21 Dec The Joy of Creating Something from Scratch: Kazumi Takakura
Every year, the Social Services Department works with a local artist for a Nengajyo (New Year’s card) design. This year, Kazumi Takakura-san, who lives in Little Tokyo, designed the card for the Year of the Dragon. She was a jewelry designer and now enjoys connecting with society and people through volunteering. Please meet Takakura-san!
The Joy of Creating Something from Scratch: Kazumi Takakura
Takakura-san was born and raised in downtown Tokyo. As the eldest of two sisters, from an early age, her father demanded that she “take care of the house” and “take care of her parents,” which pushed her to be independent. At that time in Japan, women’s advancement in society was slow, and women’s social status was still low. While many of her friends were busy training to become brides after graduation, she was working to earn her college tuition and taking night classes at Musashino Art University.
Takakura-san, who has loved making things ever since she can remember, attended a jewelry school after graduating from art college to make a career out of her craft. She thought that society would recognize female craftspeople if they made jewelry for women to wear. However, the reality was not so rosy. She found a job at a jewelry design company, but she kept being ignored by the male craftsmen. It was then that a major turning point happened to in her life. She had an opportunity to experience an internship in the United States.
At only 26 years old, she interned at a jewelry company in Beverly Hills. America was far ahead of Japan in terms of design technology. Compared to Japan, where the typical design was only around the stone of a ring, in the U.S., there was a technique of using wax to create a shape from scratch. Takakura-san was fascinated by it. She decided to quit her job at the Japanese jewelry company. Through an acquaintance, she found a job at a jewelry manufacturing company in Los Angeles and obtained permanent residency in the United States.
Takakura-san opened her own store in 1974. She was finally able to bring her Japanese family to the U.S. to take care of them. Unfortunately, her father had passed away, but she brought her mother and younger sister to fulfill her promise to her family. For the first time, she felt like a weight was lifted off her shoulders. She then signed a contract with Disney to design jewelry featuring Disney characters. Since then, she has also taught nearly 100 students her techniques.
“The students were very diverse. I wasn’t good at English, but art doesn’t require language, so I was able to spend meaningful time with them,” she says, recalling how art helped her get through the pandemic. “I never got bored because I could come up with something from scratch using things I had at home and gave it shape.”
Now in her 80s, she teaches a volunteer flower arrangement class at a local church. She also once held a clay class for the residents of the apartment building where she lives. “Art helps me connect with society and people.”