Githan Coopoo is a 22 year old creative from Cape Town who makes simplistic, sculpted jewellery items by hand. His abstract pieces have beautiful organic shapes and are crafted out of unexpected and innovative materials like clay. Coopoo is steadily increasing his jewellery line’s impact through fashion. He recently collaborated with Rich Mnisi to produce his first ever collection of earrings and rings for the fashion designer’s Autumn Winter show at Lexus South Africa Menswear week.
We spoke with the artist about his design process and jewelry as a medium for creative experimentation. See below our conversation alongside an imaginative still-life jewellery shoot by Alix-Rose Cowie.
What drew you to jewellery design?
If you’ve met me once, you know earrings are a big (honestly) deal for me. I love them. It’s something I don’t even care to unpack or understand why, it’s just a simple pleasure. I had my left ear pierced about two years ago, and after the original piercing healed, I found myself getting really excited to try different earrings (virtually anything), and then the right ear followed shortly after. Before that, I was also really into brooches and pins in high school. Any kind of adornment really. My family also has a lineage of Indian jewellers on my dad’s side, so that probably also factors in somewhere.
Where do you find your creative inspiration?
I’m constantly inspired by different things, to the extent where I have concepts for about 20 different capsule collections in my head at a time. So for Rich’s show, I used the work of Jean Arp, the German-French artist, as a springboard and then just developed the designs into something of my own. Now I’m really inspired by found objects in the street, specifically bits of cement, or some rubble with paint on it. I went through this really shocking phase a year ago, where I would find odd bits of metal in the city, disinfect them in coke overnight, and then make earrings with them (I know it’s a lot), and I think that’s where the inspiration of found objects comes from now. Otherwise I’m always inspired by volume, India, what we consider to be opulent and how that changes, and queer culture (my life, lol).
What are your favourite materials to work with and why?
I’ve recently been working exclusively with clay and making ceramic jewellery. As a medium, I think its deeply universal, which is cool, and also kind of commonplace. I love this paradox that exists with elevating an everyday or seemingly mundane material into something quite precious and rich. The ceramics are also fragile, more so than metals or traditional minerals, and I think there is so much beauty in that. Conventional jewellery is prized and considered precious because of the worth and value of the materials used, whereas this jewellery is also precious – not for its monetary value, but because it is delicate, and must be cared for. By using clay, I’m able to redefine why we consider jewellery to be precious to us. If ceramics are mistreated, they will break, and I think there is a beautiful lesson in that. I want my pieces to be able to remind people to be gentle; with themselves, and others
Who would you most like to see wearing your jewellery?
I recently produced a capsule collection of pieces for an editorial where I was able to see performance artists Queezy and Angel-ho wearing my earrings. That was pretty incredible. Otherwise, Fatima Arendse, Solange (in one of her music videos), Li Edelkoort. Also boys in general. That would make me really happy.
What’s next? What is your vision for the future of your jewellery brand?
I think I need to decide whether developing a brand is what I want to do. The climate for young emerging designers in South Africa isn’t really there. We don’t have much infrastructure. I would like to continue doing commission work and private sales. As a creative outlet, this really has been one of the best things I’ve done for myself in ages.