My relationship with Christy is a testament to the powerful impact of the online world.
Christy reached out to me in 2013 after we connected via an online business forum we are both in. Being a fellow hapa (half-Japanese) girl, she was intrigued by a project I was developing and we began to chat online. I became familiar with Christy’s jewelry design work and after a few shared emails I knew she was a girl I had to know more about!
As I was conceiving of this new iteration of The Girl Who Knows, I knew that I wanted to invite Christy to be a contributor. Not only is she a creative soul, with a multi-cutural lens on the world, but I could tell (via her social media presence) that she is also a writer (and a damn good one).
Needless to say, Christy’s presence has been a breath of fresh air as a guest editor on the site! I’m so honored she agreed to join us here and am excited for you to get to know a bit more about her in this delightful and insightful Q+A.
I’m Christy Natsumi. Christy is my first name and Natsumi is my middle name (it’s Japanese). I specifically chose to use both names for my business to share my multicultural upbringing as it informs a lot of my designs.
I grew up both in Japan and Northern California. We moved often, so I got to see lots of new places for a little kid and come across people who had new and different ways of seeing the world. It was definitely confusing at times, but it made me appreciate the fact that despite all of our differences on the surface, we all share the essential experience of being human. (You can read more about my thoughts growing up in a multicultural home in my recent TGWK post.)
In addition to being multi-cultural, two other things from my childhood are relevant to my journey towards being a jewelry designer.
The first is from back in the late 80s and early 90s, when I worked as a model in Japan (hapa children were in high demand). It was my first exposure to design, the creative-process, and accessories as a form of self-expression. Also, by being able to wear clothing that I probably otherwise would never have been able to, it taught me the importance of quality in the items we consume.
The second is a ritual I had with my jewelry-loving grandmother. She used to take me to a glitzy department store in the heart of Tokyo to pick out a piece of jewelry for important milestones. I still have and wear every piece that she bought for me. It made me really appreciate the detail that goes into such small things.
Fast forward 15 years later, after dabbling and wandering in many many directions (psychology, medicine, substitute teacher, to name a few — all the while waiting tables), I was invited to a weekend metalsmithing class and fell in love — both with my husband-to-be and with the process of making shiny jewels.
When I’m not working in my gem box-sized studio, I love taking dance breaks, planning my next travel adventure, hunting for the next addition to my collection of pointy-toe shoes, and curling up on the sofa with lots of blankets and a good book.
I love it. Dance breaks are so necessary (I take them often too). So, A lot of people want to do their own thing in terms of work. And you’ve done so, which takes a lot of courage. I’m curious, why did you decide to start your own business?
I fell in love with the process of making and moving metal— it still delights me that something so solid can be moved and shaped. At another level, I also love to try to bring together ideas or designs that once seemed opposite to create something new and exciting— much like being hapa. I find the interplay between opposites so fascinating!
It seems like you’re all about doing what you love (and what comes naturally to you, culturally and otherwise). With that in mind, what do you feel is most important about the creative work you do in the world, as a jewelry designer?
One of the most delightful things that I get to do is put a wearable form to someone’s particular memory or celebration. When someone wears jewelry, they aren’t necessarily thinking about the maker, but about the person who gifted it to them or the reasons that a particular piece was purchased. Being a small part of the process that helps someone remember something joyful in their life is wonderfully satisfying!
Other than being a part of such soulful and satisfying work, how do you stay motivated and inspired every day?
Being part of an amazing community of makers in the Bay Area is a huge motivation and inspiration for me. Putting myself and my work out in the world is sometimes tough, so I feel very blessed to be surrounded by other talented and supportive people who create for a living.
I used to live in the Bay too, so I know what you mean. It is filled with so much creative talent! Let’s shift to another topic, The Senses (which as you know is what grounds everything here on the site). What is your favorite (or predominant) sense? How do you use your senses to help you live a more rich + fulfilling life?
I live and breathe my sense of sight and touch. It’s vital to what I do as a jewelry designer. But I would have to say that my favorite sense of all is feeling/intuition. Without it, there would be no way to experience and appreciate the other senses. Behind everything we see, touch, hear, and taste is a feeling that enriches the experience.
Understanding and listening to these feelings has helped me make important decisions and choices in my life that may not have made rational sense at the time, but has led me down the road to people, places, and things that I adore.
Yesss! I agree. Feelings really do lead our other senses. I love that. Why do you think our senses are so important to our lives?
It is our way of experiencing life. In some way shape or form, even for a brief moment, it reminds us of our humanness.
I’d love to know, what are some of your go-to ways to indulge your senses?
I recently started taking dance classes again (I was a big dancer as a teenager). Though my physical capacities have certainly changed, I’m rediscovering what it means to move my body in an expressive way.
Also, I love taking some extra time in the morning to enjoy my tea and sit. The quietness somehow heightens my senses and I get lots of design ideas from these moments of stillness.
What specific things light your senses up?
Moto jackets w/ pointed flats, getting lost in a good story, fresh cut flowers, lavender bath oil, sharing a cup of tea with my husband after dinner, watching our friends’ dogs, looking around my home and being surrounded by meaningful and beautiful furniture and objects.
Love your picks (I’m a moto girl myself). 😉
I’m going to shift a bit to the topic of birthdays (because I love them). What’s your ideal way to celebrate your birthday?
Traveling to a new country with my love, a backpack, and a sketchbook. Some places at the top of our list now are Iceland and The Big Island of Hawaii.
What are you working on right now that feels amazing (like a celebration)?
Right now I’m working on my first collection of wedding bands. It’s no surprise that I love love and trying to find shapes that express it in the form of a ring has been a fun challenge!
Ok, and one last question: what do you know, for sure?
Quality over quantity.
Thank you so much for giving us a glimpse inside your heart and soul Christy! We are so lucky to have your wisdom, words and impeccable sense of style here. You truly are a girl who knows (and we adore you).
Thanks for reading and supporting myself, Christy, all of the wonderful guest editors here and believing in our mission to create a site dedicated to living a lifestyle with soul. Hope you enjoyed this fun Q+A!