Read Tamagit’s comprehensive personal interview of the artist Natsumi Kaihara.
What is your academic background and how is it related to art jewelry?
Before I moved to Barcelona, I did my Highschool education in Japan, but it did not specialize in arts. While living in Barcelona, I started learning Spanish and this enabled me to on enrol at the Escola Massana at a later stage. Entering the Escola Massana was a big challenge for me, and it gave me the opportunity to get close to art jewelry.
When and how do you start creating jewelry?
I started creating art jewelry as a project assignment for the Escola Massana.
You studied in Tokyo. Why did you move to Barcelona and enrol in an Art Jewelry Course at Escola Massana?
I had visited Barcelona before in 2006 and 2007. The reason why I had been in Barcelona was because of Barça. During my second visit I started learning Spanish at a language school and this gave me the motivation to move to Barcelona in order to get to know people and interact with them. So, in 2008 I did my third trip to Barcelona. This time, I went there with a study visa.
After several years learning Spanish, I decided to follow the passion I had since childhood. When I was a child, I used to follow drawing classes. My teachers back then were university art students and they were the ones showing me how enriching art creation could be. A primary school teacher also made me feel the passion and joy of expressing emotions through creation.
I came to the conclusion that Massana would be really challenging for me. Massana was also very close to my residence back then. So, all of this shaped my future.
Tell us about your creative experience gained at Escola Massana
The accessories I created before studying at Massana were superficial. I only thought of form and aspect.
After my studies, I learned how to create an own language and how to deepen into emotions that I was not able to name. Thanks to that experience I have been able to go on working as an art jeweler after graduation.
While studying at Massana, you did a traineeship at Carles Codina’s workshop. Please explain how this teacher, master and artist has influenced your creations.
The main aspect Carles Codina taught me was the importance of technique. One must understand both: cause and effect. That is the weight of knowledge.
While being a student at Massana, I learned to enjoy processes and unexpected results. I learned to enjoy and to adapt to the incontrollable. Mastering all kind of techniques would enable me to adapt to those results in order to create a piece. Therefore, technique is liberating, and it takes us further in our creative process.
If the result is unexpected, although it can be interesting, if I do not have any idea of what has happened, I cannot go on experimenting. The process gets blocked and it generates frustration.
I try to analyse phenomena and observe processes so I can understand the “cause-effect” relation. This must be done many times, of course; one needs to be patient.
Knowledge is very important. I gained these principles and knowledge basis during the time I spent at Carles Codina’s workshop. It was an absolutely enriching experience.
You also worked at Marc Monzo’s studio. In how far has this artist influenced you?
I did my internship at Marc Monzo’s workshop. This gave me a crystal-clear impression of what it is to be a jeweler. I learned to put objects, prototypes and pre-pieces in a blank space in order to imagine possibilities. My mind is fresh by keeping certain distance with my pieces and by maintaining visual objectivity.
I am not so concerned about my language. Marc Monzo’s pieces are minimalist but they say a lot, too. When we see them, we recognize them as Monzo’s work. I am not at his level, but what I learned from him makes me feel confident and at ease. I feel good in doing what I do and feeling what I feel I have to express.
How much of Tokyo or Japan can be found in your creations?
Tokyo could be many things: buildings, crowds, big city, punctual trains, big boards with kitsch colors…
My image of Tokyo is different: grey skyscrapers and geometrical buildings. In that sense, yes. My work has that Tokyo atmosphere.
How important is culture to you?
Culture is one of our main elements. Culture can be found in the artists’ pieces and it sometimes has the same importance as their own experiences.
Do you work from your own atelier? What do you feel when you are creating for so many hours in the workshop?
I work from my workshop at home. However, taking into account that thoughts are fluid, I also think that work is fluid. I can work anytime from anywhere.
I normally clean and tidy my working table after every process. This helps me refresh my mind and gain some kind of discipline that I cannot have while creating. When I used to work on my own, I used to feel a very deep sense of tranquillity and concentration. My work now is more connected to my personal life. Honestly, I am very curious where this will lead me to. I might be confronted to results I could have never imagined before.
What materials do you mostly work with and why?
Materials depend on my state of mind, emotions and context. Before I needed metals because of their hardness. To me it is very important to share feelings and time with the selected material. The same happens with the creative process.
Although I tend to work with metals, I try not to have any limitation as for materials.
Where and how do you obtain those materials? Is sustainability important to you?
For my last series I used old, re-cycled metal from former work of mine. To re-use material is cost effective and it also gives life to something else: a new jewel. That’s really enriching.
I am very conscious about the environment and sustainability. But I would like to think about it in a different way. I would like kids to understand that a piece of material can be useless waste or a special object.
How important is colour to you and is there a method for choosing certain tones?
I feel good when using opaque tones. I care about the hidden colours within the shades. I think that this way shapes and edges are emphasized.
I use oxide so that pieces can show their colors by reacting with it. Although I tend to think that I control the process, I always get surprised. I really like that encounter and its multiple dialogues between us. These colours get gradually lost, but I think that these fugitive changes are amazing.
Do you work with series or collections? When is a series considered to be finished?
Yes, I do work in series. I create several pieces during a certain period of time. When the series is over it means that a new topic has emerged. And I then need to express that new topic by starting a another collection.
Please describe your last series. Where did you get the inspiration from?
The last series is about maternity: recuperation and recreation.
I became mother to a girl and this event has changed my life completely. Next to being a great joy, being a mother also means less freedom, less time. So, I often have mixed feelings and get a bit frustrated: I want to live the life I had before while at the same time I want to take care of my big love, my daughter.
The inspiration of this last series is based on the first 11 months I have spent with her. I recovered materials that used to live with me while I was “free”. I literally took them out of the drawer and while creating with them I relived the joy of creation.
Like the connection I have with my daughter, the creative process is absolutely necessary in my life. The waste material has turned into pieces that have absorbed those other feelings. And like me, they have begun a new life based on new memories.
Do you draw your pieces first or do you start creating from a conceptual idea?
I base my work on loose ideas. I imagine an abstract form, not a determined one. I write words: sentences that emerge as bubbles in the sea shore or sand draining through my hands.
I use drawings or sketches in order to catch those abstract forms and solve some technical problems. From there, I start building up materials and I find forms that connect with my deepest inner “self”.
Why did you choose art jewelry above other artistic expressions? What does it offer you?
By coincidence. I went into this world without previous knowledge. Art jewelry allows me to express, research and materialise my feelings and thoughts. It builds upon my past memories and current experiences. To me the creative process is really intimate: it’s an egocentric act because everything turns around “me”. But, when the pieces are done, the process reaches another level. It’s a kind of sublimation. It starts separating from me and it searches relations with other people. At this stage I have the opportunity to know what viewers feel about my pieces. It is amazing to listen to external viewers’ comments. And knowing what other people think or feel about my pieces makes me realise other aspects. Like this, I become a new viewer or beholder.
And why is art jewelry sometimes difficult? What challenges does it present?
Art jewelry is very personal. Every artist has its own themes and concepts. To enjoy it, one needs certain knowledge basis and sensitivity. It is the same as other art expressions. Art is understood as an expression that is complicated and needs scholarship or scientific knowledge. I think that makes it inaccessible.
To be honest, I do not search for an immediate “use” of my pieces, but to me it would be a great honour if through my creations I would be able to add some kind of value to persons who do not know about art jewelry.
Do you think that your jewelry or any other kind of art jewelry can empower wearers? What would you like wearers of your jewels to feel when wearing your creations? Do you think that art jewelry is genderless? Why?
I believe art jewelry can enrich the wearer’s life. I want wearers to feel and think with absolute freedom. I would love wearers to relate my jewels to something personal. I would love my pieces to be open and tell many things so that they could not fall under any definition or even be finalised.
When I create a jewel I do not think of any person. I think of helping materials to find their shape. It is therefore a completely open process.
How would you describe your jewelry: arts, crafts, design, fashion, tradition, innovation… or a mixture of all of that?
This is a difficult question. I think that it should be the viewer or beholder the one who should answer this.
But if I must give an answer, I would say that it is a mixture of art and meditation. I create portable objects named “jewels”.
What are your future plans? Any new projects in mind? Any experiments in other artistic expressions next to contemporary jewelry?
I would love to go on creating objects and jewelry. One of the projects I have is to present work by Japanese jewelers in Barcelona and work by Catalan artists in Tokyo. I hope to carry it out in the future. This would enable people to get to know the art jewelry universe, which is full of sensitiveness and rich in creativity.