Art is often an expression of a creative’s innermost thoughts and feelings. Where some forge chaos, others choose to produce beauty. And for Shuri Kimura, founder of local handmade jewellery business, Kijewels, the last part could not be more true.
Artisanship had not always been Kimura’s grand plan, who is of Malaysian and Japanese descent. Settling on a sole path had been a struggle in earlier years, and despite attending university to study architecture, her calling lay elsewhere. “I knew that it wasn’t for me even before graduating,” she says, although she regards the experience with grace, stating it taught her “a lot of skills and strength”.
Things took a turn when she entered a period of listlessness after graduating. “I went through one of my lowest points in life where I felt so lost,” she says and recalls her time working as a social media specialist that left her feeling drained and yearning for more.
To keep herself preoccupied during these tough times, she picked up accessory making, an easy choice of activity as her mother used to indulge in the same pastime and owned all the necessary tools.
In 2019, after leaving her corporate position, she went on a three month-long soul-searching trip to Spain’s Tenerife Island and worked various online jobs to generate income. Still, she found herself constantly returning to jewellery. “I guess you could say it was because I was truly passionate about it and it lit my soul on fire,” she mentions. Realising this was one thing her interest had never wavered from, she took a leap of faith, and thus Kijewels was born.
Now going on three and a half years, the label is a well-loved brand treasured for its unique and high quality pieces. Across the products and branding, Kimura has fancied natural materials and dreamy landscape visuals, leaving one with the impression of tropical vacations and meditative getaways. This artistic direction stems from Kimura’s love for travel and picking out shiny mementos on tours overseas.
“Every time I visited somewhere new, I would always buy jewellery from that place. I liked the idea of being able to wear jewellery that holds a memory or a story.” she notes.
Departing from the minimalistic offerings found in many other self-made establishments, Kijewels presents bold and colourful designs that according to their maker, aims to help wearers “express their authentic selves”. Most of the beads and charms are sourced from suppliers found through Kimura’s globetrotting excursions. From vibrant raw-cut crystal charms acquired from an Afghanistani family business to recycled glass beads hailing from Bali, these components imbue each piece with the stories of the locations they come from and the people who curate them.
Perhaps most beautiful of all, however, are the memories, growth and proximity to nature that Kijewels symbolises for its founder– starting from its name. The Japanese word Ki essentially translates to ‘life force’ or ‘energy’, and the incorporation of this term demonstrates the significance of spirituality and the environment in Kimura’s life that has overflowed into her craft and made an impact on her consumer base.
“I believe everything carries energy – people, things, places. I have learned this throughout my life experiences and now I live a life where I am mindful of where I use my own energy.” she says. “Kijewels was born with a purpose to remind you to nurture your energy and to feel connected to Mother Earth.”
Kimura’s childhood spent in Japan also plays an important role in her creative process. “I was surrounded with a lot of symbolic things around me when growing up in Japan,” she says, bringing up the plates of salt her grandmother placed outside the house to ward off evil spirits and the traditional protection talismans she would bring home from temple visits.
This credence in the otherworldly and the universe’s power infused the brand’s identity. Each listing on the shop’s website comes with a detailed description about the benefits of the crystals used and the inspirations and messages that bring each piece to life. It seems to work wonders, with several clients telling Kimura that her jewellery carries a “calm and healing energy” they resonate with strongly.
These highlights and achievements were not without their obstacles. From its inception till current day, Kijewels has been a one woman show. But as testing as it was to learn how to manage a business from scratch, Kimura looks back on her progress and is proud of how far she has come today.
“Within the first 2 years, I had to get rid of so many of my bad habits so I could show up as my best self everyday,” she comments. “I once heard on a podcast ‘Entrepreneurship is not about reaching that final destination, but it’s about the person you become along the way’, and I really resonated with that.”
This never-ending journey is what she looks forward to the most when asked about what is on the horizon. Beyond her recent experiments into silversmithing, she does not give much away, not one to count her chickens before they hatch. What is for certain is the business’ sunny trajectory that mirrors its owner’s aspirations, and Kimura’s continued efforts to provide wearable allure that portrays one’s inner beauty.
This article first appeared on Sept 4, 2023 in The Edge Malaysia.