"I was born and grew up in Sapporo, Japan. Sapporo is a very cold area. Winter is long and summer is short there," quips Milan-based jeweller, Akiko Kurihara. "During the winters, I often stayed indoors and liked to read books [as] a child." Her family didn't buy her toys, and Kurihara's childhood playtime was spent in her head. "I imagined various things in my brain, and often daydreamed... I was a child who was playing in the world of delusion." Unmoving objects came to live in the young Kurihara's mind. The "spots on the wall, trash on the floor, chopsticks, [and] tableware" came to live as characters with distinct personalities.
Playtime also involved Kurihara cutting out "pictures of rings [in] newspaper fold advertisements". She would cut slits in the ring and wear these paper rings and play pretend in her paper world.
The girl knew exactly what she wanted to do in life, and went on to train in art and jewellery colleges. At 29 she moved to Munich to study under the tutelage of an esteemed contemporary jeweller Otto Kunzli. Those were formative years that sharpened Kurihara's artistic eye for jewellery.
The Alchemist's Stick. The necklace chain changes colour as the stick passes through.
"Professor Otto Kunzli told me that too much [is] not good. Less is more." In that sense, Kurihara continues, jewellery is like a poem. You tell a riveting story through a couple of simple and clean sentences, "just like [how] Haiku authors dare choose the form of 5/7/5 and they compress infinite images into such short sentences."
In her jewellery, Kurihara tells "humour and wit." Like this necklace which she calls the Alchemist's Stick. The chain changes from black to gold as the stick pendant moves through it. And a self-righting ball ring that defies gravity.
Bomb earrings. A commentary on the increasing pessimism that has grown into the noun.
There's a series of seemingly provocative motifs like bombs, dynamites, alcohol, tobacco, bees, drugs and genital parts made comical – Kurihara's personal commentary on the state of our overly uptight and myopic world today. It seems that she's trying to say, 'problems will pass. It's pointless to feel frustrated even for a moment.'
Kurihara also has a collection based on tautology, "like a ring wearing a ring, an earring wearing an earring, a ring made of a ring."
From left: A cylindrical necklace with a ball that will never fall out of place. A hooped monkey earring wearing earrings.
All the above, Kurihara thinks is similar to the function of art. It's a cerebral commentary, it invokes emotions. Jewellery made in the likeness of art is called contemporary jewellery.
The one difference that sets art and jewellery apart, is wearability. It's a rule. "But art has no rules. You can really make whatever you want."
Even though what contemporary jewellers are doing is in essence, fine art and contemporary art as well, "we [are not] invited to membership in the field after all."
As Kurihara's community of jewellers challenge their refusal into the art realm, she is hopeful. "There may come a [time] when [jewellery] overlaps contemporary art – or such a moment may not come." Either way, Kurihara is glad she has the privilege to have found an avenue to express herself.
View Akiko Kurihara's jewellery here.
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