Kumihimo Jewelry

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Keynote general

Braided headdbands

Loop braiding

Kumihimo jewelry

Textile composites


Photo 1 First work

(photo by M. Sasahara)


Photo 2 Second work

(photo by M. Sasahara)


Photo 3 First unified design
(photo by SEIBU Museum of Art)


Photo 4 Japanned works

(photo by Jewelry Photo Co. Ltd.)

Kumihimo Jewelry

Aya Nakayama

My book "Kumihimo Jewelry" seemed to be rediscovered recently by a student when she read the title in a library. She decided to study it for her graduation thesis. Her first understanding of the term Kumihimo Jewelry was that it meant a jewel-encrusted braided necklace. This is no wonder because in Japan, jewelry normally means a decoration with jewels. However Kumihimo Jewelry is a personal ornament designed by an artist and so originality is an essential character.

It was almost 30 years ago when I started to work with Kumihimo for my jewelry oeuvre. My first visit to Europe awakened me to how ignorant I was about my own country Japan and so in my subsequent works I focussed my attention there.

In researching Japan's original materials and techniques I discovered the beauty of Kumihimo. My first work was made with a kumihimo braid - although this had been made by another person - and it was accepted in a competition. (Photo 1) The work was not entirely my own because the kumihimo had not been made for jewelry and this dissatisfaction in addition to the pleasure I found in the elegant braiding movements resulted in my study of Kumihimo. It was with surprise that I realized the huge variety of pattern and shape of kumihimo braids that can be produced using the simple stand called a marudai. My enthusiasm for Kumihimo developed in this way.

A more original work became possible when I understood that the variety in Kumihimo braids was due to a combination of structure, color arrangement and the color of the thread. This development resulted in the award of a fourth place prize in a competition.(Photo 2) This work was further improved in color and the Kumihimo part was entirely replaced. My Kumihimo work thus became more beautiful and the final work was more original although it was nothing more than an easy combination of Kumihimo and chased metal.

How can silver and silk be joined ? Day and night, the compatibility of chased metal and braided silk was on my mind. I researched methods of making the fusion between the two and eventually figured out a satisfying solution. The result was not perfect but my first fusion work, a necklace (Photo 3) was finally perfected and awarded a grand prix.

This type of work was named Series U representing United as well as the "u" of Yugou (fusion in Japanese) . Two works U-1 and U-5 were added to the collection of The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo. A series of work using Kumihimo was named Kumihimo Jewelry.

My book "Kumihimo Jewelry" introduced my oeuvre of Series U but everyone asked me ‘How can I make it?’ This was explained briefly in my keynote lecture.

I was very energetic at that time and challenged the next material Urushi (Japanese lacquer work) . After learning Urushitechniques,I produced the Urushi jewelry as a consequence of my policy of using Japan's specific materials and techniques.

The switch from Kumihimo to Urushi however did not happen all at once. Fusion of Kumihimo and Urushi was attempted by introducing Urushi between Kumihimo and metal. The freedom of choosing different colours is a common characteristic between Urushi and Kumihimo, however the japanned silk looked dirty and the expected result from this combination was disappointing. However I did not adhere to the fusion of different elements and now Urushi-centered works have been produced. (Photo 4)

Now I live in Hokkaido far from the city and in the midst of natural beauty. I think naturally "what should I primarily create ?" Kumihimo may be revived in future work.


中山 あや

 後に、この技法には「Uシリーズ」という名前をつけました。Uとは、united、unified のU、融合のUでもあります。U-1とU-5の2点は東京国立近代美術館に収蔵されました。また、組紐を使った私の一連の作品を「組紐ジュエリー」としました。

 とはいえ組紐から一挙に漆に転換したのではなく、組紐と漆の融合も試みました。組紐→漆→金属 という融合でした。しかし組紐と漆の融合は、色を自由に出せるという共通要素があるにも拘らず、絹に漆を塗った部分が濡れているような、汚れているような質感になって、あまり上手くいきませんでした。以降、融合というコンセプトにこだわらず、漆の特性を生かした作品を創りました。(写真4)