The Shinshoji Collection – First in the Silk Road Series – Part 1

The first time we visited the Shinshoji temple we only got a little taste of the rich ornament that has now become the inspiration for the Shinshoji Collection – JUL’s first collection of sterling silver jewelry.

My son and I first visited the Shinshoji temple in Narita, Japan almost 16 years ago when he was just five.  We were on our way back to the United States from Australia so I could defend my PhD dissertation and had a long layover in Japan.  The airline put us up in a hotel near the airport, close to which there just happens to be a very beautiful and old temple complex.  Rather than take what we were warned was an arduous and long train ride into Tokyo, we opted for the short trip into Narita and followed the route on the photocopied map. We walked from the little station down the old main street of the town to the entrance of the temple where a huge lantern hung over the gate.

It was raining that day but my intrepid son had (at 5!!) researched where the shuttle stopped in front of the hotel and learned we could borrow umbrellas for the day from the concierge.  If it had not been for his persistent game-for-anything personality we might have stayed in and had a very boring day.  But instead we went out and had a wonderful multi-course adventure.  Thankfully it was only our first encounter with the Shinshoji. The next time we went the weather was fine and we spent many hours investigating the temple’s old and new buildings and their magnificent metalwork, some of which you see on the roof-line of this amazing building below.


When we visited the temple again some four years later, I focused my attention on this metalwork and took many photographs of the pierced and chased metal panels on railings, eves, lintels, and columns. I’ll tell you much more about that second visit in my next post as I have many more images and some videos from that visit which I would like to share with you.  Because of the rain on our first visit to the temple, and limited time to explore, I don’t have many photographs of our initial foray.  We didn’t get very far past the main gate and didn’t have any idea until later how extensive the complex is.  But our curiosities were aroused and so when we next had the opportunity on another day-long layover, we went straight to the temple, determined to spend as long as we liked there.

Building the Shinshoji Collection Out of Three Elements

My aesthetic meditation on the Shinshoji metalwork and its ornate botanical motifs, juxtaposed with simple profiles, became the three foundational components from which the Shinshoji Collection is compiled: the roughly 50 pieces of handmade, satin-finished sterling silver necklaces, earrings, bracelets, and pendants were created by combining these three architecture-derived shapes – Pierced Acanthus Lantern, Lotus Window, and Peony Door – in different combinations using silver chain and links of different sizes.

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Above: Acanthus Earrings No. 2 – show the Pierced Acanthus Lantern component

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Above: Peony Necklace No. 2, in which the Peony Door is the weight at the bottom of the drop and the Lotus Windows form ornaments that fall at the collarbone and create the transition from the necklace to the drop.

The Shinshoji Collection is an Opportunity to Create a Personalized Ensemble

What we have sought to achieve by combining three components to create an expansive collection of silver and blackened silver pieces is a range of jewelry items that can be assembled into hundreds of individualized ensembles for a range of aesthetics.

Because the collection is so big, we have decided to release it in stages while the first production run is underway.  We know you will want to put together individualized ensembles.  That has been the whole point behind offering you such a range of different and related pieces.  But you will also not be able to select your whole ensemble right away.  You will have the delicious pleasure and deferred gratification of pulling together your total look slowly during our special pre-order period.

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Pre-Ordering Your Personal Ensemble

While we are the pre-order phase, during this first production run, we are offering two special opportunities to our retail customers.

  1. We will have free shipping on all the jewelry during the pre-order period so you will have no penalty buying your ensemble in stages.  It will ship as a single wonderful look when the jewelry arrives from Bali in about a month.
  2. Every time you make a jewelry purchase, you will be entered in a drawing for a free pair of earrings of your choice to be given away at the end of the pre-order period when all pre-orders ship.

With these opportunities in mind, we have two different proposals for how you can take advantage of the pre-order period to build your individualized look.

  1. Purchase the pieces you love as they appear.  Each purchase, remember, will enter you to win a free pair of earrings of your choice.
  2. Start a wishlist to keep your favorites together as you build your look. We will give you the heads-up a week before our inventory is ready to ship from Indonesia so you can purchase your ensemble(s) all at once and still qualify for the pre-order free-shipping offer and be entered in the drawing for a free pair of earrings.
  3. Start picking out what you love from our Stage I release right now at


If you look closely at the metal work on this building, you can see the pierced designs of the Acanthus Lantern. In my next post, I will delve deeper into this metal work and how it inspired a series of metal pieces that I pictured in my Instagram quite some time ago now, and which have now become part of a broadly accessible jewelry collection, no longer consigned only to my private collection of handmade-for-myself pieces.

It is thrilling to be able to share, with you, shapes, that have so long rolled around in my mind’s eye.

Coming Soon . . .

Images and videos of my son’s and my second visit to the Shinshoji temple will accompany the release of Stage II of the Shinshoji Collection later this week.

The Silver Plate – My Favorite Product Photography Background

This plate, which you have seen over and over in my product photography, was a wedding present for my paternal grandparents and the initials are their last names joined: B&H – Bellows (grandfather Rowland) & Hammond (grandmother Emily). It is silver plate with the silver plating on the center of the dish obviously now gone.

I love the contrast in textures between the center and the edges, and I love the art nouveau design of the botanical elements and how they meander over the surface of the border.

It’s oval. I love that too. It is a treasure for me. I don’t know that it is valuable.  Probably it’s not as it’s not solid silver but plate with part of its plating gone.  But it is one of the things I have that I really love for its combination of refined elegance and rusticity from use.

It was well-loved before it ever came to me, obviously used many times. I really enjoy the evidence of the social lives of objects, their wear, their damage, their patinas and how these vestiges evoke particular pasts and unknowable moments of human interaction.

I find that really beautiful.

I don’t remember when this came to me.  I moved many times over the years and had things packed away in storage for a long time while I was living overseas in Indonesia, then in Australia.  Things stayed in storage while I lived in a small apartment before I bought my house.  It’s one of those things that I feel I discovered, uncovered, like some amazing artifact from an excavation of things lost and finally found.  This plate is one of those things that made me gasp when I unwrapped it and say – involuntarily in a whisper – I love this!  I want to feel that way about everything I have.  I want to feel that, even say it, every time I pick up the objects in my house, put the jewelry pieces on.

Objects can carry quiet, gorgeous, recollections that flit across the mind daily and almost unnoticed every time we touch them, see them, like the shadows of birds flying over us.

I have a colleague who started doing research on attics.  I can’t remember whether he extended his research to include (household) storage in general but I have always thought of the attic in his research to be a conceptual one as much as a (flexible) physical location. Don’t we all have our attics, even if they are only in our minds? This treasure-plate came out of some space-time-mind attic and is now part of an inspiration center in my creative life where the things I make each rest for awhile so I can show them to yo