Although officially founded in 2002, the adventure began in London by 1998.
We were working on a set of earrings and amulets inspired by the Pre-Columbian Art of the Americas and started going to Portobello Road Market on Saturdays. Table pitches in Portobello were hardly available, the option of doing what is called “fly-pitching” was there.
Soon after we went to the arty Old Spitalfields Market where Erick Graham, the manager, welcomed us and gave us a pitch for half of the rent fee to start up… The reception was great, we came across a place “possessed” by a communal sense, an atmosphere of togetherness made us feel like we belonged to a big family. The whole experience at the Spital marked our lives in a way that made us be better human beings.
Our designs soon caught the interest of locals and tourist visitors. We used to travel to the market with our display boxes attached to the rear wheel of a bicycle. Soon we found that we could not do this anymore. We came back to Portobello Road, this time with a licence, a licence that did not allow us to fly.
In a time marked by the voracious rhythm of the Globalisation, we benefitted from the fact that the fashion sector approached intensively the ethnic design and our collection grew in an innovative spiral.
Touched by an interest in tribal art, especially of Africans, we worked bronze and cooper in different ways and added to the designs natural elements such as feathers, bones, shells, bamboo sticks and glass. Blending traditional styles from different ancient cultures the idea of developing a One World Design came to our minds.
Our workshop moved by 2003, from a corner in a shared flat in Covent Garden to a premise in the Cable Street Studios in Limehouse. It did not start well as we had a flood of biblical proportions immediately after we set up the workspace. Somebody said that an artist was making Mache Paper in the studio on top of ours, well I do not know, but I concede that the flood was definitely due to artistic reasons. We had to move to another unit and then we suffered from a mistaken bailiff. After the problem was sorted, our suffering continued in the form of big hangovers. We engaged in a close friendship with the plastic and media artists that occupied the building of the old Thames House and participated in some of the Open Studios events organised.
The clink of our metalwork were mixed with electronic and rock music coming from the many music studios around. At one point we decided to work with open doors as we had visitors all day long. The new works reflected the new experiences and revealed a most mature awareness of contemporary trends, most importantly started to consider the use of unconventional materials as mediums to make the jewellery.
As for the reason why we called ourselves Kaktus: it happened at a summer event in the Southbank of the River Thames as we were caught by surprise by the organisers and were asked to provide a name for our stall. Our neighbour have his stall signed as “Bamboo” so cactus was the first word that came to my mind. I made up cactus with a double K to make the thing not to look too improvised. That is the only story behind.
Justina, an artist that worked with us for some time, told me that in most of Eastern European languages, Kaktus, literally, is something like a plant that lives in the deserts, have spikes and does not need much water to live…