Jewelry is the ultimate meeting of design, craftsmanship and function. The New Jewelry show at 3331 Arts Chiyoda (Dec 4-6, 2015) showcased some Japanese jewelry makers taking traditional materials and techniques into modern directions. It was particularly interesting to talk with some of the artists and learn about their themes or inspirations. There wasn’t enough to talk with everyone but below are some very brief artist chats organized into material themes.
Thanks to Mikimoto, pearls are strongly associated with jewelry in Japan. Mikimoto has a variety of styles, from traditional to modern, but the usage of pearls at New Jewelry had an energy I don’t see in Mikimoto.
Aya Hasegawa of Korat is a Nagano based artist doing interesting designs with pearls. She carves a design in a pearl then adds urushi (laquer)to it. I asked her where she got the idea to do this with a pearl and she said it just came to her. She noted that the process can be nerve-wracking because a mistake means that the pearl is wasted. The work is whimisical and finely detailed.
Muresi is the work of Yuji Ishigami of Yamanashi. Ishigami works in metal and created the coral and pearl pins. He does fine metal work yet decided to use unpolished coral. The rougher coral is a nice counterpoint to the fine metal.
Another artist at the Muresi table (I didn’t get her name) didn’t use pearls but uses photographs to make jewelry.
The idea behind using photographs is to play with memory. One style is to take parts of photos printed on a semi-transparent material and to put in metal shapes to make earrings, pendants and brooches. The effect is like a abstract watercolor until closer examination reveals the actual image. The project uses found photos to make a brooch. The brooch fits into the rest of the original photo for storage and display. The two have been working together for two years.
Cosmos Nostalgie by Natsuko Okano is also Tokyo-based. Much of her work is inspired by astronomy and science and the use of unusual minerals. She has been working in this style for two and a half years. One series has minerals in a rectangular cage. Her inspiration for this design is a science museum display cabinet. Okano has been working in this style for several years.
Glass was the medium of several designers. Whether it was geometric and hard-looking or formed into organic shapes, glass proved more versatile than simply mimicking gems making as beads.
Sorte means good fortune in Italian. She works in her glass studio in Hyogo with her husband. She designs the jewelry but they both have a hand in making the pieces. Mr. Sekino has been working with glass for 20 years. Sekino has been working with glass for 10 years. She started in university. She has been doing Sorte for the last three years. Her jewelry is various types of glass from organic to geometric with gold accents. When asked about the theme of her work she said that glass has lots of different expressions and she wants to demonstrate them in her jewelry.
Moko Kobayashi has a more traditional approach with glass, in that the work is made from French vintage glass beads about eighty years old. Watching the demonstration of making a brooch piques an interest in the finished product. The image outline is sewn onto fabric then the beads are sewn on. The motifs ranged from elegant to playful. I really loved the UFO with the little alien dangling from it. I also love the combination of glass and stitching required for this type of accessory.
This is not really a medium I associate with jewelry or accessories.When I do think of ceramics, I usually think of Wedgewood or something hippy-dippy. I know that ceramics are a wide-versatile material but I was surprised at the elegant offerings here.
Kimiko Suzuki uses ceramics to make her jewelry. At first glance the delicate lace work looks like it has been stitched, or 3-D printed but it is made with a ceramic paste with the consistency of whipped cream. The lace work is created much in the same way as decorating with icing. The result is a unique and delicate look. She has working with this style of production for four years. She likes lace of the symbolism of various motifs. Suzuki also uses ceramics to make molds and figures for her jewelry. Plant-Plant offered coated metal jewelry and items made of porcelain. The poppy petals are particularly beautiful.
Sewing, Embroidery, Fiber Arts
Though I would include Moko Kobayashi in a sewing category, these artist use more recognizable stitching techniques.
Some other fiber artists at the show to check out are
Akiko Ishiwata; lace and tatting with fiber instead of ceramic by Filigne and Etsushi who embroiders broaches in a simple, bold graphics self-described as a “primitive” style.
Resin and Washi (and pearls again)
Few materials say “Japan” more than washi. But the idea of paper jewelry sounds very fragile and short-lived. Based in Tokyo, Lisa Nagano of Lissita designs feminine accessories with washi. She maintains the delicacy of washi but adds durability by mixing it with resin. This combination becomes delicate floral motifs in lovely pinks and purples. The flowers look like real petals! And the pearls make an appearance here as well, as flower detail and earring backs. She also had older work on display, (a collaboration with a sumie painter?), done with bold black, gold and resin. It is also striking, though very different from her current work. She’s been working with resin for ten years, and using washi for about two.
The show is over but the website is still up and has links to all the exhibitors’ pages. They are worth checking out for more photos of the work, explanations of their themes and inspirations and, in some cases, where to buy their work.