When Miwako Yanagisawa got tired of making jewellery for humans, she began to design for animals. Now she has taken her gold-plated, jewel encrusted falcon hoods and tiaras for horses to Abu Dhabi in the hopes of catching the attention of a sheikh. Her gold-plated falcon hoods adorned with emeralds, sapphires and diamonds, are on public display for the first time this year at the Abu Dhabi International Hunting and Equestrian Exhibition.
It Yanagisawa’s first year at Adihex but she already knows the secret to attracting customers is hospitality. While other exhibitors offer dates, coffee or sweets, Yanagisawa pours out glasses of pure grape juice from an elegant bottle to entice guests to her stand.
“Do you know, yesterday, everybody wanted to buy this?” says Yanagisawa. “It’s without sugar or water. They were really excited about that.” She’s sold several bottles, but has yet to have any offers for her jewellery, displayed on black, life-size origami falcons and horse heads.
The most expensive golden falcon hood, adorned with tourmarine, pearls and diamonds, is priced at Dh40,000.
“I just want to ask Arab people. I just have a feeling they will like it. They like the gorgeous. In Japan it’s very quiet style so I want to try it here. I want to ask Arab people, how about it? Everybody says it’s nice.”
Yanagisawa divides her time between her atelier in Tokyo and her atelier in Paris, where she moved immediately after university to become a jeweller. For 14 years, she sold her work from the Ritz Carlton in Paris and is now kept busy with personal orders in France and Japan. She hopes Adihex will open new prospects of a different kind.
It is the first time she showcases the jewellery she began to make for falcons and horses two years ago and she hopes to take orders from wealthy Gulf patrons.
“Now to I want to get orders for horses or falcons,” says Yanagisawa. “I’m bored with humans. Just small rings or necklaces, I’m not interested in that. I think jewellery for the animals is a good idea.
“Look at this,” she says, showing off a Dh51,000 headband of gold and South Asia pearls fitted on an origami horse head. “I think it’s a good fit for animals.”
She has brought a selection of pieces for humans to Adihex too, enormous rings and tiny pill boxes studded with sapphires and rubies.
Yanagisawa is one of the few people at Adihex who does not own a falcon, horse or camel. “No, no, only a cat. I travel a lot.”
She typically spends 12 hours a day in her atelier and each hood takes two or three months to make. “I want to work more but I have a husband.” She’s the first to admit that she’s more comfortable hammering out metal in her atelier than wearing flashy jewellery herself. I’m very shy. I just like to make it. I don’t like parties.”
That said, she hopes that an Abu Dhabi stallion or gyrfalcon will enjoy her creations. “I want to communicate with animals,” she says. “For example, I want to ask a falcon, how do you like my helmet? If, for example, the horse says he doesn’t like the jewellery, then I’ll give up. Because the jewellery is for the horse.”
Across the hall, another Japanese artist sells falcon hoods of a very different style. Kazuya Ishikawa makes gloves and falcon hoods inspired by Japanese Samurai. Ishikawa began to make his own gloves at age 19 when he found hunting gloves from abroad too bulky and rough. He began to sew his own with leather used as protective armour in the Japanese martial art of Kendo and in Kyudo, Japanese archery.
“Because it’s very soft so the falconer knows the movement of the talon,” says Ishikawa, who owns three falcons and a Harris Hawk. “The falconer should know what the falcon is thinking, the psychology of the falcon. If he can know the movement of the talon, the falconer can be aware of the falcon’s condition, whether it’s nervous or calm.”
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Each is edged in traditional Japanese materials like Inden, Japanese lacquer on deer skin, and Kinran, a brocade using gold thread. Ishikawa sources the materials from Kendo and Kyudo shops in the Chiba prefecture, east of Tokyo. His favourite is an Iden dragonfly pattern, prefer used by Japanese feudal warlords because the dragonfly cannot fly backwards. “Samurai spirit,” he says. “Going forward only.”
After some years, he began to make leather hoods to match the gloves.
“Falconry should be cool and fashionable,” says Ishikawa “Falconry is not only catching animals. Beauty is very important.”