Four years ago jewelry designer Satomi Kawakita was creating works out of her bedroom. She later shared a tiny studio space for one year and by herself for the next two years. On June 5 Kawakita held an opening reception for her new studio and showroom, Satomi Kawakita Jewelry in TriBeCa.
“She literally had zero when she first came here to New York, and she’s built an impressive client list,” says Zesty Meyers, co-founder of R & Company, a design gallery on Franklin Street. “She kept working, persevering, and creating great pieces, and now she has this empire,” says Meyers, gesturing around Kawakita’s space, complete with exposed brick and metalwork created by her husband, Yasushi Nishikawa.
The Osaka native has been in New York for twelve years. After graduating from Studio Jewelers, a jewelry trade school in Midtown, Kawakita spent eight years as a diamond setter in the city’s Diamond District.
“It was very intense,” Kawakita says of diamond setting. “The smallest diamond I can set is .7mm.”
It’s no wonder that Kawakita’s designs are small and wafer-thin.
“My pieces are really delicate,” says Kawakita, who works with gold, platinum, diamonds and other precious stones. “When I started to design, I simply designed things I wanted to wear myself, things that I can wear every day for all kinds of occasions.”
Kawakita’s signature piece is her stackable rings, lightweight pieces that can be worn individually or several on one finger, as Kawakita does. She also specializes in engagement rings and wedding bands. In fact, several guests at the opening reception were wearing wedding bands designed by Kawakita, including Meyers.
She describes her style as “Something not crazy, but different.”
There’s unevenness and asymmetry to her pieces, especially her rings. Nothing is perfectly formed, and the earrings in a pair aren’t exactly the same. That what makes her designs so intriguing; they aren’t typically what you’d expect from jewelry.
Drawing inspiration from plants, flowers, graphic design, and textures “that I think I would want to touch,” Kawakita is proud that her works are not machine made. “Everything is organic,” she says. “I carve wax models by hand, which can take many hours to days.”
Kawakita’s road from the Diamond District to TriBeCa was paved with hard work and determination, which continues today and is evident in the jewelry she designs. Four years after toiling alone in her bedroom, she now has six employees in a studio and showroom space and is one of the designers carried by American fashion designer Steven Alan.
“She’s living the American dream,” says Meyers, “Even though she’s Japanese.”