Sculpting Dreams

Asagi Maeda: Stories On The Planet

Written By Kami Sloan | Photography by JORDAN DAVIS ROBLES

Fabricating images seen through the monocle of the most magnificent jewelry pieces, Asagi Maeda creates an imaginary world of daydreams, stories, places, and things to the most beautiful simplicities that reveal a person’s life. From a spec of sand across an ocean floor to the bright neon colors of city life, looking out the window of a train and seeing the city of Tokyo, or looking into the windows of numerous houses, apartments, and buildings, Maeda is a passionate metalsmith that constructs sculptures of minute details of a big life. “I am intrigued by everyday questions, feelings and thoughts that are swallowed up and tossed out in the whirlwind of day-to-day living. In my jewelry, I try to reflect on all these observations.” Describing the city as a mass of boxes, Maeda’s jewelry pieces display these boxes as small vignettes of innumerable stories that collide and are consistently ever-changing while creating individual homes for precious memories encapsulated in time.

Artist Simon Röhlen met with jewelry designer Asagi Maeda to discuss her collection STORIES ON THE PLANET. When asked why the collection focused on people’s daily lives and everyday things, Asagi replied, “I noticed how extraordinary living an ordinary life can be, especially when it can be taken away in an instant, and how happy we can be that we can live ordinary lives. That’s why I would like to make scenes from daily life into jewelry.”

Simon Röhlen: What is the inclination during your creative process that allows for your imagination to flow when you see a narrative in your mind’s eye of different stories so that your jewelry designs portray the changing world around you? 

ASAGI MAEDA: I am not familiar with the term “creative process.” Most of the stories from the collection of my jewelry pieces derive from my imagination. I am not an observer of the world as much as the motivator for my inspiration is meeting new people and seeing new things. “The real jewel is the heart. Like imagination, like the universe, it expands.”

SR: Can you discuss any difficulties you have had turning complicated stories into jewelry that people can wear and how you solved these problems when making your pieces?

ASAGI MAEDA: I make the story as simple as I can. I find motifs in the story and wonder if I can use any gemstones. I do not need to explain the story with my jewelry. I just need a scene of the story in the jewelry. People can use their imagination to add more to it. I started making nonfiction jewelry pieces by asking people to share their stories. I noticed there are 2 types of people. People who remember their memories by color and shapes. For those people, it’s straightforward to distinguish the colors and shapes I select. I am this type, too. The other type speaks philosophically about their experiences; in this sense, their memories become more abstract. Their words add value, but I struggle with their story in hindsight, as it can be challenging to determine a visual design that meets their words. This is when I ask about their favorite colors and what shapes they gravitate towards; I also ask about numbers (1,2,3, etc.) to match their design. For example, if the person likes the number 3, I utilize the shape of a triangle or 3 stones in the design.

SR: As your jewelry is passed down to future generations, how do you think the stories behind it will change and still be prevalent among those who wear it?

ASAGI MAEDA: If it’s nonfiction jewelry, it means a lot. My first nonfiction piece of jewelry was ordered by a Japanese woman who lives in the US raising children. She was super busy every day. She asked me to make a pendant of her holding a significant amount of laundry. She told me that she would like to remember how busy she was. I made the pendant, and when she received it, she was happy. She told me she would like to order pendants at various stages of her life. The jewelry pieces become hints of her life that are passed down to her children and grandchildren. As the saying goes, “Big things come in small packages.” It is something to be cherished for a lifetime.

“We are all living only one precious moment. There are numberless, subtle yet different feelings we possess but cannot express by words. Various feelings, memories, and thoughts are like a universe that exists inside every person. By introducing one universe to another, endless intertwined stories are happening on this earth right now. And I am living as one of the main characters in one of those stories. This knowledge inspires me with a courage so strong that I can drive all cares away.” _ ASAGI MAEDA

SR: How do you think your jewelry adds to the stories of people’s lives and emotions? And what do you hope people feel when they wear or see your jewelry?

ASAGI MAEDA: I would like to make jewelry that affects people inside and out. If a person sees my jewelry and remembers his/her personal memories, I am happy. Recently, I met an older woman at the Morikami Museum during my exhibition and she expressed that after seeing my work she remembered and reflected on so many things that happened during the periods of her life. She was crying and thanked me for helping her remember. I was the one to thank her. It was one of the most impressive and dearest compliments I have ever received. “Eyes are the windows of the endless world inside. Shiny eyes, those touched by the world around them are the most beautiful gems. I would like to create true jewelry that can penetrate and brighten the eyes of those who see it. I would like to deliver my heart to your heart. I keep creating my jewelry with this idea in mind.”

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