Contemporary jewelry and the poetics of space

Alchimia summer workshop

Teacher:Sayumi Yokouchi

This workshop is about the importance of space in the visual
and philosophical traditions of the
East and West.making things without much adding72-1Date: 30 June – 7 July, 2014

This workshop is a unique collaboration between the world of contemporary jewelry and the
notion of Ma. Ma is a Japanese expression that roughly translates as “gap”, “pause”, or
“space” between structural parts. It is used extensively in descriptions of all aspects of Japanese
life. Ma is the unit with which we experience both time and space as the living breath between
objects. Ma is invisible and exists only in relation to the concrete elements that define it.


When a piece of jewelry is placed on the body, held in the hand, or seen by the eye, a unique
transitional space opens around it, a space that suggests new ways of perceiving the familiar, and
generates new dimensions of meaning. Rather than proposing answers, such liminal spaces fill
the mind with questions. And of course truly creative questions rarely require answers.
Consider the well-known Zen Koan poses the question, ‘what is the sound of one hand
clapping?’ Asking questions is in itself a form of expression that can inspire new and unexpected


While there is no clear definition of Ma in Western languages, it permeates all aspects of
Japanese aesthetics. Because Ma is both invisible and indefinable, it is often described through
depictions of negative space or emptiness.

Over the course of the workshop all types of space will be considered in the context of
contemporary jewelry making. Participants will be challenged to seek new conceptions of their
practice through presentation, discussion and exercises. Objectives of the workshop include the
stimulation of new ideas and directions that can be explored through the design and
development of new jewelry art. Group discussions will both entertain and inspire participants
to extend their practice into new realms. Participants are encouraged to consider conceptual
and practical concerns both within and beyond the frame of jewelry making as they engage with
notions of space and time in materials, ideas, experiences and more.
Part one of the workshop will include presentations of various examples of Ma followed by
discussions concerning its relevance and possible meanings for contemporary makers. Individual
exercises will help participants to understand core concepts and to discover new ideas that
extend their practice. Part two of the workshop will focus on bringing these ideas into material
reality in the studio.


About Sayumi Yokouchi
Sayumi Yokouchi was born and raised in Tokyo, Japan. She moved to the U.S. in 1990, began
her practice in metalsmithing at Cabrillo College in California. She earned her BFA in Metal
Arts from California College of the Arts, followed by MFA in Metal Arts from State University
of New York in New Paltz. She has taught at many metals programs and given workshops
including Cranbrook Academy of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, Kutztown University in
Pennsylvania, State University of New York, New Paltz, Penland School of Craft, Hong Kong
Design Institute, China, Contemporary jewelry workshop in Buenos Aires, Argentina, among
many other school. Her work’s been exhibited in museums and galleries in the US, Japan and
Europe. Publications include: American Craft, Metalsmith, Lark Books’ jewelry series, The
Compendium Finale of Contemporary Jewelers and among others. She’s currently a faculty
member in the jewelry/metal program at 92stY and New York University in Manhattan,
Brooklyn Metal Works in Brooklyn, NY. She lives and maintains her studio practice in
Her work was recently featured in American Craft Council visual blog post, ‘Heck Yes Craft.





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