Wabi-sabi– the ancient Japanese philosophy of the beauty and perfection in imperfection, is a beautiful concept that hugely influences ceramic and fibre jeweller Hayley Richards of Kami & Kindred.
With a love for eco processes and slow fashion, Hayley creates her stunning minimalist jewellery pieces from stoneware clay, hand-twisted rope and natural dyes, all inspired by Japanese aesthetics and the earths rich landscapes. Each piece is time intensive and is definitely a labour of love, with Hayley’s sketched ideas becoming brought to life with time-honoured methods and gorgeous natural material mixing.
Where did it begin and how did the name Kami & Kindred come about?
I have always loved Japan. I studied the language for two years, and I also studied Okinawa (rural Japan) in my nutrition studies at Cornell University, I simply love the ancient culture and philosophy.
I love the history of ceramics in Japan and all the beauty the country holds. It was from that love for Japan that the name ‘Kami’ came about, which translates to ‘Beautiful’ in English. Kindred symbolises all of the soul sisters out there, a quiet nod to those with similarly aligned principals; whom believe in slow-fashion, owning quality pieces that will stand the test of time, and who love themselves enough to wear some stand-out pieces of jewellery and know they look and feel incredible! It really does feel like a tribe. The pieces I make are quite distinguishable, and I often hear stories about women forming new friendships after stopping to chat about their KK earrings, and my social media accounts are another place to connect with others around the globe.
What inspired you to get into the jewellery business?
I always thought I would study fashion design and end up in the industry, but I became a nutritionist (and mother of three!) instead. Although I chose this career path, I’ve still very much had a pull towards the fashion industry that I couldn’t ignore any longer. I first started making ceramic jewellery for myself around 3 years ago, and had people stop me in the street, or at cafes, asking me where I got my earrings / necklace. When I told them they were my designs, they begged to order themselves a pair, and after this happening for around a year, I decided id make a business of it.
What made you choose to go the eco route?
It was inevitable, what I make is a real reflection of my own philosophies, I wouldn’t have had it any other way. I love working with clay, thread and natural dyes, I could honestly never tire of it. The jewellery I produce is honest and authentic, every single thing is made by my hand, right down to the hand twisted rope for my necklaces. Each piece takes anywhere from 1 – 3 months to complete, and that is appreciated by the buyer/wearer.
Tell us about your creative process, what is involved and where are your beautiful designs created?
I first sketch all of my design ideas, and then bring them to life with stoneware clay. Many of my designs have been inspired by Native American traditional jewellery, the earths rich landscapes, shapes and colours, and also minimalism. Once I have made them in clay, they then go through a bisque fire, then I make and apply the glaze before they go through their final firing, (this makes them super-strong also) then they are finally ready to attach our naturally dyed thread and sterling silver findings. I then separate all the single threads by hand, brush and iron them into a full, beautiful tassel. A long, but worthwhile process. I design and make everything in my home studio, usually in the late evening when my girls are asleep and the house is quiet.
What inspired your first collection?
Oh lots! I wanted all the ceramic pieces to be ivory with a very textural matte finish, and the thread to be a very cohesive earthy colour palette to reflect the season I was designing for. The shapes just progressed naturally, some I sketched and were very planned, and others just came together as I tried different shapes next to one another. I wanted a really bohemian, tribal and feminine feel to the entire collection.
Who is your biggest style icon?
Alexa Chung. I love everything about her. She has a very uncomplicated style that is completely her own, not appearing to follow any ‘trends’ or latest fashions.
Has your work in the nutrition industry inspired your eco friendly jewellery?
Absolutely. It was working with lots of herbs and pigmented spices and superfoods such as turmeric and blue spiriluna that started my love affair for natural dyes.
As a nutritionist, I host ‘Girl Gatherings’; an afternoon spent around a long gathering table with good food, wine and the company of complete strangers. During these afternoons I can see womens spirits lift, their energy recharge and a real sense of self love creep in, for having taken the time to spend on themselves. I see a similar thing when a woman puts on my jewellery, something about their mood lifts as they look at their reflection, drawn to a piece that is a real outward expression of themselves.
How do you balance motherhood and your businesses?
I’m not all that sure that I do (laughs)! My family always come first, they have to. This means working in the late hours of the night, or wee hours of the morning, when the girls are asleep and the house is quiet. If I have a big order to fill and I can’t wait, we sit at our big table with a big piece of clay each and they join in happily while I work away.
My partner has always been very supportive of my business ventures, especially this one. Hayden knows I need to express my creative side even though I’m a full time momma, so whenever he can he will offer his support, whether it be proof reading my website content or taking the kids to a playground for an hour or so so I can get some work done. Whatever we have going on, it just works – thankfully!
What’s the advice you would give someone wanting to start their own venture?
To do what you love and are truly passionate about, as if you do, people want a piece of that!
I have always tried to find a point of difference with what I am doing, as it’s now a very saturated market place for almost everything. For example the Chai I make for Gather Girl, there is a bunch of chai out there, but mine was a market first in NZ as it used rooibos tea (caffeine-free), coconut sugar and all-organic spices. My coconut yoghurt, was raw, traditionally fermented and didn’t use any gums or thickeners, and wasn’t pasteurised before going on the supermarket shelf killing off all of the good bacteria. These little things that set them apart from the rest meant it was sought after and successful right from the get-go. I’ve tried to do the same with my jewellery. There’s a ton of silver and gold jewellers, but not many ceramic jewellers, who also incorporate naturally dyed cottons and silks into their designs. My jewellery is very distinguishably Kami & Kindred, and that’s exactly what I wanted!
Where is your favourite Summer destination in NZ?
Hands-down Golden Bay. I adore it there! It really forces you to slow down and connect with nature. We try to get away there every year. My little sanctuary that’s only a short drive from me is Upper Moutere. That’s my ‘magic place’, I feel instantly calmer driving through the insanely beautiful landscapes out there and it’s the perfect destination for a wee picnic and a coffee to get out of the city and reset.
To see more of this stunning collection and to shop your own special piece (or pieces!) head to www.kamiandkindred.com
|| CREDITS ||
Jewels & Styling: Kami & Kindred
Photography: Sarah Ryland
Make Up: Poppy Makeup Artist
Model: Malene Kerr