Jeweler April Higashi runs Shibumi Gallery in Berkeley, California. She shows mainly local jewelers and American jewelers who make well-designed, wearable work. Her gallery is located in a retail/manufacturing area, and her living quarters are right above the gallery. It is a wonderful space. April has discovered a lovely maker named Maya Kini, who is having her first full-scale solo show, Silk, at the gallery. Maya brings a complex background to her work.
Susan Cummins: Maya, can you tell me about your background? Your place of origin? Your schooling? How you became a jeweler?
Maya Kini: I was born and raised in the Boston area, the fourth of five children by parents from vastly different worlds. My mother is Italian American from New England, and my father emigrated from India in 1957 to get his PhD. He decided to stay in the US after meeting my mother. From a young age, I was given jewelry by visiting Indian relatives—bangles, anklets, and fine gold chains. Adornment begins at a young age in India and evolves into a complex language of beauty, wealth, and status.
I studied sculpture and literature at Reed College and eventually wrote my thesis on the translation of Catholicism and its earliest dispersion into New Spain. I received my degree in Spanish literature in 2000. In 1996, I was introduced to jewelry making in Mexico, and that seed developed into further study, apprenticeships with other jewelers, and eventually an MFA in metalsmithing from Cranbrook Academy of Art. I received my degree in 2007 under the guidance of Gary Griffin (2005–2006) and Iris Eichenberg (2006–2007). Currently, I operate my own small studio that focuses on commissions, multiples, and one-of-a-kind pieces.