Self-confidence boosters and make-up jewelry

Akiko Shinzato

PHOTO  .  January 10th, 2019

Hi Akiko, can you please introduce yourself? 

I’m a jewelry designer / artist in Okinawa, Japan. I’m working for my brother’s jewelry brand and teaching jewelry design at school. Those are my main jobs at the moment. I work on my own projects only when I have got time.

How did you get to what you are currently doing?

I studied jewelry design at Central Saint Martins (CSM) in London. At first, I wanted to study fashion actually, but came across contemporary jewelry and got drawn to it.

Where does the idea of the “Self Confidence Boosters” collection come from? How much does it have to do with your personal experience, as an artist, as a woman, as someone from Japan?

It was made for an exhibition of art teachers in Okinawa. The theme of the exhibition was “school”, so I wanted to make something related to Japanese education. Japanese people are usually shy and humble. I think it’s because we have a uniform education. It means that any nail that sticks out gets hammered down, which means that we should conform to the rest. Students are afraid of making mistakes and afraid of what the other students might think of them. Studying abroad, I was very surprised by the student’s enthusiasm and confidence in a classroom. I found that they had more freedom to do whatever they want. Making this collection, I imagined what might happen if Japanese education starts pushing student’s confidence at school. This collection is a little bit ironic and shows Japanese inflexible education in a way. Although it looks like boosting and helping your confidence, the piece actually limits the body movements and forces you to be in a particular position.
I didn’t actually intend to mention women’s right, but as you said, it can be taken so. It’s interesting how people react and what people think from my works.

I noted that you did not mention the model’s name for these pictures… Is it you? If yes, why did you choose to be the model for that collection?

It’s not me but a friend of mine. I didn’t mention her name just because she’s not a professional model. I wanted to use a person who looks pure and less confident in a way. I won’t use myself as a model. I’m not photogenic at all. haha

Do you want it to remain conceptual or did you intend some use of these pieces?

Although I want it to remain conceptual, I think you can actually use it as a kind of mental rehabilitation. As a part of my research I learnt that you get a positive feeling from some yoga poses by putting your chin up. Likewise, from my collection, “Chin Up” and “Chest Out” might help you feeling better.

You explained that your “Wearing makeup” is about people’s obsession with their appearance, which seems related to the “Self Confidence Boosters” as well. Does this highlight some ongoing interest for society’s oppressive standards? 

I think so. I found myself more interested in people’s feelings and inner issues than just the visual aspects.

Can you explain us your creative process for that piece?

From my previous project, I was interested in clown’s makeup. I thought it would be interesting if you can put on makeup with a piece of jewelry. Luckily, I had some Swarovski crystals available. I found them perfect for makeup in a form of jewelry because Swarovski crystals are various in their colours, shapes and sizes. When designing, I went back and forth between my desk and a mirror. I put crystals over my face in front of a mirror, checking which one to use and where to put on. For that piece, particularly, I wanted to make a piece of jewelry that represents eye makeup. Actually, I had some crystal choices for the piece, but to make it a little bit more functional, I chose the square doughnut-shaped crystals. Otherwise, you couldn’t see anything by wearing the piece. As for the whole shape, I followed a head silhouette with metal frames so that you can imagine a clown face from the piece itself.

As you said you were inspired by Victorian attire for the pince-nez in Another Skin collection, I wonder if you have a general interest for Victorian accessories? What are your other sources of inspiration, aesthetically wise, in terms of style and time?

It’s not that I’m particularly interested in Victorian accessories. I used Victorian attire for Another Skin collection to express the idea of feeling powerful with one’s own appearance, since the fashion and jewelry were indications of power and social status in that period. I like old staff such as vintage clothes and antiques in general though.

Looking at your Sweating collection, I reckon your creations have a special way to connect to the body, some even feel like extensions. Can you tell us about that?

I think jewelry is an interesting medium because it’s worn on a body. In my jeweler practice, I try to explore how a piece of jewelry can interact with human body and am always looking for new functions and new ways of wearing it. It’s exciting for me to create a piece of jewelry that can highlight and celebrate a part of your body which you never thought could be a piece of jewelry.

Do you also have an interest in everyday jewelry or would you rather change medium but stay in a more artistic practice?

I’d like to stay more in artistic practice. It’ll be amazing if my works appear in a catwalk, film or music video as a matter of course in the future. However, as I’m working for my brother’s jewelry brand, yes, I’m interested in everyday jewelry as well. Although I design wedding bands and eyewear with him at the moment, I’d like to do more like fashion jewelry/accessories for my own business. Actually, I will move back to Europe next summer and focus on my own projects.

Could you share with us some jewelry (or not) artist that you admire?
Maiko Takeda
I was blown away by her BA degree collection at CSM, which drew me to contemporary jewelry.
Iris van Herpen

And some inspirational work about self-esteem / appearance?
Leigh Bowery
Michel Foucault’s book, Discipline and Punish (1991)

Thank you :)

Akiko Shinzato is an artist from Okinawa, Japan, here is her website, and here her instagram.