It’s that time of year! In just over a month, we will be recognizing the winners of the 2013 Saul Bell Design Award competition at a gala dinner during JCK Las Vegas. Until then, Rio Grande’s Blog is visiting with past winners to report on what they’ve been up to. Check back every Wednesday!
I’m reminded (again) why I love my job this time of year. I’ve been at Rio since the Saul Bell Design Award competition’s inception in 2001, and since that time I’ve interviewed dozens of designers who remind me why I love what I do, why I love navigating around the gears of the artistic mind.
Chihiro Makio of 314studio also loves her job. What Chihiro may not know until she reads this post is that her love of her craft actually comes through in every piece she makes. Look at a Chihiro Makio piece and I challenge you not to smile.
It was during my first interview with Chihiro when she won her first award for second place in the silver category with her playful “Bubble Necklace” that I witnessed the guiltless pleasure she takes in designing her award-winning pieces. “After all, where’s the fun if you can’t play with your jewelry?” I remember her saying about the jingling noise the loose beads under glass lenses made when you gently shook the necklace.
Two years later when she won first place for “Orange Necklace,” I got to take a peek into her studio. Along with the other winners that year, she sent video footage for us to edit into a presentation for the awards gala. This here was the studio of a happy artist. Her plants and orange tree (the inspiration for her winning piece), all named of course, share her space and are as precious to her as the pieces she was forming.
Finally, in 2012, as the final pieces arrived, I knew Chihiro’s as soon as I saw it. How? Because that “Strand of Planets” necklace made me smile.
Recently, I got in touch with Chihiro to hear about what she’s been up to.
Shelby Chant: Your line has grown so much! What are you most proud of?
Chihiro Makio: I have to say it’s my “Klimt” series. I consider it my ultimate creation in the hand-stitched technique. Unfortunately it’s not my best seller; it’s labor intensive and I lose money from making them. But I am still very proud of that line. My “Flora” series has developed considerably, to the point it’s becoming my new “signature” line after the “orange and lotus” look.
SC: Do you feel your design “style” has changed since we first talked?
CM: I think so…it’s very hard to make “art” when I still have to run my jewelry business and make a living…I’m constantly fighting between a “creative” and “realistic/marketable” look. Often I have to settle somewhere in between. I cared less about that when I was younger and just starting out. I miss those days. I try to think less as a business person when I work on a “big” piece though… It’s my goal to pour all my creative energy to that one piece a year so that I can be relieved!
SC: Do you feel there’s a common thread in your jewelry design?
CM: The only common thing that I can say throughout the pieces may be a “stylized version of natural forms” or “clean-cut lines with delicate details.” I do like details, and my work is never very simple to make. I take pleasure in the challenge of making the pieces and figuring out the solution for completing it.
SC: What other artistic endeavors are you enjoying?
CM: I’m still in love with glassblowing. My husband is a glassblower and runs a little school for adults. I take his classes just to stay in the loop. I’ve gotten a lot better at it than 15 years ago when I started in college, but nowhere near where I can combine it in my metal work yet. Glass is so fluid and completely opposite of metal to work with. It used to be so frustrating but now I enjoy the difference.
I’m also back into playing piano. It’s like a recharging of my brain. And kind of stretching my fingers. There is no direct benefit to my career, I suppose but I just love playing music.
SC: What has winning the Saul Bell Design Award competition done for you as an artist?
CM: It definitely gave me confidence and recognition as an artist. Making art is such a personal thing, and I would do it whether other people like it or not, but it is certainly assuring and rewarding when people recognize your work and approve of it. It makes me feel thrilled to be a part of community of other creative people.
SC: What keeps you creative and creating?
CM: I ALWAYS loved making stuff. Even if I’m not making jewelry, I knit, sew, draw, sculpt, something else for fun. I am so lucky to be able to do what I do. Money is tight right now and certainly not the easiest way to make a living, but I absolutely would not have it any other way.
I’m also making terrariums for fun. I made some last year for presents (succulents and moss terrariums in a glass containers that my husband and I blew) and it was a big hit. It’s a miniature world in a glass container.
SC: What new techniques/ideas have you been trying out lately?
CM: I started using pavé diamond charms and rose-cut stones lately. I always stayed away from stones because I felt the stones tend to be a focal point of work and would take away from creative forms….I kind of found a solution. I still form my shapes to be the main thing, and add stones as an “accent.”…It may be an excuse to use all the stones that I collected over the years though…But I have to go for what I’m excited to make at times otherwise what’s fun in it? [sound familiar?]
Thanks, Chihiro, for spending some time with me. As always, I leave inspired.