Part of your world: Hiroko Nakakita on turning pearls into precious works of art


“Look at this stuff…isn’t it neat?” sings Ariel in one of The Little Mermaid’s most iconic tunes. And while the sea princess was singing about her treasure trove of human knick-knacks, she could well have been referring to artist Hiroko Nakakita’s new collaborative art exhibition with jewellery house Tasaki, inspired by the newly remade Disney classic. Named Pure Radiancy, it is based on Hans Christian Andersen’s famous story, expressing the love of a mermaid princess who is as “pure and unique” as a pearl.

Born in Hyogo, Japan, Nakakita graduated from the School of Fine Arts at the Tokyo University of the Arts in 2006. After completing her masters, she began working as an artist, based between her studios in Kobe and California.

A long-term fan of the Japanese jewellery brand, famed for its use of pearls, Nakakita first came across the house about a decade ago and has been a collector ever since.
“About ten years ago I gave Tasaki’s black pearl Balance necklace as a wedding gift to an American friend who had been really kind and supportive while I was living in California,” she says. “I chose it because I wanted to give her something special. The necklace was perfect.”

With her own growing collection (including a ring, earring, and ear cuff from the Danger series), she loves the edgy designs that don’t compromise on timeless style. “In addition, their stability and lightness are, I believe, the result of a superior technique,” she adds.

Akoya pearls, which are grown sustainably and ethically at Tasaki’s own farms, are used across Nakakita’s pieces. “I depict the nature of the human heart based on the themes of conflicting events: between the intentional and unintentional,” she explains.

“I expressed the pure and earnest love of The Little Mermaid by overlapping Tasaki’s delicate pearls with my interpretation of Andersen’s story. I added crystals and gold foils on canvas to complete both two- and three-dimensional works which give different expressions when captured from various angles. The wearable kimono Robe and Lily Crown invite viewers into my world in a more tangible way.” These pieces especially translate Nakakita’s methods of expression, combining a Japanese cultural outlook with that of a fantasy world.

A year in the making, Robe, the hero piece of the exhibition, was inspired by “the happiness of the mermaid while she was thinking of the prince”, which Hiroko describes as a “bubble”. “I depicted the numerable bubbles in the sea with pearls. The robe was sewn by a craftsman in Kyoto. The printed family crests are original, combined with illustrations of weeping cherry blossom. I poured my feelings into the robe.”

The uplifting, pink Glorious Future is made using acrylic, crystal, gold leaf, pearl, and oil on canvas, while the moodier Starry Night mixes pearls with silver leaf, as well as oil on canvas. The Flurry of Sakura Petals, Sweet Tears, and Grandmother are all just as mesmerising. Based on the theme of human emotions, Nakakita says she will continue to use motifs like flowers, birds, and chandeliers in her work. “They are splendid yet solitary. They create works reflective of my own feelings.”

lily crown hiroko nakaita

‘Lily Crown’ (2022) Pearl, polymer clay, silver wire and super glue

Despite her obvious passion for her craft, Nakakita didn’t always set out to be an artist – in fact, she doesn’t recall ever wanting to be one at all. But since she was a child, drawing was the only way she was able to express herself without worrying about what others might think. “I had not been particularly conscious of art when I was a child, but I was interested in the way colours and materials allowed me to enter a world of fantasy. I am where I am because I have always just wanted to paint.”

The combination of human emotions and the beauty of the natural world have always been an inspiration. She founded her own gallery to pursue her work “with a pure heart”. “I wanted to create my works in peace: without any disruption, and at my own pace,” she admits.

A mother of three, she has never stopped drawing through all the ups and downs. “I don’t usually talk about my children, but I have a lot to learn from them. I always teach them how important it is to not give up. Of course, things don’t always go as well as I imagine when I am drawing, but I never stop until my feelings are conveyed onto canvas. I always find the works I struggled with even more attractive.”

glorious future hiroko nakakita

‘Glorious Future‘ (2022) Acrylic, crystal, gold leaf, pearl and oil on canvas

Having recently visited the capital, Nakakita especially loved her time spent exploring Tate Modern and Tate Britain, as well as the many other galleries, parks, and restaurants London has to offer. “I especially love the height of the trees in the parks, as well as all the many historical buildings,” she says. “I felt as if I were in a painting.”

Describing Mayfair, where her exhibition is on show at Tasaki’s Bond Street boutique, as “beautiful”, there’s no doubt that London too has captured Nakakita’s heart. “The people are so warm and kind. I would love to live there, but a short-term study period would probably be a good start!”

As her red-headed muse would say, perhaps it’s time she became “part of our world…”

Pure Radiancy by Hiroko Nakakita is on display at Tasaki’s New Bond Street boutique from 8 June 2023 to 11 July 2023, visit

Read more: London’s best independent art galleries

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