Saul Bell Design Award Winner Chihiro Makio On the Joy of Making Jewelry

Chihiro Makio creates jewelry that is both beautiful and fun to wear. In this interview, she talks about her award winning pieces and what she's working on now.

Last edited: 4/15/2020
"Bubble Necklace" 2003 Second Place Winner, Silver

Chihiro Makio of 314studio revels in making jewelry, and she believes that jewelry should be fun to wear. A sense of whimsy infuses many of her creations.

For example, her "Bubble Necklace," which garnered second place in the silver category in 2003, makes a joyful jingling noise when the loose beads move under the glass lenses.

Her "Orange Necklace," which won first place in 2005, is inspired by the beloved plants and orange tree in her studio, all of which she has named.

As the final pieces arrived for the 2012 competition, we recognized Chihiro's immediatley. How? Because her  "Strand of Planets" necklace made us smile.

Recently, we spoke with Chihiro to hear about what she's been up to.

RG: Your line has grown so much! What are you most proud of?

Chihiro Makio: I have to say it's my "Klimt" series. I consider it my ultimate creation in the hand-stitched technique. Unfortunately it's not my best seller; it's labor intensive and I lose money from making them. But I am still very proud of that line. My "Flora" series has developed considerably, to the point it's becoming my new "signature" line after the "orange and lotus" look.

Chihiro's "Strand of Planets"

RG: Do you feel your design "style" has changed since 2003?

CM: I think so…it's very hard to make "art" when I still have to run my jewelry business and make a living…I'm constantly fighting between a "creative" and "realistic/marketable" look. Often I have to settle somewhere in between. I cared less about that when I was younger and just starting out. I miss those days. I try to think less as a business person when I work on a "big" piece though… It's my goal to pour all my creative energy to that one piece a year so that I can be relieved!

RG: Do you feel there's a common thread in your jewelry design?

CM: The only common thing that I can say throughout the pieces may be a "stylized version of natural forms" or "clean-cut lines with delicate details." I do like details, and my work is never very simple to make. I take pleasure in the challenge of making the pieces and figuring out the solution for completing it.

RG: What other artistic endeavors are you enjoying?

CM: I'm still in love with glassblowing. My husband is a glassblower and runs a little school for adults. I take his classes just to stay in the loop. I've gotten a lot better at it than 15 years ago when I started in college, but nowhere near where I can combine it in my metal work yet. Glass is so fluid and completely opposite of metal to work with. It used to be so frustrating but now I enjoy the difference.

Left: "River Cuff" from Klimt series. Right: "Charm Ring" from Flora series. Both photos by Ivo M. Vermeulen.

I'm also back into playing piano. It's like a recharging of my brain. And kind of stretching my fingers. There is no direct benefit to my career, I suppose but I just love playing music.

Chihiro's terrariums…another source of inspiration.

RG: What has winning the Saul Bell Design Award competition done for you as an artist?

CM: It definitely gave me confidence and recognition as an artist. Making art is such a personal thing, and I would do it whether other people like it or not, but it is certainly assuring and rewarding when people recognize your work and approve of it. It makes me feel thrilled to be a part of community of other creative people.

RG: What keeps you creative and creating?

CM: I ALWAYS loved making stuff. Even if I'm not making jewelry, I knit, sew, draw, sculpt, something else for fun. I am so lucky to be able to do what I do. Money is tight right now and certainly not the easiest way to make a living, but I absolutely would not have it any other way.

I'm also making terrariums for fun. I made some last year for presents (succulents and moss terrariums in a glass containers that my husband and I blew) and it was a big hit. It's a miniature world in a glass container.

RG: What new techniques/ideas have you been trying out lately?

CM: I started using pavé diamond charms and rose-cut stones lately. I always stayed away from stones because I felt the stones tend to be a focal point of work and would take away from creative forms….I kind of found a solution. I still form my shapes to be the main thing, and add stones as an "accent."…It may be an excuse to use all the stones that I collected over the years though…But I have to go for what I'm excited to make at times otherwise what's fun in it? [sound familiar?]

"Spirograph Necklace" with pavé diamonds. Photo by Ivo M. Vermeulen