[dropcap]W[/dropcap]e’ve heard a lot of good things about Kota Okuda from his fellow BA Jewellery Design students. After sitting down with Kota for 5 minutes, I could immediately feel the passion for his work, and place perfectionism’s role with regard to both creativity, and conduct as integral to his process (he prepared notes for every single question and even provided printouts and hand-written notes to take away).
His attention to detail, and master of craft are evident in his “100 Kiss” piece, a meticulously crafted necklace made of hand-cut “heads” from 100 coins. It earned him a place at Xhibit 2013 (1 of 26 students chosen from over 1000 submissions). This experience led to his first solo exhibition “Coin Obesession” held in Hiroshima during the summer. And to think he was just a first year student with no previous experience of making jewellery before coming to CSM!
We’re excited to let in you in on the conversation, and get to know Kota a little better with us.
What is the concept behind “100 Kiss”?
I was inspired by the Hollywood Costume exhibition at the V&A. I was particularly interested in the kissing scenes in many Hollywood movies, and the sense of suspense leading up to these romantic moments.
Apart from that, the idea of the American Dream (which is emphasized in films such as Saturday Night Fever and Fight Club) also serves as a major source of inspiration. The American Dream, which is often related to the desire for money and liberty, inspired me to use coins as my material for the piece.
What is your favourite material to work with? Also, how would you go about describing your aesthetic?
I would say silver or brass, but I also really enjoy using unconventional materials when making jewellery, especially materials the can channel a political message, or represent a nationality such as coins and flags. I once made use of panties to make a jewellery piece.
In terms of my personal style, I always think about the balance between a concept and a design, and I think in the field of jewellery, technique is really important. I am very keen on making every piece as technically perfect as possible.
I read that you’ve just shown in a solo exhibition in Hiroshima this summer, how was it?
A Japanese curator came to the private view of Xhibit 2013 and saw my work, that’s how this exhibition happened! “100 Kiss” is a conceptual piece, and this exhibition was a great opportunity for me to develop designs from this piece that are actually suitable for every day use. It brought me to this real world where I had to think about cost and what customers want.
The best thing that happened is that I got the chance to get to know an eyewear designer who came to see the exhibition. Eyewear has always been my favourite, and I hope I can collaborate with him in the future!
Have you always wanted to become a jewellery designer?
No, not really. I have always wanted to be an artist. I love making things. In foundation, I actually wanted to be a fashion designer, but l soon found out that it was not suitable for me. Instead of just using a sewing machine and fabric, I am more interested in using different materials and machines to make things that relate to the body, that’s why I came to study jewellery, and it’s a perfect match for me.
I think it’s very challenging to be a jewellery designer, especially in Japan, the industry is very small, we are almost like the minorities, but I think that makes contemporary jewellery even more interesting.
What is the most precious thing you have gained so far during your time here? Is it very different from how students learn in Japan?
I love the fact that in CSM, we have all kinds of art students specializing in different areas. The opportunity to collaborate with other students is priceless.
Making jewellery is a very challenging task, especially for students that are lack of experience like us. But the tutors and technicians here are just simply fabulous, which makes things so much easier.
In Japan, I always felt very distant [from] the tutors, and it’s really hard to get feedback from them, which is very different from how we learn here in CSM. Also, in CSM, there are students from all around the world; it’s the best place to build up your global awareness, and to be culturally influenced by others.
How would you compare the design industry in Europe/London to that in Japan? Which do you prefer?
I prefer Europe, because there are so many cutting-edge galleries and exhibitions, you can always see the latest designs and trends in Europe. And I think the general cultural level is really high in Europe, people really understand and appreciate art and design.
How much does Japanese culture, and heritage influence you as a designer?
It influences me a lot. The pop culture and the wide range of sub-cultures such as anime, manga and fashion have always been my sources of inspiration. I also really love the culture of “anonymous creativity” in Japan (where people chat and post all kind of things onto the internet anonymously).
I am always trying to address social problems with my work, and studying in Europe seems to be the perfect opportunity for me to explore western culture, and to mix the East with the West through my work.
Do you have any advice for other students who want to come to CSM?
For jewellery students, it’s all about hard work. It requires a lot of practice to handle different materials. London is really the best place for students to see contemporary designs by different artists, galleries and exhibitions for inspiration, and also to learn about how people made jewellery in the past.
Collaboration is another important part of learning. I have collaborated with Moe Nagata (MA Textile Futures), Wataru Tominaga (BA Fashion Print), and Shinya Kozuka (BA Fashion menswear) to produce jewellery pieces to compliment their work.
I also recommend students try working in workshops outside school. You can meet a lot of new people, and a lot of the time professional jewellery makers.[/twocol_one_last]
What’s your goal as a designer?
I believe in discipline and hard work. I want to keep studying different techniques, tools and machines, and of course keep exploring different new materials. I would love to build up my technical knowledge so I can make more developed work.
I always think about the mystery of jewellery in terms of its significance, purpose, value and function. I would really love to find my own solution to solve the mystery of “what jewellery is”.