CHRISTINE LEENHARDT

Designer of IBUKI jewellery.

Why did you choose a Japanese name for your brand?
IBUKI means breathing, and by extension the notion of renewal and inspiration.
My aim is to create jewellery which is aspirational and appeals to the emotions. It is not about evoking a picture postcard Japan or riding a fashion wave, but rather going in search of what touches us in this distant culture.

I discovered Japanese aesthetics through my grandparents who collected Asian art, and through my great grandmother who talked to me about the Trans-Siberian railway and the Port of Shanghai. I was particularly fascinated by the gold leaf paper screens which she owned and which I found so delicate and expressive.
Later on, whilst studying graphic design, I discovered Hiroshige’s prints and the beauty of ancient kimonos. I loved the asymmetry of their composition, the striking contrast between the foreground and the landscape, patterns intertwining flowers, foliage and symbols.

What also strikes me is the presence of emptiness in Japanese art; an emptiness which is a respiration rather than a void. There are times when the smooth surface of a lacquered piece is transformed into a sea in motion by the presence of a tiny boat. It is these ideas which I wish to incorporate into my jewellery.

I particularly like Art Nouveau and Art Deco jewellery but also appreciate the jewellery designers of the 60’s and 70’s who reinvented the role of jewellery and the way in which it is worn.
In Japan, an object is prized more for the sincerity and intensity of its creation than for its material constituents. The way in which an object is appreciated, used and transmitted completes the creative process. It is a way of seeing things which I believe chimes with what our society is searching for at the moment.

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I had the impression that traditionally the Japanese wear very little jewellery?
Yes, which may make my work seem slightly paradoxical. Traditionally, given the kimono’s patterns and the way in which its worn, no further accessories are required apart from hair ornaments.
However, we live in the 21st century and our everyday apparel lacks a certain quality of expression and personalisation, whether we are European or Japanese!
Jewellery plays a role in emphasising a woman’s beauty but also allows her to express her own personal style, her sensuality, the things which move her.
I like the idea that my choice of jewellery can transform a simple top or dress into something more meaningful. That for me is true elegance.

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Can you explain the name of your first collection ‘Precious Moments’?
I wanted to embody those rare moments when we feel a real complicity with our natural environment; those ephemeral moments when we forget our day to day concerns and rediscover the world through a child’s eyes; the beauty of clouds in the sky, a tree in the snow, a petal floating on water…
Japanese art is rooted in the notion of ‘mono no aware’, a heightened awareness, tinged with nostalgia, of the fleeting nature of beauty.
I don’t believe that this notion is the reserve of a handful of specialists or the odd poet. Finding a path back to a more intimate link with nature allows us to find a harmony within ourselves.

And also, the gift of a piece of jewellery, by someone else or to oneself, is often linked to a precise moment which we want to remember: a declaration of love, a birth, an anniversary…these are precious moments.

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Why did you decide to combine silver and gold for your jewellery?
I like to work within an economy of means. “Less is more”, in so far as it proves meaningful.
I find the contrast between the colours of the two metals, between the polished brightness and the gentle satin finish highly expressive. Like the power of black calligraphy on white paper.

With this collection, I engaged in a process of aesthetic subtraction. I wanted to create a tension between stylized forms, experimenting with empty and full space, with curves and straight lines, with an aim to achieve strong, expressive designs.
In fact, I took inspiration from ancient heraldic symbols which are still used in Japan today.

With future collections, I would like to explore various associations of metal with enamel, cloth, pearls…

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How do you work?
I love beautiful images. I ransack books, I walk a great deal. I draw up sketches and make paper models before getting into proper prototypes.
I am very happy that my jewellery is all made in France, and is combining cutting-edge technologies with the quality of a hand-crafted finish.

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