Fumiko Gotô

Published: 23.04.2024


After over 30 years of practicing architecture, working with different scales and typology of buildings, I am now taking on a new scale and genre by creating jewellery.


The richness of seasonal diversity has endowed Japanese culture with a variety of motifs, which have been extracted from nature and abstracted into distinctive forms and worked further into exceptional artefacts by Japanese artists. Inspired by these artefacts, I transform these constitutions into jewellery, employing substances that evoke the chromatic heritage of traditional Japan.
As in architecture, I set the scale of my 'ornament' to the human physiology, in this case of creating jewellery namely the size that fits in the mouth. I am inspired by traditional Japanese sweets - 'Wagashi', and especially I have been compelled by the size hitokuchi, which means 'mouthful' - a morsel can be ingested whole, all at once, without first taking a nibble.
Consequently, I have adopted this size to my jewellery, is very appropriate to the scale of the human body especially worn as brooches: this size is small enough not to disturb the whole visual appearance of a person with his/her style, clothing, complexions, etc., but large enough to make the wearers’ personal statements.

Series "ENCLOSED", 2023 
or form does not always follow function
 Lovers conveyed their passion through poems written on washi paper, carefully folded and tastefully tied on a selected twig; this whole creation as a gift was exchanged in the court culture of the Heian period in Japan (794-1185). Later in the Muromachi period (1336-1573), this tradition of elaborately folded paper further developed and flourished, establishing it as an essential ritual for gift-wrapping among noble persons. Each piece of paper was pleated and gathered ceremonially and stylishly; this practice of artful handwork was named Origata.

Inspired by this long-lost tradition of Origata, I have created art jewellery by folding washi paper in various shapes and silhouettes, composing nine brooches as a series ENCLOSED. The pieces are sealed with numerous layers of Japanese Urushi-lacquer to make the washi paper even more enduring to be worn as jewellery. 

Following the original function of Origata as packaging, I have enclosed a phrase named “Makura kotoba” in each brooch. Makura Kotoba, or “pillow words”, a head phrase at the beginning of a Waka-poem established early in the eighth century, links meanings, associations or sounds, functioning as a tool with which the poet could imply the themes and emotions in his poems. In each, I have selected a particular Makura Kotoba related to the six senses of Seeing, Hearing, Touch, Taste, Smell and Mind.

Series SERIF, 2024
I will embellish your W.O.R.D.S.

Series ; IONICO; BAROCCO; 2022
A trilogy of Diptych brooches inspired by the transformation of architectural styles of classical Ionic toward the Baroque period, juxtaposing and parallelizing selected distinctive characteristics and spirits of the time. I have extracted and portrayed these intriguing elements into a work of art jewellery.

The canon of the classical order was highly respected in the Renaissance period, which reflects clearly in its architecture. Then came renowned baroque architects who challenged this rigorous order: they explored, interpreted, deconstructed, reordered, extended, diffused, condensed, twisted, and intertwined; the style of Baroque freed itself from the stringent classical order, giving birth to dynamic and fluid spaces two thousand years following the ionic period.

The three Diptych brooches, hand-carved out of Buffalo horn, Elforyn, and Juma, each paired with selected characteristic fragments extracted from Greek-ionic and Italian-baroque architectural spaces and compositions. The titles are given to each, taken from site-specific churches or symbolically after the names of Greek deities which have impacted their extensive influence on cultures then and thereafter.

Throughout the process of creating this particular work, I have been captivated by human’s generous ingenuity and ability to adapt. All distinguished civilizations were established where various cultures came together, whereupon conflicts were not excluded thereby. One says, by observing the past may we foresee the future. Many civilizations have managed to cherish and survived through foremost severe hurdles. How ample this ability is yet present is now questioned more than ever.

Series “Maquette 1:1”, 2021
Perception of space is marked by architectural elements which compose our surroundings, and the recognition of that space is linked to the scale of human physiology.
The work of MAQUETTE 1:1 consists of nine triptych brooches, 27 single pieces in all. They are inspired by architectural ornaments and carved out of beech wood and finished with Japanese Urushi lacquer in satin and high gloss, paying an Homage to the oldest surface treatment used for temples and shrines in ancient Japan.
The design of the brooches evolved from three elements: cross sections of base board, chair or handrails and crown mouldings. These components define and frame a space conceptually, using segments connecting floor to wall and wall to ceiling or handrail that escort human movement in space. The profiles are designed and arranged; some have been taken from existing examples, all true to architectural scale, therefore the title MAQUETTE 1:1.
The fascinating beauty of shapes in numerous variations is revealed by cross sections of moulding that otherwise are simply applied longitudinally in a room, and by viewing the sections one is appealed to imagine how complete mouldings may appear in a room. These mouldings are widely used as decorative elements, as well they have a function by marking transitions that join different materials.
My interest in creating this composition is to reveal otherwise imperceptible core as a visible shape, experimenting in the possible harmony or maybe discord by shifting the scale and repositioning ornaments taken directly from architecture to the size of human body.

Series “Kumite ni Tsugite”, 2020
From the ancient time in Japan, 'Miyadaiku' - carpenters, specially trained to constructshrines and temples practiced wood joining methods called Kumite or Tsugite, without the use of any metal parts to connect timbers. The joining elements are directly cut and shaped in the wood itself and inserted like complex puzzles, yet occasionally joints are made using an additional independent wood-element to secure them more steadily.
This extra element - one may call it a 'foreign body' or 'the third element' inspired me to create this series of brooches. For the 'the third element' I have chosen traditional Japanese motifs that I often apply to my composition, such as cocoon, calabash, or fava bean.
For the materials, I have chosen again to carve and polish substances reminiscent of traditional Japanese artefacts as I used for the 'Wagashi' series, such as black buffalo horn and mammoth ivory. Especially for this series I have chosen amber comprehensively as the third element - this warm yellow colour evokes the appearancetortoise shells, which were extensively used for hair ornaments called Kanzashi in the past.

With nearly 40 years of experience as an architect, it is very natural that I should be interested in this traditional architectural method of joinery.

Mutually, the concept of 'the third element', which implies the interrelationship of the complexity and the diversity of our surroundings captivated me to create this series.

Series “Wagashi”, 2019 and continuing
Indispensable to the tea ceremony, 'wagashi' - traditional Japanese sweets inspired me to transform these into jewellery, employing substances reminiscent of traditional materials, such as carving and polishing black buffalo horn which recalls black-lacquerware; mammoth ivory, preciously preserved over 10,000 years in Siberian permafrost as a substitute for protected ivory which was used widely for Netsuke-carvings; and gems that evoke the chromatic heritage of traditional Japanese jewellery.
I have applied a variety of traditional Japanese motifs, e.g., 'hyôtan' (calabash), 'mayu' (cocoon), 'hamaguri' (clam), and 'soramame' (fava bean) as ground silhouette for my jewellery, these forms have been widely adopted and repeatedly implemented in different fields to create an array of artefacts in Japan. I have abstracted these formsfurther until the original figures nearly distorted, in which I am inspired by the Italian mannerist painters who exercised their distinctive stylings delightfully.
As in architecture I set the scale of my jewellery to the human physiology. In this series of 'Wagashi', I have been particularly compelled by the 'wagashi'-size called 'hitokuchi' that means 'mouthful' - a morsel small enough be ingested whole, all at once, without first taking a nibble.


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Events      View / hide events

Exhibition  21 Jun 2023 - 28 Jul 2023  Frames and Focus. Displaced Jewels.
Exhibition  03 Mar 2023 - 11 Apr 2023  Wagashi by Fumiko Gotô, Atelier A. Senn, Basel.
Exhibition  25 May 2022 - 08 Jul 2022  Maquette 1:1=1 by Fumiko Gotô.
Exhibition  30 Apr 2022 - 08 May 2022  In Fieri: The Thin Line Between Being Made and Becoming.
Exhibition  08 Sep 2021 - 17 Oct 2021  Cheongju Craft Biennale.
Exhibition  17 Nov 2020 - 08 Jan 2021  Two of a Kind.
Exhibition  30 Sep 2020 - 30 Oct 2020  Kumite ni Tsugite by Fumiko Gotô.
Exhibition  30 Sep 2020 - 15 Dec 2020  METALLOphone: Museum.
Exhibition  08 Aug 2019 - 30 Aug 2019  Ostasien.
Galerie Biró, München.

Publications      View / hide publications

Magazine:  Hitokuchi oder ein Mundvoll Schmuck. Limper, BrittaMETER Web Magazine:  Schlieren,  2021
Newspaper:  Broches de estilo japonés inspirados en dulces que caben en la boca. Felip Palau, BlaiLa Vanguardia:  Barcelona,  2020
Magazine:  Japan trifft Sixties. Ideales HEIM, Archithema Verlag AG:  Zurich,  2010
No. 10
Magazine:  Back to the Roots. Umbauen + Renovieren, Archithema Verlag AG:  Zurich,  2009
Magazine:  Szene-Lokal. Style, Schweizer Illustrierte, Ringier AG:  Zurich,  2009
Magazine:  Interaction of function and configuration. SPA-DE, Fareast Design Editors Inc.:  Tokyo,  2008
Vol. 9
Magazine:  Bühne frei!. AIT, Alexander Koch GmbH:  Leinfelden-Echterdingen,  2008
Magazine:  Haute Coiffure. Frame, Peter Huiberts:  Amsterdam,  2007
#56, May/June.
Book:  Relax Interiors for Human Wellness. Frame Publishers, Birkhäuser Verlag AG:  Amsterdam, Basel, Boston, Berlin,  2007
Magazine:  Kunst des Origami. Umbauen + Renovieren, Archithema Verlag AG:  Zurich,  2007
Magazine:  Sixties und ein Hauch Japan. Wohn Revue, Boll Verlag AG:  Urdorf,  2007