UI alumni reunite in 15th-anniversary jewelry showcase

Jillian Moore and Satomi Kawai collaborated 15 years ago in their MFA jewelry and metalworking showcase. Now, they are reuniting in an exclusively shared exhibition for the first time in more than a decade.


Jeff Sigmund

Announcement at the Gilded Pear Gallery in Cedar Rapids on Monday, April 5, 2021. The gallery will be showcasing the works of University of Iowa alum Jillian Moore and Satomi Kawai.

Parker Jones, Arts Reporter

Fifteen years ago, two graduate students held their first collaborative art exhibit together. Little did they know, the jewelry and metalworking majors would go on to become artistic colleagues and friends for much longer than their shared years at the University of Iowa.

Jillian Moore and Satomi Kawai graduated in 2008 and 2006, respectively. The artists are collaborating once again for their exhibit “Polyphonous 2021: Mimetic Lives II” at the Gilded Pear Gallery in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, marking the 15th anniversary of their first collaborative exhibit, “Mimetic Lives.” Their exhibit will be on display until June 12.

The exhibit showcases their most recent individual work, focusing on jewelry art including earrings, brooches, rings, and more. It is also a satellite showcase of Munich Jewelry Week, an annual showcase in the contemporary jewelry field as an in-person show in Munich, Germany. Both Moore and Kawai have separately participated in Munich showcases in previous years.

Some of the work created by U of I alum Jillian Moore seen on Monday, April 5, 2021. The Gilded Pear Gallery in Cedar Rapids will showcase her work until April 17. (Jeff Sigmund)

Kawai said the artistic interests and themes of her work are similar to Moore’s, but the artists show them in their own unique and personal ways. They both use similar materials like resin, steel, copper, silicone, and silk thread, focusing on biological patterns and life forms in their art.

“Jillian is always careful, and her material utilizations are different,” Kawai said. “But we have been seeing many similar organic forms, and been inspired by nature, our environment, so that’s why the common thing [in our art] is seeing nature.”

RELATED: UI artist channels life’s adversities into jewelry

Like their methods in creating art, both artists also have varying inspirations for their work. Moore noted that her own work includes the use of recycled materials, like plastics and metals that would ordinarily be headed for a landfill, and that she strives to create unusual forms and images within her jewelry.

“I want my work to be very tantalizing, which is why I do a lot of glossy work,” Moore said. “I think that biological abstraction, for something that feels really seductive, drives people to essentially embrace something that is new.”

Conversely, Kawai focuses more on a personal level for her inspiration. As an immigrant from Japan, Kawai noted that re-discovering her own femininity in different cultural contexts has been a crucial factor in her work.

A necklace hangs on display on Monday, April 5, 2021. The work of Satomi Kawai can be seen at the Gilded Pear Gallery in Cedar Rapids. (Jeff Sigmund)

“I think another big inspiration is my grandmother, my foster mother,” Kawai said. “She was very good at sewing, and she taught me how to sew, and how to needle felt. I want to give her credit by using these materials, and always using a feminine craft.”

While both artists focus on the use of natural forms in their jewelry, they both mentioned that while Moore often creates very colorful and saturated work, Kawai almost exclusively uses black, white, or gray-colored materials. However, Moore noted that these differences often aided them in their exploration of new artistic methods and styles, encouraging them to collaborate further in the future.

“We’re also talking materials all the time, and we’re always checking in with each other,” Moore said. “It’s become very interesting to talk and grow with one another, we continue to head in the same direction.”