We had the good fortune of connecting with Geraldine Fenn and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Geraldine, why did you pursue a creative career?
I started out wanting to be an archaeologist, but after studying it for a few years I decided I’d rather do something more creative and hands-on than have a career in acadaemia. On a whim I decided to study jewellery design and never really looked back. Passion really helps if you decide on a creative career because it’s not an easy way to earn a living, but the truth is that I also had a lot of moral and financial support from my parents which enabled me to do it – without that it would have been much harder to pursue this path. That’s not the sexiest answer I know, but that’s what it boils down to….

Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I guess I’m most proud of the fact that I still make jewellery by hand, in an industry which is turning more and more to CAD manufacturing. I have the freedom to experiment with materials and styles and almost every piece I make is a one-off, which keeps things interesting and exciting for me – anything I can dream up I can make. It also means that I can do true bespoke jewellery, where I work with a client to create a unique piece for them. I’m also incredibly proud of starting Tinsel Gallery, which gives other South African designer-makers a platform to show and sell their work. It certainly hasn’t been easy – we have a very limited audience of people who respect and want to buy this kind of contemporary handmade jewellery (in the face of the flood of cheaper mass-produced imported jewellery that comes into the country), so it can sometimes feel like an uphill battle, but I feel like we do an important job, and every time we show work to people and talk about the artistic and technical aspects of creating it I hope we’re imparting some of the passion we have for it and convincing those people that it’s worthy of their support.

Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Johannesburg is often neglected by tourists to South Africa – it’s often just the gateway to more glamorous spots like Cape Town or the bushveld – but it’s always been my city. It’s pretty gritty, and it has spots of extreme wealth and extreme poverty, but it’s a real African city with a cosmopolitan feel. We have a thriving arts and culture scene here, and plenty of great eateries and coffee spots. I would start by bringing a friend to work with me at the Bamboo Centre in Melville to check out our gallery and workshop space, where we have a sunny balcony with a good view (especially in October when the jacaranda trees turn the city purple) which is a great spot for an afterwork beer with friends on a Friday evening. We also have a cafe and deli, the Service Station, which we frequent often, downstairs from us, along with an independent bookstore Love Books, a clothing store showcasing local fashion designers Convoy, and a hairdresser and nail salon Pienk. Then I would take him/her on a drive into the city, starting at 44 Stanley, a centre similar to ours that has a lot of small independent businesses, for a really good coffee from Bean There coffee roasters and to pick up a bottle of wine for later from Voisin. We could also get an artisanal gelato from Forest and pick up a limited edition silk scarf printed with work from a range of local artists at Guillotine clothing store. Then we would stop at Liebermann Pottery at the old gas works – a lovely but derelict old industrial building – on the way to the Wits Art Museum, which is a world-class space that puts on some incredible exhibitions. If they were up to it I would then take them into the grimiest part of central Joburg to visit our West African bead dealer Abubakar, who has stacks of glorious beads in a storeroom – you have to get your hands dirty and dig through the dusty piles to find the best treasures, but it’s well worth it. Close by is the Maboneng Precinct, worth a visit for it’s vibey art galleries and studios, and on the way back we could visit Artists Proof Studios, Kim Sacks Gallery for amazing craft pieces and Kalashnikov Gallery, David Krut, Stevenson, Goodman Gallery and Everard Read for a great selection of contemporary art. In the evening we could catch the new show Third World Express at the Joburg Theatre, get some of the best chicken wings in town at Momo Kuro restaurant and end with a drink at a Streetbar Named Desire in Rosebank. There’s so much to do here!

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
My parents have been a constant bedrock of support: from financing my studies, and buying my earliest, dodgiest pieces of jewellery to physically building and installing workshop equipment for me and helping us exhibit work overseas. Every exhibition I’ve done they’ve enthusiastically attended, my mom shows off any snippet about me in the media to her friends with pride, and my dad still regularly commissions me to make pieces for my mom (luckily for her I’m a better jeweller now than I was 20 years ago). They are certainly entitled to a lot of the credit for any success I may have, and I am eternally grateful that I get to spend every day doing something I love, which might not have been possible without their support.

Website: www.tinselgallery.com www.geraldinefenn.com

Instagram: @tinselgallery @geraldinefenn

Facebook: Tinsel Gallery and Geraldine Fenn Jewellery pages

Image Credits
Some images by Sarah de Pina, others by Geraldine Fenn

Nominate Someone: ShoutoutLA is built on recommendations and shoutouts from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you or someone you know deserves recognition please let us know here.