Nairobi News


I’ll never trade art for anything, says Githinji

Tom Githinji never thought that a craft business would be his livelihood until he left high school in 2007.

Prior to this, he used to draw portraits for people on request and make wall clocks from recycled discs and wood.

“The best advice I ever received was that it would not be easy, but with prayer and persistence, the doors of opportunity would open at some point. It is true because this business pays really well,” said Githinji, the owner of Shotoh Arts in Huruma.

When he was young, Githinji used to make jikos, toy wheelbarrows and wire toy cars from scrap  and sell them at 50 cents or Sh1 to other children. He also made beaded cards for different occasions.

One day, he met a designer who liked his work so much that he hired him full time. “I worked with the designer for three years before I quit to start my own business,” he said. Shotoh Arts started in 2011.

Shotoh is derived from the word kushoto (which means ‘left’ in Swahili) since he is left-handed.

The business has grown to include jewellery from recycled copper and brass wire. Most of his products are African themed, but lately he has been trying to modernise his jewellery to go with the changing trends.

Recycled materials

An assortment of cards embellished with beads, thread and wire from Shotoh Arts. Photo/Courtesy
An assortment of cards embellished with beads, thread and wire from Shotoh Arts. Photo/Courtesy

He uses recycled wire for his jewellery, recycled cloth, paper, CDs, plastic and wood for wall clocks and cards.

His inspiration? “God’s creativity is my inspiration. God is the master artist and designer. Just look around and you will see perfect works of creation, beginning with yourself.

I am also inspired by what I am able to do, for instance when I design something beautiful I always want to do more and better. Family and friends also inspire me a lot,” he added.

His main challenges are capital and marketing. One day, he recalled, he tried street hawking but it did not work. Craft shops have also turned him down on several occasions saying his products are of low quality, while others wanted to buy at very low prices.

He recalled an incident when a shop owner wanted to buy a wall clock for Sh50, and yet it had cost him Sh300 to make.

“I learnt a lot from those days. I take every mistake, every challenge as a learning point and a stepping stone to make even better products.

Once I tried to look for another job because this was not sustaining enough but I found myself back at it. It is my life, it is what God has given me and I believe I have what it takes to become one of life’s greatest designers,” he said.

He sells his work at State of Art cyber cafe at Jonsaga in Huruma and on his Facebook page Shotoh Arts.

“I don’t think we need to struggle a lot. All we need to do is make the right product for the market, have the right attitude and love what we do. I believe there is space for each one of us.

The market seems flooded but we shouldn’t fear competition because that’s what will mould us into a successful industry,” he advised.

He plans to use his work to inspire other youths, especially those without jobs.  His message is simple, “Art is beauty and fun”.