Walk by Chihiro Makio’s booth at a craft show and her floral necklaces draw you in with their delicate shapes and lush asymmetry. Wearing one is like wrapping a flowering vine around your throat — a vine made of metal, that is.
Makio’s necklaces are hand-fabricated from rose gold and sterling silver, sometimes oxidized or rhodium-plated, with seed beads or tiny freshwater pearls sewn into perforated holes at the edge. These elaborate necklaces can retail for $2,400, but her bread and butter are the smaller spin-offs such as a flower brooch or earrings (starting at $88).
While she often works in geometric forms, Makio’s most arresting designs involve stylized plant life. Despite a lifelong fascination with flowers – she’s drawn and painted them since childhood – Makio hesitated to introduce them into her jewelry. “There is so much flower-themed jewelry out there, I didn’t want to do it until I had an idea good enough to stand out,” she says. When an orange tree in her yard gave her the idea for a necklace, she knew she’d found what she was looking for. That necklace won a Niche award. She won another last year for her Lotus necklace (top).
Makio moved on to lilies of the valley, lotus pods and flowers, and finally mimosa – inspired by the puffy pink and white flowers dropped by two tress she walks by every day. “I want the big pieces to be as ornate as possible and kind of sculptural,” she says, “totally different from my other work which is geometric and mosaic-like.”
Makio graduated from the Massachusetts College of Art in 2000 with a degree in glass-making and still blows glass occasionally, but finds jewelry-making better suits her tendency to work small. Even her glasswork is small-scale and detailed.
For one month every year, Makio covers her jewelry workbench and lets herself experiment. A few years ago, she began making whimsical teapots with her jewelry tools and materials, more conceptual art than functional design. She didn’t expect them to sell but, so far, collectors have snatched them up as soon as they leave her studio.
One of her teapots opens to reveal a miniature tea party, complete with tiny place settings and a teapot the size of a pinkie nail.
Initially, the teapot was arranged like a dollhouse with table settings that could be moved around but a gallery owner grew weary of repositioning the silverware and dishes with tweezers, so Makio soldered everything in place. It sold for $4800.
“I didn’t realize the teapots were going to be that much fun,” Makio says. “With jewelry, I want it to be wearable and beautiful and really stand out on a person. With objects, I can just have fun.”
For more information: Chihiro Makio, 314studio.com.