Ayuko Sakurai

Specialized in Jewelry Design.

Ayuko Sakurai

About Ayuko Sakurai

Ayuko Sakurai is a 2017 graduate of the Rochester Institute of Technology with a MFA in Metals and Jewelry Design. She tends to combine multiple media and styles in her works, which allows her to explore different relationships among two- and three-dimensional arts, and simplicity and complexity. Her art-making process often starts from interpreting what she perceives and experiences.

  • Winner of the A' Design Award.
  • Specialized in Jewelry Design.
  • Original Design.
  • Creative, Diligent and Innovative.
  • All Designs
  • Jewelry
Secret Garden Bracelet

Secret Garden Bracelet

Jewelry Design

Good Design Deserves Great Recognition

Nominate Your Work for the A' Design Award.


Interview with Ayuko Sakurai

Could you please tell us more about your art and design background? What made you become an artist/designer? Have you always wanted to be a designer?
I had never pictured myself as an artist. Even at university where I pursued a M.F.A., I was hesitant about stating that I was an artist. However, this hesitancy keeps making me question what art, design, or beauty is, which sometimes gives me a new perspective.
Can you tell us more about your company / design studio?
I am trying to build my own studio at home. After graduation from Rochester Institute of Technology in 2017, I found a job in the same area, but ended up returning to Japan (my home country) because of a visa expiration. It had been 11 years since I left Japan at the age of 15, so I need a new setup with tools and knowledge I earned throughout years.
What is "design" for you?
Materialized values or the ways to materialize certain values. For example, the process of discovering designs of the world—how this world is built—is physics. When a design reveals as an artwork, its artist has figured out the way to materialize something meaningful to him/her.
What kinds of works do you like designing most?
I cannot choose one from metal, fabric, wood, painting, etc. They are all playful in their own unique ways, so I tend to do mixed media works.
What is your most favorite design, could you please tell more about it?
When I line up images that caught my attention in a row, I often see multiple colors and patterns. High contrasts and fine details make the space visually rich.
What was the first thing you designed for a company?
I have never worked for a company. However, at my first internship at a city arts center, I made a paper model of the new building to which the center was moving. It gave visitors ideas about what the new arts center would look like.
What is your favorite material / platform / technology?
So far, my favorite material is metal—not only because it was my major, but also because it often gives me interesting ideas of designs. Metal gives me possibilities to be different from other people.
When do you feel the most creative?
When I jot down my ideas in my sketchbook or scrap paper. Planning is probably the most fun part because there is no problem to fix yet. It only needs imagination and ideas; I usually face problems as I work later.
Which aspects of a design do you focus more during designing?
The balance. It includes how my work will look on a body (if it is a wearable piece), and the relationship among different elements of a design such as shapes, colors and media.
What kind of emotions do you feel when you design?
I feel free since I often sketch by randomly recalling objects and/or scenes that I had seen before. My hand just keeps moving while a design is constructed in my mind. Sometimes I feel nothing and let my mind go wherever it wants. However, anger and excitement are also very common in my memories; sadness either stops me from sketching or gives me a melancholic feeling, which still inspires me to draw.
What kind of emotions do you feel when your designs are realized?
I almost always have a combination of rushing and spending time to include details. Which means, when I start to see the design coming out, I want to see the end because I already know it will not be the exact design pictured in my mind; however, I never know how it will turn out at the last minute. At the same time, when the project is getting closer to its end, I start to feel that I can do more and usually end up with putting details (sometimes they are unnecessary).
What makes a design successful?
Balance between how the design appears and my want to alter it. If the piece is already visually pleasing, I should not touch it even though I want to decorate more. I tend to overdecorate, so knowing this habit is the key to make something.
When judging a design as good or bad, which aspects do you consider first?
Good. I usually do not choose a design which looks bad in my sketches. I believe in the good parts of the design and start the project; then I start to see bad parts as I proceed.
From your point of view, what are the responsibilities of a designer for society and environment?
To believe in the power of a design. With advanced technologies, people can express and share their feelings/opinions with others easily, and see objects/people/places without directly encountering them. By seeing them, many of us know the world cannot be judged in black and white; there will be events that cannot be stopped no matter how much we try. However, as well as other human intellectual activities such as science, an artwork can imply the good and/or honest aspects of us. I see values in them.
How do you think the "design field" is evolving? What is the future of design?
More varied and interactive with other fields(which do not have to be art-related). Because of the variety of art fields we have today and will have tomorrow, people will combine multiple techniques and media more easily. And this allows them to express their feelings/thoughts more freely. In addition, people realize that many academic or technological fields can intertwine each other even though they are considered totally separate subjects.
When was your last exhibition and where was it? And when do you want to hold your next exhibition?
Before the A’ Design Award ceremony in 2019, I displayed my works at the gallery at R.I.T. as a part of my thesis project. I am happy to present my works whenever and wherever, but I am focusing on building my studio now.
Where does the design inspiration for your works come from? How do you feed your creativity? What are your sources of inspirations?
The memories and feelings from my experiences often bring me ideas. Sometimes the ideas come out at random moments such as during sleeping, washing or waiting for a train. I cannot be creative in a deep depression, though (a little depression is still manageable).
How would you describe your design style? What made you explore more this style and what are the main characteristics of your style? What's your approach to design?
I tend to put a lot of details and end up being busy. Too much information and too many objects and people in this world. I sometimes feel an urge to render all of what I have seen and imaged into one work. And of course, it is impossible to include them all. I usually need to stay simple and after I start to see the whole shape, I will think about details.
Where do you live? Do you feel the cultural heritage of your country affects your designs? What are the pros and cons during designing as a result of living in your country?
I left my home country, Japan when I was fifteen for high school. After that, I had spent 11 years staying/visiting 11 countries and came back to Japan last year. While being the only Japanese in the area or my school, I was very careful not to be influenced by any culture, especially Japanese culture. It may be impossible to ignore it completely, but I try to appreciate different cultures as fair as possible. I would like to discover favorite elements in whatever comes to me.
What are your suggestions to companies for working with a designer? How can companies select a good designer?
Personality. I am sure these designers whom companies select have reasonable quantity and quality. When companies cannot select designers regarding their styles and media, personality will be something worthy of consideration.
Can you talk a little about your design process?
I usually start from concepts and images, then modify works as I proceed, and decide if they are worthy having photos taken. Also, I used to give my work a simple title like Work I, or did not even care about a title. Even though I have specific images of what my works will be at the end, I have not found a meaning in putting the idea or concept into words (as a title).
What are 5 of your favorite design items at home?
I do not know yet. I am in the process of buying new tools and making a studio, so everything looks important to me.
Can you describe a day in your life?
No single day is the same. Or all days are the same, but I feel differently everyday.
Could you please share some pearls of wisdom for young designers? What are your suggestions to young, up and coming designers?
I am one of these young coming designers and do not know what to say. However, at least I know some of my characteristics have taken me to where I am now—being hardworking and stubborn.
From your perspective, what would you say are some positives and negatives of being a designer?
Positives and negatives depend on how I perceive the situation and which stage I am at. And not only a designer, the majority of jobs and life stages have both a positive and negative—I remember how hard my life was at an elementary school. So, I cannot tell the positive and negative parts at this point because I am still trying to find the meaning of being a designer.
What is your "golden rule" in design?
I do not personally use the word “create.” To me, creating means that something comes from nothing; and I do not think humans can do it. Humans can make something from what already exist, such as media and designs. Perhaps what/who humans call deities and gods can create. While making something, I sometimes wonder the meaning of this action; I believe this interpretation gives me a different perspective towards this world and human’s curiosity.
What skills are most important for a designer?
The ability/skill to handle a current situation. This situation can include finance, work or study environment, and even which life stage and level of skills a designer has. Of course this does not only apply to a designer, but I think designing can be easily changed depending on his/her position and situation.
Which tools do you use during design? What is inside your toolbox? Such as software, application, hardware, books, sources of inspiration etc.?
A sketchbook, or scrap papers when I do not bring a sketchbook with me. When I have an image or idea, I need to put it down before I forget it. I often draw with texts to explain where/how I get the idea since a drawing can be interpreted in different ways and texts are confusing if these two exist solely.
Designing can sometimes be a really time consuming task, how do you manage your time?
Time is especially important when I have another job. I do not complain when I have no time actually making something, because the stability of a full-time job means a lot to me (to make something as I want later). I try to get my priorities straight and learn as much as I can for the next time I am ready to use that knowledge (and make something). However, for the peace of my mind, I keep my sketchbook aside to jot down what I feel noteworthy in everyday life.
How long does it take to design an object from beginning to end?
It depends on the size and how familiar I am with the media. I tend to want to put more time in embellishing because by that, I start to see the end of a making process, plus decorating is a fun part.
What is the most frequently asked question to you, as a designer?
At my work, people do not ask me a question relating to a design. I left the U.S.A. where I studied art last year, and people I met recently in Japan do not know me as a designer.
What was your most important job experience?
I cannot pick one up because many of them gave me lessons. In design fields, I did several internships at a town art gallery, schools, private jewelry shop and metalsmith studio. Some of them taught me various techniques (which enriched my knowledge and skills) while some showed me life lessons which did not always mean pleasant experiences (for example, a skilled person in one field does not directly mean s/he has a good or at least moderate personality).
Who are some of your clients?
I do not have a specific group of clients. But I plan to add more categories to my website when I decide to sell my works, such as “Young Adults,” “Purposes(Necklace, Ring…)” and “Year the objects are made.”
What type of design work do you enjoy the most and why?
I like works with intense details or in clean, simple styles that will not confuse me. In my own making process, I keep adding more elements, and I guess I am feeling as if I take control of something. This feeling is one of the values in the making/designing process because it is rare to be able to control something completely—all possibilities of how the design will look are in my hands.
What are your future plans? What is next for you?
This is what I would like to know. This world is full of unexpected events. I do not even know what I will do tomorrow.
Do you have any works-in-progress being designed that you would like to talk about?
My studio. I am currently working as a science communicator in Japan, and I have never expected that building my own workspace is this hard.
How can people contact you?
Through my website or they can directly email me. This is how A’ Design Award contacted me.
Any other things you would like to cover that have not been covered in these questions?
I think I am not as successful as other artists that this question targets. Last year(yes I am writing this on December 31st of 2019, so I can still call it last year), I must have left the U.S.A and came back to Japan, which changed my life completely no matter what I want or think. Then I face the questions like “What is your plan with art in your life?” “Don’t you give up an art making?” So, I can say that I am still a young, coming artist who struggle a lot, but keep reminding myself of what I have earned in the world of art and design.

Extended Interview with Ayuko Sakurai

Could you please tell us about your experience as a designer, artist, architect or creator?
My art study officially started from 2010 when I changed my major from English to Visual and Verbal Arts at the college. However, I was often obsessed with colorful and detailed designs since my childhood.
How did you become a designer?
Inspiration is everywhere, but I need to motivate myself. I am more familiar with art and not sure if a “designer” is a title for me. Designs often need purposes and functions, but I wonder what my works fulfill. (But I sometimes use this word to describe myself because it is such a common term to people who are not necessarily in the artworld.)
What are your priorities, technique and style when designing?
It is somewhere between(just like other important decisions)—yes I switched my major from English to Art, so people will say that I chose art. But in fact, I simply could not handle the large amount of English homework, and looked for something that I could manage. (I need to confess that I did not have a sense of what a college-level education meant in the U.S. Plus, I learned that other courses gave us a similar amount of homework. Later, I had to take this English class as an art student, and I passed it that time.)
Which emotions do you feel when designing?
Anything that needs my hands. Regardless of media, sizes and styles, I am keen to see something being shaped through my hands.
What particular aspects of your background shaped you as a designer?
Wow I am very timid now because I have never regarded myself as a legend; I am not there. Well, people will give young adults different stories and advice, especially successful stories. But if these stories and tips are suffocating them, they do not have to feel guilty about not listening to these stories. This is a tough question. I did my best telling from my limited experience…
What is your growth path? What are your future plans? What is your dream design project?
I do not have the answer, perhaps because I am neither of them yet.
What are your advices to designers who are at the beginning of their career?
Something should be within the design. If a design is empty and will not say anything to anyone, I wonder if it is good or even called a design.
You are truly successful as a designer, what do you suggest to fellow designers, artists and architects?
A design can be interpreted differently, but when it is good, people will start interacting with it in their own ways. Sometimes they immediately feel/know what good designs are to them, but sometimes they take time, energy, and perhaps money to gain this sense.
What is your day to day look like?
I do not know what to make until sketching. And I do not recall that I made one for anyone. But I would be interested in making it for those who were dead and forgotten.
How do you keep up with latest design trends? To what extent do design trends matter?
I will start with redesigning my senior project at college, a beaded dress fabricated with mixed media. Adding another layer of interpretation will be a good start.
How do you decide if your design is ready?
I usually inspire myself, but in order to do so, I need to absorb various information. In my school days, I used to write about the outstanding works and ideas of Ferdinand Cheval, Salvador Dali, Francis Hutcheson and Robin George Collingwood.
What is your biggest design work?
I tend to like very intense designs or designs which imply dimensions and depth.
Who is your favourite designer?
My attempts to make works from scraps as much as possible. My attitude to art making, for example I would like to consider the last stage of a work(how to be repaired or returned to raw materials).
Would you tell us a bit about your lifestyle and culture?
Study(not only art). Ask myself why. Pay attention to what caught my attention(both negative and positive). Know it hurts to examine what scares or enrages me.
Would you tell us more about your work culture and business philosophy?
I am grateful that art prevents me from being too naive and setting something/someone on fire.
What are your philanthropic contributions to society as a designer, artist and architect?
Something with a purpose. And contours of something—both visible and invisible. The process of turning abstract ideas into something visible.

Stay Updated with Latest Design News

By clicking Sign-Up, you are opting to receive promotional emails from A' Design Awards, World Design Rankings, World Design Consortium and Designers.Org You can update your preferences or unsubscribe any time.

You are now at the right step

Join Designers.org & Start Promoting Your Design Worldwide.

Create an Account