Hello, my name is Setsuko. I am originally from Japan, but now my home is in Toronto, Canada. The name of my shop, Every Bear Jewel, is a direct translation of my ancestors’ family name, Maikuma, into English. Mai means “every” and kuma means “bear,” like the Canadian polar bear. I design and make original fine art jewelry.
In my 30s, I made a big decision to take the first step in the direction I wanted to go in. All my life, I have been creative and taught myself the skills needed to complete self-directed projects. However, I knew there was only so much I could teach myself. So, in 2006, I came to Toronto. For four years, I worked day and night studying theories and practical skills at OCAD University. I adapted to a new culture, I learned a new language, and I discovered a talent and a passion for making jewelry.
I truly enjoy creating beautiful objects to share with people. I use different metals, such as gold and silver, combined with gorgeous precious and semi-precious stones, including diamonds, sapphires, white topaz, black spinel, citrine, amethyst, and peridot. The incredible colors, shapes, and patterns of certain stones are so eye-catching they seem to call out to me, demanding that their beauty be recognized. With each stone, I try to imagine the best way to highlight its natural beauty in an item of jewelry. Sometimes I can’t believe I am using the same material that Egyptians worked with 3,000 years ago.
I’m always daydreaming about new pieces of jewelry. It doesn’t matter if I’m sitting at my work table, walking along the street, or taking a shower — I’m thinking about themes to explore, the wonderful materials I have to work with, and different ways of mixing and matching basic elements into unique and attractive arrangements. I am inspired by shapes and textures found in nature, by things I love (like animals), and by playing with my materials. When an idea comes to me, I try to act quickly and test it out as soon as I can. Sometimes I will make sketches and put the image in my mind on paper, but often I go directly into making a prototype. I become so excited to bring a new design to life that I can’t wait to see it myself! I love being so absorbed in what I’m doing that I forget time exists.
My designs are unique, original and, I think, a little bit fun. I like harmony in my work, and try to balance colors, forms, and compositions together with a guiding theme, such as animals or nature, to provide a variety of options to suit different customers. I consider how my work will fit on the human body so that the wearer is comfortable, and how my jewelry works with current trends and fashions. It’s very rewarding for me to share my creations with the world, so I make my jewelry wearable and keep my prices reasonable.
For me, Etsy is the difference between having a casual, part-time hobby and working full-time in my chosen field. Etsy provides the perfect opportunity for me to connect with a large audience of customers, but it also encourages a community environment, so I can connect with other sellers. Although I work solo, I’m not alone. I feel surrounded by an invisible network of supportive and talented people. We can promote and highlight each other’s work and bring it to the attention of the public. Etsy allows me to be independent, to run my business in a way that makes me comfortable and secure.
It was quite a risk to go to a new country, and study at a university in a second language. Through good days and bad, my desire to become a full-time jewelry artist drove me forward. So now, when I am just beginning to see that my efforts were worth it, I can’t tell you how happy I am that I chose to pursue my dream. It’s impossible to describe how valuable it is to me to be doing exactly what I want to be doing. I can decide my own path, I can be independent and make the choices that affect my life and my business and my career. I am the captain of a small boat!
Studio and maker photos by Tina Giovinazzo, all other photographs by Every Bear Jewel.