Mac on Tokyo: Kate Rowland
Kate Rowland, an artist and jewellery designer from the UK, talks to Mac, Founder and Lead Guide of Maction Planet, about her work and her journey to the World’s Greatest Metropolis.
Maction Planet: Hi Kate. Welcome to Maction Planet. Thank you for joining us.
Kate Rowland: Hello! Thanks for interviewing me and featuring my jewellery.
MP: First up, I have to say that I love your Tokyo art. It is very clear that you have a passion for the city.
KR: Thank you so much! Tokyo is a very visually stimulating city, there’s strange and fascinating scenes to be found everywhere. I’ve found it’s inspired my jewellery design as well as personal work and illustration. Last month I made a sketchbook zine of scenes from everyday life here. I love just walking around and seeing all the different houses, shops, people getting on with their lives. It’s so different to home!
MP: What drove the move here?
KR: My partner works as an engineer for a Japanese car company in the UK. We’d always secretly dreamed he’d be sent here on assignment, and it finally happened last year! It’s been a complete whirlwind, but we’re enjoying it so much. We’ve seen a side of Japan that we’d never see on a holiday. I’m lucky to be self-employed, so I’m able to continue working and drawing from Tokyo!
MP: What are your favourite parts of Tokyo?
KR: The quieter spots! I love the neighbourhoods with a relaxed vibe, Yoyogi-koen and Nakameguro have some lovely little back streets and coffee shops (Tokyo has turned me into a complete coffee snob). My favourite place to relax is Hamarikyu Gardens, the views of the skyline over the trees is wonderful, and it’s so peaceful. I just like wandering around residential areas too, the jumbled streets, power lines and front gardens made up of piles of overgrown pots are kind of beautiful.
MP: Your jewellery is lovely. When did you start making it?
KR: Thanks! I first started making jewellery when I was still at university, 7 years ago. We had an awesome makers lab with a 3D printer, some huge laser cutters and other CNC machines. When I graduated, I kept it up as a side project, but it soon grew into a full time business and I’ve not looked back. It’s hard work at times, but I feel very lucky!
MP: How do you see the connections between your illustration and your jewellery?
KR: The relationship between the two is something I struggle to define! I love to paint and draw, and I see my jewellery as an extension of this. All my pieces are hand drawn and inspired by my own curiosities and interests. My personal illustration work comes from a similar place, so I think they tie in and inform each other. I would like to think that as I grow and improve in one medium, the other will also benefit! I’m a big believer in learning new skills and always pushing myself creatively, as you never know where it may lead.
MP: Do you have any designs inspired by Tokyo and Japan?
KR: I’m really interested in Japanese ceramics, and last year I designed a little brooch of a kintsugi tea bowl. Kintsugi is the Japanese art of repairing broken ceramics with gold, making the object’s flaws a beautiful feature. The tea bowl brooch was made with hand painted plywood and mirrored gold acrylic cracks, and was so fiddly to make. I’ve also made some ramen jewellery… because I’m obsessed!
MP: You have a strong commitment to ethically sourced materials which is fantastic.
KR: It’s really important to me. As a small business I have the power to make positive ethical decisions without the obstacles that larger companies might face. As a consumer I value products that are ethical and have as little impact on the environment as possible, and I realised that my business should reflect that too. I use responsibly sourced wood, and all my jewellery chain is manufactured at a small company in the UK. My end goal is to produce zero landfill waste and eliminate plastic use. Living in Japan has been an eye opener to how much excess plastic and packaging is used today. It’s crazy!
MP: Do you have any advice you can give to someone who is setting up their own business and trying to introduce their creations to a wider audience?
KR: Make something for yourself. If you love what you create, that passion will come across to your customers. Show your work to as many people as possible. Don’t put off opening an online shop or applying to sell at an event. Just do it, and learn as you go. If you hesitate with the expectation for perfection, you’ll never start at all. That’s probably bad advice but it worked for me!
MP: You were recently in charge of the Twitter rocur account @beingtokyo. How was that experience?
KR: It was so much fun! It restored my faith in Twitter, which can be so gloomy. I tried to make the week as conversational as possible, and I found some lovely, interesting new Tokyoites to follow. I’ve even ended up meeting up with someone since! It was great to have that much engagement, as often Twitter can make you feel like you’re just sending thoughts into a void.
MP: Thank you for joining us Kate. Looking forward to seeing more of your incredible designs and art in future!
Follow Kate on her website https://katerowland.com/