East Meets West with K. Mita Design
Keiko Mita, the Designer behind K. Mita Design, has a distinguishable aesthetic from across the room. Her stunning jewelry celebrates colored gems, juxtaposes two-tones, and has a sensual flow rippling through the precious metal. We interviewed the designer to discuss about how she got started, talk about the Japanese influence inspiring her designs, and learn about what is coming next in future collections.
You mention on your website that you started off with an interest in fine arts. What was it in your studies that opened the way to jewelry design?
I attended Hokkaido University of Education as a Fine Arts Major. While there, I discovered metalsmithing. It was the idea of the artist transforming cold metal into infinite forms that interested me. My primary focus at school was developing large embossed works, but the metal was so heavy, and I am so small, that I had to do something else. So, I studied sculpture and eventually made jewelry, which really is just a small sculpture.
You have seeped yourself in art ever since you were a teenager. How do you think your childhood influenced your passion for art?
I was always good at drawing, designing and crafting. It was my nature, and I am lucky to work in a profession that I love.
What made you decide to leave Japan to come to New York City and found K. Mita Design?
I moved to many different cities for school and work in Japan, and felt like I was choking and burning out. America gave me a fresh start and the freedom to start my own business.
You mentioned several times that travel strongly influences your designs. Could you explain what that means to you, for our readers?
My first international trip was to China – Dunhuang when I was 20 years old. The city of Dunhuang, in north-west China, is situated at a point of vital strategic and logistical importance, on a crossroads of two major trade routes within the Silk Road network. It lies in an oasis at the edge of the Taklamakan Desert. I was planning on taking Japanese painting for my major (but I decided to take Metalsmithing instead) in University, and it was my dream place to visit for painting. Back then, I was so fascinated by places like Dunhuang, where east meets west. I have vivid memories of Dunhuang – art, culture, beautiful scenery, walks down desert hills. Along with Rebun Island, where I was born, and northern Hokaido, it has been an important influence in my work. Every time I travel, I pick up something new.
As an artist, you must be proud of your work (we love it—it is gorgeous!). What are some of your favorite pieces, and if there are too many to choose, what collection would you say you enjoyed designing the most?
The “Gloria” ring that I made in Japan. It has pave diamonds on one side, and a large diamond on the other side. It is very sculptural, and looks different from every angle. Also, “Finding the Lake” Ring from my Sand Dune Collection. It was a very sculptural, freeform cut green quartz ring (I still have a picture of it). I was thinking about the wandering lakes in the desert when I was creating that ring.
Nature, and especially water, has been noted as a recurring theme in your work. Can you explain what makes you most passionate about nature that you enjoy incorporating in your designs?
I was raised on the small northernmost island of Japan (Rebun), full of beautiful wildflowers and waves crashing on the shoreline. I loved playing on the beach and was always surrounded by water and nature. Even today, everywhere I go I enjoy seeing interesting patterns in nature that I love incorporating into my designs.
You and John make an incredible team—in business and in life. How has he helped support your businesses and art, and what is his role with K. Mita?
He loves art and is a collector (mostly prints). We enjoy visiting museums and art galleries together. He helps me with office work –checking my emails and social media posts (English!), talking to people on the phone, creating mailing lists, etc. He also does the accounting, works on my website, and helps me at shows. He didn’t know anything about jewelry before he met me, but he has learned a lot.
What’s next for K. Mita Design? Are there any new pieces or collections coming up that our readers can be on the lookout for?
We are always looking for good shows to do. Since I make my own jewelry, I do several retail craft shows every year, in addition to wholesale shows. What to look out for — I am going to add more mixed metals and unique stones to my Sand Dune Collection. I also am going to add more pieces from my Washi Collection, which replicates the texture of traditional Japanese paper. I want to do more alternative bridal jewelry, too. That has been very successful for me. Sometime in the future I would love to do an exhibition with my photography and jewelry together. That would be great!