Pics: Adornment for the brave

By Nontando Mposo Time of article published Nov 23, 2015

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Cape Town - The history of jewellery goes back centuries.

In a number of African cultures, jewellery is used to communicate information about oneself and tribe.

In the Zulu and Xhosa cultures, beadwork is used to convey certain messages. From colourful jewellery worn by children to the elaborate necklaces that adorn the women, the designs relate a variety of things, including one’s courtship or marital status.

In other cultures across the world, accessories and ornaments also play an important role, and the women in communities pride themselves on making the jewellery and use the process as a way to connect and socialise. This narrative is a big inspiration for Katherine-Mary Pichulik, the creator of bespoke handcrafted neckpieces and earrings.

“Accessories are incredibly exciting because they come with such lineage. My biggest interests are Africa and the Middle East where jewellery was used to tell stories, among other things.

“The actual making of the jewellery was important in the sharing of knowledge. Women would gather in North Africa, for an example, and make a talisman for a woman who was getting married. The process is a way for women to share stories, to heal and to empower one another.

“I have other inspirations such as my travels in Italy, which form certain parts of my aesthetic decision. But most of my inspiration comes from a place where I want to tell powerful female stories. I want to tell African stories and I want to use jewellery as a medium. It’s about bringing back the sacred and ceremonial way of making jewellery,” says Pichulik.

Designed and handcrafted in Cape Town, the accessories brand Pichulik was launched in 2012. Bold and unique statement neck pieces made from ropes and industrial materials make up its distinctive signature.

At her studio in Woodstock, Pichulik says each piece tells a story of her travels, her family and interesting objects she’s found across the world.

“Since I was a young girl I have always liked dressing up and putting on my mom’s accessories. Being born in the early ’90s – the clash of ’80s and ’90s, when costume and blingy statement jewellery was a thing – in a way formed my aesthetic,” explains Pichulik.


Pichulik, a trained pastry chef, first ran the business from her apartment, making pieces for friends and family.

“From there, I have simply been following the demand. Then the business grew as the demand increased. It’s a business that grew organically with no capital. It wasn’t something I had planned to launch, but as the business has grown older I have learned more about better ways to do things, such as creating infrastructure, processes and systems to do things better,” says Pichulik.

“I think it’s the best way to do business. Hustling your way through is when you learn the greatest lessons. Having a business qualification is helpful, but the real experience you get is from running a business on the ground,” she says.

Pichulik’s latest Italian-inspired SS16 collection is named Lena.

“I love the idea of alchemy – taking something that is not considered beautiful or valued but, through design, touch and intention, can be transformed into something beautiful. The materials I work with are industrial and are not considered valuable. I also believe that every person has a potential for magnificence, growth and healing power – it’s just about the alchemy, how, through believing in themselves, they can transform who they are,” says Pichulik.

“My inspiration has a lot to do with my travelling stories and I am really interested in the aesthetic of religion, all religions. I love travelling to India because I love the richness of Hinduism, the aesthetic and craft that comes from that. In Turkey there are magnificent mosques and tiling. Christianity, I enjoy spending time in Italy where there are beautiful cathedrals,” she says.

And what type of woman wears Pichulik? “It’s a brave woman or a woman who is aspiring to be brave. She is also humorous, someone who is kind, interested in the world and in self development,” says Pichulik.

She says clothes are there to cover your body while jewellery is something that has to do with beauty and self-worth. “When you wear it the greatest emphasis is on how it makes you feel,” Pichulik explains.

“Jewellery sits on the most intimate parts of our body – around our wrists, on our earlobes and neck… places where only lovers get to touch.

“Be guided by how it feels and not by how you think you look because you are always going to feel like you are wearing a costume as opposed to an expression of who you are.”

* To shop the Pichulik pieces, visit

Her latest collection, Lena also goes on sale at Joburg’s Potato Sheds in Newtown from Thursday November 19.

Cape Argus

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