Studio Visit : Hikaru Furuhashi

San Francisco jewelry designer Hikaru Furuhashi has been a mainstay at Little Paper Planes since she launched her first collection in 2013. I’ve worn a golden Halo ring on my index finger for years and I’ve definitely been known to urge customers to “treat yourself!” to a piece of Hikaru’s stunning work.  She makes the kind of minimal, yet subtly intricate jewelry that is meant to be worn everyday and loved dearly, then passed down to a lucky future descendant.  Hikaru’s namesake line is a culmination of her interest in natural landscapes and traditional folk arts. Growing up in the mountains of Japan, she was inspired by the simple shapes and contours of her environment. Later, travel exposed her to the colors, shapes and lines produced by the hands and natural elements of the world.  Her jewelry is lovingly hand-crafted in her Mission district studio using environmentally and ethically responsible methods and materials, such as recycled metals and conflict-free gemstones.

I spent an afternoon photographing Hikaru in her studio and exploring some of her favorite neighborhood haunts.  Stylish, sweet and deeply thoughtful, Hikaru is simply a joy to be around.

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How did you find your way to jewelry making? And to San Francisco?

I came to San Francisco from Japan in the very end of 1999 to study. Initially, I wanted to learn filmmaking and after a couple of years of making weird experimental films, I realized I loved working with my hands more, so I studied sculpture, printmaking and design at San Francisco Art Institute.

After art school, I wanted to see and try the other side of US so I moved to NYC and worked as a graphic designer and art director. I always had side projects such as textile design or fabric accessories, and eventually my interest shifted to learning metal-based jewelry making. I took many months of jewelry classes at night after my full-time job and I just loved every minute of it. Since then, I have not stopped designing and making jewelry. I moved back to San Francisco 3 years ago when I officially launched my line.

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Studio

Scintilliant Studio, Valencia St

“I split my time between the metal studio and home studio. The metal studio is where I work on more messy or noisy tasks such as soldering, hammering and sanding. My home studio is a great place to focus on designing and experimenting with new ideas, and to get lost in long hours of wax carving.”

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 Hikaru polished up my well-worn Halo Ring!

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Proper studio safety and ramrod-straight posture make for a happy jeweler.

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Where do you turn for inspiration when you are designing your collections?

Visiting different parts of the world inspires me the most. I am interested in learning how people’s beliefs and lifestyles relate to folk art and visual culture in various forms – like music, dance, architecture, traditional arts and crafts, street signs, things in the market, old and new, high and low. I like going to places alone so I can submerge myself completely in the unknown. I like to talk to locals, ask questions and take notes. After coming home I do lots of online research to answer all my questions.

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Mission Community Market

Barlett St & 22nd St, 4-7 pm every Thursday

“This is a sweet little farmer’s market and I love coming here after working in the studio. I always get some of the amazing mushrooms and strawberries when they are in season!”

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Where I grew up wasn’t even a town, it was really a village.  Around age 13, I decided to move in with my grandma in the city. I think since then, I haven’t stopped exploring. I’ve always wanted to see the world, it’s always been my thing.

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Garden Creamery

Lexington St & 20th St

“I love taking a quick ice cream break here when friends come visit me in studio. I am lactose intolerant, so the non-dairy, coconut based ice cream here is a real treat. I can’t get enough of their hoji-cha and thai tea ice cream!”

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Freshening her lipstick in style.

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I know you are quite the traveler- will you share a favorite experience or destination from your travels?

Every country I’ve visited is equally amazing and unique, so it is hard to have a favorite!

Last March, I visited the incredible hill tribe villages in the mountain region of Myanmar where they literally make everything they use or consume in life by themselves. From houses to food to clothing, they harvest and make it all from scratch. In one of the villages, they had blacksmiths and they make machetes and knives using wrought iron and very minimal tools. Their clothing and accessories have distinctively different styles in each ethnic group, and they are all super creative and all hand-made. One of the groups even harvests wild indigo in the mountains to dye their hand-woven fabric, then they hand-sew it to make a garment that they will wear everyday. The lifestyle of some of the ethnic groups are rapidly changing, but the most amazing part to me is that they do all this laborious work for themselves to use, as part of their tradition and identity. It was truly inspiring and I learned so much from their wisdom.

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Duc Loi Supermarket

 Mission St & 18th St

“Finding an Asian grocery in Mission area can be challenging, but this place has got it all. They have a great deli counter where you can get delicious Bánh mì and other Vietnamese treats. They are family-owned for 30 years and also have this amazing tradition that they feed hundreds of people in need on Thanksgiving Day!”

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 So many fresh herbs; we both got ingredients to make soup for dinner that night!

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Bernal Hill

“I spend a lot of time focusing on small details when I work in studio, so seeing the bird’ eye view of the city from the top of hill is a great way to change my perspective. Plus, I’m getting some exercise done while climbing the hill!”

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For a precious few minutes, we had the swing all to ourselves!

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What are some things you love that have nothing to do with jewelry making?

I love eating international food, and I love watching dance videos on YouTube.

Hikaru Furuhashi x Little Paper Planes

In conjunction with our interview, Hikaru designed an exclusive product for LPP!  You can shop the Rock Paper Scissors Earring Trio here.

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Interview and photography by Hannah Tatar.

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