Aiko Designs is a conglomerate that fabricates jewelry for everyday wear and events. Owner and designer, Christine Aiko Beck receives her inspiration from the aesthetics of Japanese culture, which she experienced first hand as a young child living in Japan. Carrying degrees in geography and library and information science, Christine broke away from her path to embark upon the challenge of jewelry design. Christine aims to make beauty from the simplest intricacies and this ideology is seen throughout her simple, yet sophisticated work. Christine also uses degrees of opposites to showcase her multicultural tendencies and her gold and silver pieces reflect just that. Her work is seen through galleries in Japan and the US and will be showed at this year’s CFS.
Helium: Jewelry designing is so far away from geography and library and information science where you hold your degrees, can you tell me how that happened?
Christine Aiko Beck: When I was in grad school I picked up beading again. I had taken jewelry classes over the years but I became inspired by a beading book that my aunt in Japan gave to me. It was all in Japanese and I could read only a little of it. I just started copied the designs in the book and found a new passion for creating. It became a creative outlet. The jewelry just kept calling at me and turned into this important part of my life. I want to be a successful creative entrepreneur.
H: What is the connection between fashion and jewelry?
CAB: It’s adornment. You can have a piece of jewelry or an accessory really be a statement piece to your outfit. With my jewelry it’s very subtle and simple and I don’t tend to have a lot of chunky, over-sized pieces. However my jewelry can also make a statement that you can be wearing a little black dress and that all you want to look at is the earrings that they are wearing.
H: Where do you get your inspiration for your pieces?
CAB: Mostly from the stones themselves I buy.
Some of the jewelry that I make don’t have any stones and have all metal;
My process generally is to go to source my supplies my stones, chains, and what not? It usually has to speak to me and I don’t always don’t know what its going to be when I buy it, but I know I have to have it. I have a whole bunch of stuff on my worktable and things sort of come together organically.
I am really inspired by the Japanese aesthetic, both the natural organic and the simple and elegant as well.
H: Tell us about your style?
CAB: My style is definitely simple, elegant, subtle, there is organicness to it, without being overly on the organic side.
I also think its sweet without being syrupy sweet. Something that is clean and simple and pretty.
H: What makes you different from other jewelry designers?
CAB: Sometimes other designers have a harder edge, which I like but not what comes out of me, and sometimes they like more chunky and heavy. It depends on your style, but I don’t over-design and I pay attention to details. I put little stones at the end of the chain that you don’t notice immediately but the extra- added thought is like a little secret that I try to incorporate.
H: You were born in England and journeyed to Japan while growing up: How has your multicultural background influenced your designs?
CAB: I think it did so in a lot of ways that I really didn’t discovery until later on. I think that being mixed race and traveling a lot affected me much later. My grandparents were traditional mikan farmers (Japanese mandarins) with a Japanese traditional home. I traveled, ate the different food, and heard the language in Japan. I also collected wooden kokeshi dolls. The craftsmanship has struck a chord with me.
H:What was the defining moment where you knew you were going to make it as a designer?
CAB: There came a point where I knew I couldn’t dabble in part time work. Working at a job and trying to make a business couldn’t coincide. I was pulled too many ways and my heart was in jewelry. There is something amazing about creating something and getting paid for it. It’s definitely a labor of love.
H: What are you showing at Charity Fashion Show this weekend?
CAB: Pieces of pyrite; it’s what most people know as fool’s gold. It’s this stone that has a crystallized formation that comes out looking like gold.
I am also showing lightly oxidized sterling silver, which I am being drawn to lately and a nice long gold necklace with a piece of labradorite.
H: What is in the future for Aiko Designs?
CAB: I’ve been doing a few tradeshows and I am planning to do some more. I’m trying to get into the bridal market because I think my jewelry would go really well for the nontraditional bride. I am also thinking about creating
another line of jewelry to develop in the summer and introduce in the fall.
H: You mix a lot of metals, for example rose gold plated chains with sterling silver, are you a believer in contrast?
CAB: I love the contrast. I’m running across a lot of people who are just silver or just gold and I am trying to get them used to the fact that it’s okay to wear both. I personally mix black, copper, gold, and silver pieces. I say why not?
CAB: When I go to tradeshows I am trading with other designers or buying outright. I have been wearing a pair earrings nonstop and a copper powder-coated ring from Cynthia Jones Jewelry from Santa Fe. Other designers here in San Francisco that I admire are Joy O Designs and Kate Ellen Metalsmithing & Design.
CAB: You have to be committed and you have to love what you are doing; in order to get through some of the struggles you are definitely going to come across. If you have the desire to make it you will. I always wanted to be an artist and I couldn’t draw or paint and veered in another direction. Then I found a creative outlet through jewelry. If I didn’t love it I wouldn’t still be doing it.