I was born in the highlands of Peru, in Apurimac– a beautiful region of the Andes Mountains where Quechua is still the predominant language. It is there where I developed an intense appreciation of our natural world. I was drawn to the work of shamans who, for centuries, have used stones, shells, and fossils in ceremonial offerings to Pachamama, the Quechua goddess of Mother Earth. I knew from a very young age that I wanted my life to pay tribute to all manifestations of PachaMama. I was 17 when I realized that art jewelry was the best way for me to honor our natural world.
Growing up, I was surrounded by fiber art. I watched my mother and grandparents weave beautiful textiles. Naturally, I was drawn to the gorgeous fibers of Peru as my medium. My mother taught me to weave all the while emphasizing intense focus and attention to detail. I moved on to knotting when other South American artists introduced me to macramé. I practiced and practiced knotting in my spare time while taking on odd jobs that allowed me to travel throughout Peru and South America. The gorgeous landscapes I came upon only deepened my inspiration and love for our natural world. From the high Andes mountains to the dense jungle rainforest to the desert coastlines, I was greatly moved by all manifestations of Pachamama. Nature inspired me to reach new heights in my art jewelry. I adapted my weaving techniques to work with metal. I believe my wirework is a testament to how art transforms itself, much like natural processes transform our earth and us.
My real name is Gilber.
When I was 3 years old, my mother shaved my head to beat the summer heat. My older siblings taunted me saying that I looked like a coconut. Coco means coconut in Spanish.
With eight brothers and sisters chanting, “Coco! Coco! Coco!” the name just stuck.
I was born in New Jersey to Italian-American parents. My father is a general contractor and my mother works side by side with him as the office manager. Therefore, I grew up learning about the struggles and benefits of owning a small business. Car and dinner conversations always gravitated to business matters and money was tight sometimes. But the business never interfered with family time. My parents never missed a soccer game.
I have always had a feeling of wanderlust and quest for adventure. I was a wilderness instructor for Outward Bound before I decided to turn my love of travel and interest in other cultures into a career by pursuing a PhD/MPH in medical anthropology and public health. My graduate school research was on the health effects of rapid social and economic change among the Tsimané of the Bolivian Amazon.
In 2008, fate intervened with my PhD plans when political tensions between Bolivia and the US erupted. Fearing for my safety, my advisor and University pulled me off my project. I fled to Peru to wait out the political unrest. Soon after, I met Coco and it was love at first sight. I not only fell in love with Coco, but with his beautiful country as well. Unable to return to Bolivia, I stayed in Peru to spend more time with Coco. ❤
I never did end up finishing my dissertation. The lure of becoming an entrepreneur and owning a family business got the better of me.
I miss my research, but I am very happy that I won’t ever give an academic talk again. I was such a nervous speaker, I nearly threw up every time.
Together we moved to Cusco in 2008, where Coco opened a jewelry store with his brother in San Blas, the art district of the city. We married in Cusco in 2009 and moved to the United States the following year. We started our business, Rumi Sumaq, in the summer of 2010.
Soon after, we welcomed the birth of our son Mayu, our first love and light. In the early years of our business, Mayu was a traveling fool, joining us at every art show. By the time Mayu was three years old, he had visited every state east of the Mississippi.
Enzo joined the family in May of 2015, making our formidable foursome complete. Traveling with two young kids made the art show circuit a bit more challenging so we made the move to Martha’s Vineyard in the fall of 2016. Our business model shifted to online sales and selling locally on the beautiful island of Martha’s Vineyard. All summer long you can find us at the Vineyard Artisans Festivals and Chilmark Flea Markets.
We still travel some, exhibiting at only the best juried art shows in the United States.
We believe the best part of exhibiting at art shows is meeting the kind people who take the time to talk with us and comment on Coco’s jewelry. Many customers have become our lifelong friends.
Mayu means “River” in Quechua.
While pregnant with Mayu in Peru, I would often bathe in a cold river to fend off the morning sickness.
We bonded as mother and son during those freshwater baths so his name is apropos.
When not on the road, Coco creates new designs from our home studio on Martha’s Vineyard. Melanie handles all aspects of the business side of Rumi Sumaq.
We are proud to report that Coco has received numerous awards for his art jewelry, including a prestigious nomination for a 2014 NICHE Award. Grammy winner and style icon Esperanza Spalding is a huge fan of Coco’s work, and has worn his designs on tour many times.
Coco’s one of a kind jewelry has also garnered numerous press mentions some of which are mentioned on our Press page. What Coco takes pride in the most, however, is the feedback he receives from happy customers.
I so love the organic quality and texture of your beautiful, unique designs. You are your designs and your designs are you, and I feel that spiritual connection. Thank you for sharing your precious artistic gifts with the world!— Regina Musolf
Everyone should know of your work. I am not much of a jewelry person, but the first time I saw your work I thought if I had the money I’d buy every piece you made and wear a different piece everyday. It is the most beautiful and outstanding work of creativity and artisan craftsmanship I’ve ever seen. I have forwarded your website to others who have experienced the same reaction.— Sheri