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March 09, 2022 3 min read

MJ Paik - Winter in July
After completion of her training at Peter Minturn Goldsmith School in Auckland, MJ has developed her skills by designing and making jewellery in Auckland and Melbourne. Winter in July jewellery is handcrafted using centuries-old traditional fabrication and lost wax casting techniques.

What has surprised you the most so far on your creative journey?

When my customers buy jewellery from me, they often tell me why they buy the piece, and what significance it has to them. The same piece often has different meanings to different people. A lady bought the hydrangea ring as her wedding anniversary gift, because the hydrangea was a theme for her wedding day. Another lady bought the hydrangea earrings and a necklace to commemorate her late son. It was his favourite flower. 

Much like poetry, people give different meanings to the pieces I’ve created. I feel both fascinated and happy to create such sentimental pieces.


Who inspired you to fulfil your creative journey- what was your initial inspiring moment?

I take inspiration from nature.  My first collection Flower Garden was inspired by flowers and garden creatures. 

Before starting my goldsmith training, I was trying to find a flower ring for myself. I was looking for flower petals that resemble real flowers: organic and asymmetrical. I soon realised there isn’t much natural-looking flower jewellery out there. The jewellery you find is usually set with lots of gemstones (probably to resemble the colours of flowers), therefore commanding a high price. I wanted to start a jewellery brand that highlights organic forms of nature’s beauty.


What are the biggest challenges you have faced in your journey thus far and how have you overcome them?

From 20th August to 21st September last year, Auckland was in level 4 lockdown. During the lockdown, the casting company was closed, so I couldn’t order any metals. At that time, I was about to launch a new collection: Gem Flower. It had to be postponed, because orders for the made-to-order pieces could not be processed. Some custom orders I had been working on could not be processed due to my metal supplier being closed.  

As only essential products could be shipped, I wasn’t able to ship orders. Without knowing how long the lockdown was going to be, I was very frustrated. There was not much I could do. The situation was outside of my control.

I decided to stay positive and focus on what I could do during that time. I spent lots of time taking photos for the upcoming collection and worked on new design ideas. Some of the ideas became my new jewellery later on.


What advice would you give to budding young creatives?

Have faith and be patient; it can take time to build your business (something I remind myself). Offer unique products or services. We can’t compete with products made overseas with price; instead, we can focus on design and quality of products that we offer.


In light of International Women’s Day, what female creative has inspired you to follow or carry out this passion, or maybe inspired some of the work you have created?

Gabrielle Chanel, the founder of Chanel, is my idol. She overcame all life’s obstacles. Gabrielle Chanel grew up in an orphanage. In her days, women couldn’t even open a business bank account. Her business account was under her boyfriend’s name. When her boyfriend died from a car accident, the account had to be under another man’s name, and he took most of her profit.

Despite her circumstances, she became a successful business woman, and her legacy is still very much alive. She is such an inspiration.