Wandering around the Rooms fashion exhibition, I stumbled across Shuji Kudo’s tiny jewelry collection. It was one of those “lust at first sight” things. Maybe it was the way the barbell rings seemed to float on the hand. What was going on here?? They looked like meteors with some special anti-gravitational pull hold them in place.
Then, there were the pendants that double as sundials, casting shadows of two people who slowly come together in embrace.
Both stuck in my mind for several years…. until I finally had the chance to visit him in his atelier this week and talk to him about his brand and design process.
Shuji Kudo is a graduate of the Hiko Mizuno College of Jewelry in Tokyo. He works most prominently with silver, creating each piece by hand in his atelier in Nerima-ku.
“I start out with an idea and a sketch, but it never turns out the way I drew it. I don’t follow my own instructions so minutely….I guess I am not a typical Japanese artisan (laughs). Instead, I work with my pieces organically, stopping to always check the balance of the piece.”
Scattered around his atelier were objects and sculptures that resembled the spacey aesthetic of his rings. “I like to create sculptures as well. I was actually inspired to become an artist by one of my ancestors who was a sculptor and had a very unique style of his own.”
Kudo said that discovering his own aesthetic was one of the most difficult aspects of his career so far.
“I knew I needed to have a unique taste that was singular to me alone. Of course my style is always evolving, but I now know that these pieces are truly a reflection of me…”
His barbell rings are the most spectacular, and he has a number of options in his arsenal. “I have presented my pieces at a few shows here and around the world including Denmark. The most surprising thing is finding that most of my customers are older ladies. In fact, one came to me and said, ‘I want you to take this two-finger ring and make it three fingers. I want it big.’ They are so cool.”
The most difficult part of the design process is polishing the inside of his “meteors” to a perfect mirror-like finish.
“That part is the hardest, the most time-consuming and I dislike it out of all of the processes. Sometimes I`ll hire out to get it done, but most of the time I do it myself. I take a long time to finish…I take my time on everything.”
Kudo showed me some of his tools, including 70 different polishing and buffing heads.
A jewelry designer for three years now, he focuses mainly on rings and pendants, and has also created a few pairs earrings. He then showed me a prototype of a letter opener that looked like a mix between victoriana and a creature from “Alien”.
“I took the wax model to a bookstore and they told me that as soon as I had finished making some to take them to there right away,” he laughs, “but I have to sit down and make them then I guess. At my own pace. (laughs)”