Accoutre : The Art of Attire

The sculptural jewellery of Nakano Kaoru

Accoutre: to clothe or equip, typically in something noticeable or impressive.

Nakano Kaoru believes that the body -eyes, nose, mouth, ear, hands and feet – are sculpture. Her jewellery was conceived from wondering about the effect of adding another form. She does not see jewellery as accessorizing, rather as the formal attiring of the person: ‘To attire oneself is to move from the mundane to the extraordinary. I want the objects to make statements about the being and identity of the person wearing them.’

Nakano’s sculptural works are created from the Japanese paper mulberry, Broussonetia Kazinoki. A strong fibrous material, Japanese paper, washi, is part of a time-honoured tradition in Japan integral to the refined calligraphic culture of the aristocracy, the world of the popular woodblock print and the beauty of the Japanese home. It has been used for clothing, kamiko, a tradition recently revived by renowned Japanese designer Issey Miyake. The strength and pliability of the material allows Nakano maximum freedom in creating her unique designs.

Three-dimensional form in Nakano’s creations emerges without any framework from layering the material, thin paper to thick paper increasing 2.5 grams at a time. The fibre of the paper mulberry whitens in the sun, and Nakano uses a chemical to aid this in some of the work. Alternatively, the paper is soaked in glue until saturated, its texture created by rumpling with the hands. The glue acts as a preservative and can also be used to modify the colour. It is soft and pliable like fabric and rolled in the hands becomes stretchable. In this way Nakano changes the emotional expression of the paper.

Nakano was born Otsu in Shiga Prefecture on the shores of Lake Biwa, a site steeped in Japanese history and culture, a stopping point on the famous Tokaido between Tokyo and Kyoto and the subject of ukiyoe masters Hiroshige and Hokusai. Graduating in literature from university in Kyoto, and undoubtedly conscious of the seminal role of paper therein, Nakano continues Japan’s long aesthetic tradition of purity, tranquility, harmony, and respect – for material and craft. Within this tradition she has found the means for individual freedom of expression. She has been an invited exhibitor to several museum shows in Italy and is part of an international trend in jewellery whereby the creative use of material is more significant than its intrinsic value.

Nakano takes inspiration ‘from the contemporary spirit…from a multiplicity of sources’ that speak to her. She sees her artistic expression as a natural manifestation of long exposure to art: ‘As I create, unknowingly, little by little, I feel that the essence of all the art that I absorbed when I was young, is being re-expressed in new forms. As I make contemporary objects, I feel that I am in tune with past objects. And I feel that there is a dialogue being created with my essence, my DNA.’

Accoutre : The Art of Attire
Lesley Kehoe