business owners and travelers. This week’s feature is of jewelry designer and founder Sonja Jean from Sonja Jean Design. Sonja is a close friend and I’ve been following her business for a few years now!

Hi Sonja, Tell us a little about yourself!

My name is Sonja, I’m 40 years young and I love creating and traveling. In my everyday life I am a sonographer (I perform ultrasound studies) at an infertility clinic helping couples achieve their dreams of pregnancy. I enjoy the outdoors, especially beaches and mountains and love hiking and exploring new locations and cultures. I am the child of a German mother and a black father and grew up in Germany before moving to the states at 12 years old where I lived in El Paso, TX for the next ten years before moving to beautiful Denver, CO.

What is Sonja Jean Design and why did you start your brand?

Sonja Jean Design is the business I started as a passion project/side hustle. The idea began after my husband passed away suddenly at the age of 40. I wanted to make a piece of jewelry with his ashes and that started it all. I’ve been making memorial jewelry ever since and just started making regular jewelry as well. I am proud and honored to make these one of a kind pieces for loved ones of people who have passed away. It brings me a sense of purpose to help families in their grief. I love creating and learning, so I’ve been really excited to branch out into regular jewelry. 

Where do you find inspiration for your designs?

I find inspiration all around, I started getting ideas by scrolling through Pinterest, trying out different designs and putting my own spin on them. I love finding a new medium like faux leather, brass or wood and then going from there. I make jewelry that I would wear myself. I like lightweight, easy to wear pieces that go with everything. 

What’s up next for Sonja Jean Design? (Future styles, products)

I’ve just enrolled in a metalsmithing course to learn how to solder and start making one of a kind memorial pieces and also my regular jewelry designs. It will help me be more creative in my styles and able to make custom pieces for my clients. I’m very excited about that. I’ve been making candles for my friends and family for quite a while and look forward to featuring them on my site as well very soon.

Where can The Bohemian Mermaid readers find Sonja Jean Design?

My products can be purchased on my Sonja Jean Design Etsy shop, and you can contact/follow me on my Instagram business page @sonja_jean_design and my personal account @sonja_jean_. You can email me at sonjajeandesign@gmail.com with any inquiries. 

Every person featured on The Bohemian Mermaid will also share some of their best travel insight and favorite places to go to! Prepare for wanderlust!

Favorite place you’ve traveled too (domestic or abroad) and why?

One of the most memorable places I’ve visited has to be Iceland. I had the privilege of visiting in the dead of winter for the northern lights and also in summer to experience the midnight sun! It’s such a magical place and unlike any other I’ve traveled to. Black sand beaches, hot springs, the beautiful North Atlantic Ocean. I just couldn’t get enough. It’s like another world. 

My favorite quick getaway vacation is Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. I love the culture, the beautiful bay, mountains and the people. The snorkeling is awesome and you can see whales in winter. It’s a quick three hour flight from Denver so it’s easy for me to get there and back without having to spend a lot of time on a plane. 

Photo by photojournalist and friend of Sonja’s, Kirsten Bitzer.

Any tips or must see attractions when at this place?

In Iceland you have to see the northern lights and experience their many hot springs in the winter. You can rent a car and drive around the country exploring. In summer, the coast is beautiful and you can see puffins! The Golden Circle is a great place to start, you can do it in half a day and see so many cool attractions along the way like geysers and some awesome waterfalls. Puerto Vallarta, Mexico offers great snorkeling and you can hike some beautiful mountain trails that will offer great views of the entire bay.

Puffins in Iceland

How has traveling changed your perspectives on life?

Learning about different cultures has always intrigued me. I love to see different perspectives on life through other’s traditions and customs. Growing up with a German and a Black parent and learning about their backgrounds started my interest. It has taught me to treat all cultures with respect and to be open to other points of view. I’m a total foodie as well so eating all the traditional foods is something I really enjoy.

Iceland

What place is next on your travel wish list?

My dream destinations right now are Indonesia and the Maldives. The photos look so beautiful. Both very far away but they look totally worth it. I’m a sucker for a good beach! 

Traveling as a female can have challenges of its own. I’ve detailed one such personal experience here. Traveling as a female and POC is something I never will experience. However, I want to begin more discussions with my fellow females about traveling as a person of color (POC). Have you faced any challenges during your travels? What would you tell a female POC who is hesitant to travel? Feel free to write anything extra that you feel people need to know!

I have to say that most of my traveling experience as a female POC has been very positive.  I encounter racism here at home more than when I am traveling abroad. I have had some bad experiences with groping and catcalling but never based on race. 

I would love to see more female POC traveling. I feel as a race, it’s something we don’t do enough of. I know some people that have never left their city or state! That saddens me. Travel is such a rewarding and eye opening experience. I believe everyone should spend time exploring the world. I would love to start a group where people get together and travel to new and different places. It would be super rewarding. Especially young people. It’s so important to get out of your own bubble and see new places. Hey, maybe that’ll be a new business idea for me, so stay tuned…

For 20% off your Sonja Jean Design purchase, use code BOHEMIANMERMAID at SonjaJeanDesign on Etsy.

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