text by Ryoko Kuwahara

Craft Curiosity Issue :「バランスはとても大事。ノスタルジックになりすぎないようにしないと。なぜならそれはかつてあったものということだから。けれど、あまりにも未来的であると、今度は少し異質なもので自分には関係ないものであると感させてしまうかもしれない。身に着けているジュエリーに感情的な繋がりを持つことは非常に重要」Interview with Marland Backus

ーーCould you tell us what made you want to start your creations?

Marland : I never really planned to be a jewelry designer. I actually studied industrial design, focusing on furniture and ceramics. It was while I was working with these building materials, like clay, silicone, and industrial metal, that I got inspired to make objects I could actually wear.

ーーFrom ideation to when it is released as well as the accessory , could you take us through the whole creation process, start to finish?

Marland : The process starts with and idea and then I sketch it out. I then prototype. I usually try on the prototype and take some photos to look over in order to get a different perspective. From there I make adjustments and eventually make the final product.

ーーWhat was the most difficult part of it ?

Marland : I think the transition from sketch to prototype is the hardest. I often see things in my mind and then sketch them out. But when I go to actually make them, things like gravity and physics make my idea impossible. I guess it’s the difficulty of finding where imagination and reality meet.

ーーHow did you acquire the knowledge and the craft that is needed to create the accessory?

Marland : I never studied jewelry making so all of my techniques and processes are self taught. But I think not having been taught things like bead looming and metal work allows me to be more creative and not stick to any rules

ーーHow did you get into 3D works/craft works?

Marland : I actually enrolled in art school intending to study graphic design. But during my first semester I took a class called 3D and I very quickly realized that I was much more suited to that than illustration.

ーーSome of your collection mixed up your handmade thing and vintage thing. Could you tell us the reason why.

Marland : I started making the charm necklaces when I came to live in Japan. I would find so many amazing vintage pieces at the markets and thrift stores and was so inspired. I loved the necklaces that reminded me of things I wore as a kid, like hello kitty charms, best friend broken hearts, Mickey Mouse, and anything sparkly! I had this idea of making the necklace of my childhood dreams. Everything I loved on one necklace. I use recycled pieces for this because they’re so plentiful here in japan. It seems like no one throws anything away! I love the recycling culture in japan!

ーーWhat was one of the first things you made? Looking back, what kind of advice would you give yourself?

Marland : When I was in university I saw a photo on National Geographic that was a microscopic view of sand. There was this one piece, shaped a bit like the letter Y, and it really stuck with me for some reason. At the time I was spending everyday in the ceramics studio, designing dinnerware, so I used some extra bits of clay to make an enlarged version of the grain of sand and wore it as a necklace pendent. At that point I had never thought about seriously doing jewelry work, but people kept asking to buy the necklace so I thought why not just keep making more stuff.

ーーHow do you personally express your core/personality/values through your work?

Marland : I think my personality is a bit of a mix of different things and I try not to ever label myself. I think it comes through in my work because I never limit myself to one material or one style. I like to try new things every collection. Just like I always like to try new things in life.

ーーThe titles and forms are all related to material. Could you tell us why?

Marland : When I first started making jewelry I was really focused on materials because that was a big part of my studies in industrial design. I feel that the variety of materials I use is something that makes my brand stand out.

ーーYour works seems futuristic , but also seems nostalgic. What do you think about the balance of that?

Marland : I think the balance is very important. You never want something to be too nostalgic, because then it’s probably already been done before. But too futuristic it can feel a bit foreign and unrelatedable. I think it’s very important to have an emotional connection to a piece of jewelry you wear and if it’s too unfamiliar I think it’s hard to have that.

ーーWhere do you get your inspiration from?

Marland : I love looking at old jewelry and fashion books. There are some really great one from the 70s, but I also love to look at ancient objects and cultural crafts. But often the inspiration for my pieces comes from something unexpected. Like rigging on a ship or computer cables.

ーーWhat kind of accessory would you like to create for the next one?

Marland : Right now I’m focusing a lot on the balance of nostalgic and futuristic, as well as the balance between mundane and glamorous. I’ve been working with industrial and everyday materials like stainless steel and thread. And pairing them with more precious materials like natural stone and pearls.

ーーTo a person just starting out, what kind of advice would you give them, skills wise and regarding mentality?

Marland : I think it’s important for designers these days to stay away from things like Instagram that can really cloud your mind and distort your own identity. I think it’s good to see what other people are creating but I think the best ideas come from your own self.

ーーIf you have any online shops/makers that sell or provide materials and tools that you would recommend, please share them.

Marland : My favorite place to buy materials is Asakusabashi. There are so many jewelry shops there. Even after years of going there I still always find new shops.

ーーHow has the spread of coronavirus effect your lifestyle and creative activities?

Marland : The corona virus has actually allowed me a lot more time than usual to work on my stuff which has been great. However I have realized that it’s hard to get inspired being home all day. So I always make sure to go for walks!

ーーDo you have anything you want to challenge yourself on?

Marland : I always want to be expanding my skillset and learning about new materials and processes. And getting better at japanese!

ーーAfter the coronavirus converges and the situation gets better, what would you like to do?

Marland : I’m going to go straight to asakusabashi! I have so many ideas I want to work on as soon as I can get the materials!

ーーAny news or something up and coming that you would like to share with us?

Marland : My pop up shop at Radd Lounge was meant to happen in March but had to be cancelled. Once it’s safe, we will reschedule it!

Marland Backus
jewelry designer

IG : @marlandbackus

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