Contributor: Makoto Chiba
Creative Discipline: Jewelry Design
Geographic Location: Brooklyn, New York
“There is some soul of goodness in things evil, Would men observingly distill it out.”
–King Henry V (1599), in William Shakespeare’s, ‘ HenryV ‘
These words carry with them great significance. Inspiration and the materializing of an idea can be a daunting task. Looking at our own history, it is plain to see that those who press on; Da Vinci, Bruegal, Borromini, and stare challenge in the face can create true beauty, for creating is a pursuit with no end; our own polemics typically raise more questions than answers and leave us hungry to keep searching–to keep making…
Makoto Chiba embeds worlds and stories within his jewelry that we can perhaps only glimpse. They are made out of his life experiences–pulling inspiration from life, death and everywhere in-between. I had a conversation with Makoto this fall to catch up with him and to see what he was up to, enjoy.
DI: Your most recently released collection, The Revival; I really enjoy what you have written as the statement- (taken via Makoto-Chiba.com)
“The boundary of life and death, questioning if it’s really “life before death”, or maybe there is more after death. By deforming the rough, flawless and detailed body structure of animals, it shows the outlook on life and frame of mind”
MC: The deer is already dead, after it’s death I am using the deer as a material and present it to others as this. The deer then takes on a second life; a rebirth that is then made possible because of jewelry.
Before it was just an animal, and now the jewelry is his or her second life.
With the rooster broach the front is very beautiful, using diamonds and rubies, but the back side is hidden- no body cares about it [typically]. Showing the front makes sense, everyone gets it. But everyone also has an inside, and this always remains hidden– others don’t know what we are thinking about.
With the inside of this piece I did not want it to be boring. I wanted to give it a kind of style to show what is usually hidden.
DI: The fact that the person wearing it is the only ones that knows about the inside seems to make the piece that much more personal. Others don’t know that there is a whole other world on the other side– a secret that you share with those who wear your work.
MC: I think that everyone who is a jewelry designer, when making knows that a piece if heavy if solid. It also takes more time and money to make a large, heavy piece.
In removing this material, I wanted to think about how it was removed. I wanted to design how the material was taken away and, in turn, make a whole other piece inside.
DI: You have a very thoughtful process. Every step is saturated with thought. Even the seemingly banal tasks that others shove through, and that’s beautiful.
MC: The people wearing the pieces are of the same mind–
DI: What did you do growing up that lead you toward what you make now?
MC: Lego was my favorite, still I can make very good stuff.
Lego, and clothes pins. I would put all the clothes pins together.Using maybe, 30 pieces each, I would make robots.
DI: That’s amazing.
MC: Yes, I can still make them too!
DI: Is your work something that you would ever see appearing in a gallery?
MC: Yes, but not yet; not in New York. I have shown in my country, Japan, but not yet in the New York gallery scene. I am taking inspiration right now from New York.
There are so many people around and also there are so many shops and museums and just culture in general here. I can get a lot out of the ‘bad things’ too. For instance the graffiti; if I go into a ghetto area I can get a lot of inspiration from this and everything else that is around. The people too, even the homeless; I draw inspiration from these kinds of places.
When I was in Japan I was always making very dark pieces, very close to death. Now I see that my work is much happier; more mature maybe. I can say that a lot of my work has changed, maybe I am just getting old, but New York has changed my mind and everything I do.
DI: Your new collection drawing inspiration from Japanese and American traditional styles–
It’s interesting what you said earlier about your inspiration for this new work; tattooing. It is an art that is inherently 2-dimensional, despite being on the convex body; and your jewelry lives in 3-dimensions. It’s intriguing that you are now 3-dimensionalizing the art of tattooing.
MC: Tattooing has so much meaning. For example, tattooing cannot be deleted. It all has meaning and is there forever. My tattoos [Makoto lifts his left arm] have meaning, all of them. There is a concept and meaning to it all.
DI: Each element has its own meaning, and when placed next to another element there are new relationships that can arise…
MC: Yes, all together. This is what I wanted to say! (laughs)
DI: Are you making work right now?
MC: Yes, I am making work.
DI: What are you making?
MC: It is a new collection. The concept is Japanese traditional style and American traditional style; a mixture of two cultures, it will be the new collection. Five months or 6 months ago I started to create the collection.
This winter, the new collection will be completed. I am also working with a friend of mine who is a tattoo artist and I am making a tattooing machine. It will be a concept piece–really nice. It will not be very comfortable to use though, it will be so heavy! Perhaps it will only be used for promotion.
Hey, have you ever seen Napoleon’s gun?
Napoleon went to a lot of cities and to many countries; all the while he was creating a single gun. For example one side of the gun is Egyptian style, made while he was in Egypt; the other side is European designed and created while he was in Europe—another element is of Asian taste.
It’s so nice and it is all within one gun. His life—in a single piece.
DI: That makes me wonder what the gun would be today? Perhaps it’s the tattoo gun!
DI: (laughs) Where are you making work these days?
MC: In my home here in Brooklyn. Where I made work in Japan is like a cock-pit.
In both places I like to have pictures on my wall. I can get everything from my wall. I can always see the nice picture, and a picture can speak and talk to me. My studio in New York is much cleaner than in Japan since I’m living with my girlfriend. (laughs)
The things that you surround yourself with where you work always give inspiration– like in the movie, A Beautiful Mind.
Kind of crazy yeah?
DI: Will you return to Japan ever?
MC: I will go back to Japan maybe after I am 35– or if I have a baby. It is much more beautiful there…
DI: Thank you Makoto, it has been a pleasure.
MC: Thanks Dave–
For more of Makoto’s work please visit: Makoto-Chiba.com
All images of Makoto Chiba’s Jewelry were shot by Kei Kondo