Momoko Hatano On The Art Of Handmaking Jewellery

by: Rosie Dalton | 9 months ago | Features

Image: Momoko Hatano in her studio.

Momoko Hatano didn’t initially start out as a jewellery designer. In fact it was a serendipitous fulltime job offer post-graduation that really solidified her passion for the craft. And we’re so glad that it did, because her jewellery is the rare kind that really grabs your attention — not to mention attracting comments wherever you go. To this day, all of Momoko’s pieces are handmade by the designer herself, infused with an intriguing sense of storytelling, but also an essential wearability.

One of the least wasteful members of the fashion family, we love the enduring nature of jewellery almost as much as we love its sculptural form. So to find out more about the magic behind Momoko Hatano’s creations, we spoke with the designer about the rich history of jewellery and how it really manages to come alive on the body.

Image: the Arch Envelope Ring in Sterling Silver in progress in Momoko's studio.

Rosie Dalton: Can you tell us a little bit about your earliest jewellery memory?
Momoko Hatano: My earliest memory of jewellery would be a very common story among designers — I used to secretly play with my mum’s jewellery all the time. She was a visual merchandiser in Tokyo, so she had a huge collection of interesting pieces, mostly costume and very bold pieces because it was the late '80s / early '90s.

Rosie: When did you know that this was the right career path for you?
Momoko: I didn’t plan to be a jeweller actually. I dabbled in jewellery at COFA but I was a painting and drawing major. But the first fulltime job I landed after graduating was at Dinosaur Designs – they offered me a role as a silver jeweller based on my drawing skills. Since then I have been making jewellery as a career – the jewellery community in Sydney is small but strong and it is as equally satisfying as drawing or painting.

Image: the Two Way Tangle Earrings in Sterling Silver in progress in Momoko's studio. 

Rosie: Working in the jewellery industry before launching your own label, did you feel there was something missing within this space? If so, how did this help to inform your approach with Momoko Hatano?
Momoko: I've worked in the jewellery industry for nearly 10 years now — and as much as I enjoyed working for other people and brands, it felt like a natural progression to launch my own label. When you are working for someone else you are exploring someone else's vision, so after a while you naturally desire to realise your own vision and make autonomous decisions.

My approach to my label is that it is bespoke and hand made by me using materials that I appreciate — I think after working in all facets of the jewellery industry I've learned what processes I like and don't like, what materials I enjoy using, [plus] what design principles and values I align with. So the label would not be possible without having those previous experiences.

Image: bits and pieces ready to be constructed in Momoko's studio.

Rosie: How would you say that your label mediates your personal interests in art, fashion and design?
Momoko: I have come to understand that design is about solving a problem in a beautiful way. And art is about expressing something in a way that is beautiful - depending on one's perception of beauty. So to me wearing jewellery is a form of story telling and self expression – and being a jewellery designer and manufacturer demands solid problem solving skills. I think the amalgamation of these processes and the end result is a happy medium and satisfies both my passion in art and design.

Rosie: Can you run us through your overall process, from concept to creation?
Momoko: [Recently I have been] reinventing one of the most classic pieces of jewellery – the hoop earring. The hoop earring is a very historic form of jewellery - it has a dense cultural background, worn by both men and women from all countries, tribes and religions for centuries, so I wanted to create a collection based on a contemporary interpretation of jewellery history.

A lot of the times my jewellery is designed accidentally — when I am making something else and by mistake it turns out completely different, but with potential so I explore it until it results in a finished piece. Other times the process is completely measured. I begin by drawing, prototyping with cheaper materials, wearing the prototype for a few days to ensure it's suited for the location of the body and after that I will invest in the actual materials — whether it’s gold or silver to create a finished product.

Image: Mixed Metal Rings in Silver and Brass in progress in Momoko's studio.

Rosie: Jewellery has the potential to last so much longer than other aspects of fashion — how do you go about ensuring your pieces will be both timeless and relevant for the right now?
Momoko: I design pieces that I would like to wear, so rather than observing trends I try to create pieces that speak to women like me. I try to be relevant in the eyes of my customer and women or men that have similar values and interests as me, rather than trying to be relevant to an industry. By doing so, I hope my pieces will connect with people in a way that is lasting.

Rosie: What do you find you are most inspired by when developing new pieces to add to the collection?
Momoko: I believe jewellery truly comes alive when it's worn on the body. So often I'll wear it for a few days or get a friend to wear it and observe its movements (or lack of) and the way it interacts with the body. This process has inspired many of the pieces I've made.

Image: pieces in progress.

Rosie: Why is sourcing Australian or recycled silver such an important aspect of your design approach?
Momoko: By using materials that I know are made under Australian standards and or recycled in Australia, I know I am minimizing harmful or unethical processes. I know and have met the people who work in the factories I source my metals from, I can access the site at anytime therefore ensuring transparency, quality and purity of the metal. I am not against manufacturing overseas – but the distance and not being familiar with their manufacturing standards mean that you are never sure how the workers are treated or how they process the metals. Jewellery is a trade and I've worked in production for many years before, so I know how dangerous it can be working with machines and metals all day — so fair conditions for workers are important to me.

Rosie: And what would you say are some of the main benefits to keeping your collections small scale and locally produced?
Momoko: The main benefits of me making my own collections are what I just mentioned — having all autonomy to decide who to buy the materials from, being able to control the quality of the metal / the finished product and the lead time of the production. If you work for a bigger company you don’t necessarily have the freedom to decide where the materials come from or how it's made. But being a self-employed jeweller means you have all the freedom to explore these options.

Rosie: Jewellery is such a personal thing — do you still handmake all of the pieces yourself and, if so, do you think this lends an extra special personal touch?
Momoko: Yes — every piece of Momoko Hatano Jewellery is hand made by me in my studio. I think it definitely makes a piece more special than a mass produced piece.  I love jewellery for how personal and intimate it is. Often you forget you are wearing it, so it becomes a part of you.

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