Japanese artist and jeweler Shinji Nakaba is a master carver of all things miniature.
Beginning at age 24 in 1974, Nakaba wanted to utilize his skills and “create something unconventional.” To do so he began carving flowers, skulls, and other anatomical forms into what he describes as “wearable sculptures.”
His pieces come in all shapes and sizes but his most inventive series involves skulls, both human and animal, carved from oyster pearls. These works of art are then attached to rings, necklaces, earrings, and even pins.
Although he typically uses precious metals and stones for his high-end jewelry, he is not opposed to using more common materials such as aluminum from beer cans and trimming from plastic bottles. Nakaba handles “all materials equally no matter how precious they are,” and believes that he can “bring out their hidden talents and beauty and they are being re-born as treasure.”
The process is all about the imagination:
“I start with the pearls that are imperfect, never perfectly round. I prefer ones that have a slightly uneven surface. I start looking at curves and dents to begin. Soon after, cheekbones and backbones are starting to emerge—it’s almost accidental.”
Nakaba’s work has been shown at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, the Museum of Arts & Design in New York and several other galleries and museums throughout Japan. You can also browse and purchase his jewelry designs and pearl carvings on his website.