An elegant fusion of modern jewelry, unique materials and Japanese craftsmanship, that is what Naho Okamotoˈs passion is all about. While she was studying interior design, her interest in designing something closer to the body increased and in 2006 she founded her own brand, SIRI SIRI.
In her eyes even a material such as glass, which has no value on its own, can be made to a unique jewelry piece by the addition of human hands and art. Okamotoˈs take on sustainability is to protect, nurture and grow ancestral crafts that risk disappearing, but to renew them at the same time through fresh materials and the unique technological challenges they create. With this approach, she was chosen as one of the finalists of the Swiss Luxury Innovation Award in 2020.
We talked with this month`s Women of Purpose, Naho Okamoto, about her love for unique materials and her future projects in interior design.
Your jewelry is quite unique. Instead of metal, silver or gold, you use glass or rattan. What sparked the idea to work with these unconventional materials of our daily life?
It all started when I discovered I was allergic to metal. At that time, jewelry was still mostly made from metals and gemstones, and there was no culture of experimenting with different materials like in architecture and interior design. After I studied spatial design, I worked in a furniture showroom and realized that most female customers liked interior objects like rattan baskets and glassware. This is when I came up with the idea of making jewelry using materials that would be familiar to women.
For your contemporary jewelry you also use traditional Japanese craftmanship. Why is it important to you to keep ancient techniques alive?
I don't think it is always a good idea to just preserve tradition. I believe that tradition is only valuable if it is developed further. Traditions are a way for people to understand why and how they are here on earth now, in order to have the power to walk into the future.
Can you give us an example of any specific techniques that you use?
My signature product is the KIRIKO collection using a technique known as 'Edo Kiriko', which is a unique, traditional Tokyo craftsmanship. It is a decorative technique for glass that cuts or shaves the surface of glass. There are several traditional cut patterns, and I often use a pattern called Tsuchime, which looks like a metal surface struck by a hammer.
You have been living in Switzerland for some time now. In your opinion, are there any similarities between Japan and Switzerland when it comes to crafts?
I feel that Switzerland and Japan have a lot in common, like people's love for harmony and cooperation. Our tendency to shyness also seems to be the same. In terms of design, we share a preference for minimalism and sophisticated details.
Can you tell us about your new “Meister Collection” and the idea behind it?
The “Meister Collection” consists of pieces that have the same design, but different prices depending on the craftsman's skill and on the artistic value of the piece itself. The idea was inspired by my experience of working in a Scandinavian furniture store. With vintage Scandinavian furniture, the prices vary greatly depending on the craftsman who made the furniture, even if the design is the same. I thought that is a great idea that reflects respect for the unique skills of a craftsman and the story of co-creation with the designer.
What are the future projects you are working on?
I am currently working on creating lighting using recycled glass with glass craftsmen here in Switzerland. I plan to launch a sustainable glass lighting brand this autumn, working with craftsmen and environmentally friendly materials.
Can you share with us a quote or life motto that you try to live by?
I always try to find an innate charm in everything. Whether I meet people or design materials. I try to remove as much of the acquired labels as I can.