Recently, you have had the idea to create a beautiful collection of necklaces, calling Sea Jewellery, thanks to the work of Yoshiyuki Tsukamoto. How was idea born?
The idea for the Sea Jewellery came to me while I was walking along the beach two days after the massive earthquake that hit Japan on 11th March, 2011. It was a beautiful day and the sea, which had been so black and angry just two days before was now calm and crystal clear. I found the small pieces of pottery while walking, trying to come to terms with the terrible thing that had happened. I just could not stop thinking about the people and as I picked up the pieces my mind turned over the many ways in which we are all connected. First, these small, painted fragments of daily life from the past mirrored the shattered lives of the people just a few hundred kilometers north of us. Second, I was struck by the simple fact that we all use these things, bowls, plates, cups – which reminded me of how similar we all are, and how we tend to forget this. I also had a sense of how we are connected through Earth’s waters, how it washes over us and passes through us. The pieces were smooth and adorned with fragments of intricate, hand-painted designs. Looking closely I found myself appreciating them in a new and surprising way. The pieces suddenly began to feel very precious, like gifts from the sea and I thought about how I could use them to help survivors of the earthquake. As I picked them up, the picture of Tsukamoto weaving his wonderful designs around the edges came into my mind. Some of his styles look like fishing nets which is an added touch of poignancy. I was lucky because when I asked him if he was on board with the project he said “Yes” straight away. I could tell we were both feeling the same and needed to do something to help.
How does this jewellery constitute the Japanese art?
The Japanese are well-known for their refined aesthetic ideals. You can see it in everything, even simple, every day utensils and implements; there is care in their manufacture and thought in their design. The pottery used for the jewellery was so thoughtfully and carefully decorated that for this fact alone we can still appreciate it. I believe that what makes this jewellery so special however, is that it is more than just beautiful. It works on so many levels and it is the people who can feel these things, who are sensitive to them who will resonate with the jewellery and want to be a part of such a positive project.
What does the sea mean for you?
I love the sea! I was born by the sea and find myself drawn to it at different times and for different reasons. I believe that water conveys emotion and if this is true, and the surface of the Earth is 80% water, what does that tell us about the Earth? For all our knowledge we are still living with so many mysteries and I think the sea, like the sky, helps us to remember the mystery and to learn to accept it and be at peace with it.
Where were you when the earthquake happened?
I was at home with my family. It was a shocking, terrifying thing, even from where we are about 300km away. Luckily there was no damage in our area, although certain services such as power and petrol we disrupted for the first week or so after it happened. There were also concerns about water, food and air quality due to the problems with the Fukushima Nuclear Reactor. It took at least several weeks for a semblance of normality to return to daily life although there are still power-saving blackouts and reduced services throughout the country. It was a scary and unsettling time.
What is the main aim of this collection?
There are several aims I suppose! Of course, the over-arching aim is to help survivors who are struggling daily with so many difficult issues. We chose a children’s charity because we believe the situation to be especially hard for them. We wanted to help a local organisation, one that may not have access to large fund raising budgets, an organisation who would really feel the benefit. The Sendai Grief Care Association was set up five years ago to provide care to orphans so fulfilling the need for just such a service within the Tohoku region. Another aim was to make something beautiful to raise the money, something that people could appreciate and enjoy for a long time. Kindness is a beautiful thing that has far-reaching consequences unimaginable to the originator of the generous act. Having the necklace for a long time will help to remind the owner of the value of their contribution to the life of another human being. It reminds us we are all connected and there are consequences to our actions and I suppose I would love for the wearer to have some sense of these things. I must also admit to the execution of this jewellery project as having been extremely healing. It has been good to do something constructive with my hands and my time and I am deeply indebted to Vicky for helping to make it all possible.