Maiko Suzuki originally hails from Tokyo, Japan, where she gained a wealth of knowledge about eastern culture. She fell equally in love with western culture when she visited NYC with her mom at age 13, and the rest is history. At the age of 17, Maiko made her way to the U.S., where she settled into life in the Big Apple. Since then, Maiko has enjoyed her life here in Harlem — right around the corner from NiLu.
Maiko, like many people, was originally drawn to Harlem because of the cheap rent for a sizable apartment. However, she fell in love with the neighborhood and explains that it simply became home over the years. “I love the small community, history behind [Harlem], and [that] we still have peace of mind here.”
Taking after her parents, Maiko went to Parsons School Of Design and studied graphic design. She focused on illustration, and once beginning her professional career began working in fashion. However, as the years passed Maiko grew increasingly more intrigued with metal work. Although she didn’t pursue it immediately, Maiko eventually took the leap into jewelry design. In 2009 she took a class, allowing her to learn the fundamental skills and techniques of jewelry design. With tons of visions in her head, she was ready to bring her designs to life. Thus, Maiko Suzuki Jewelry was born.
For the past 10 years now, Maiko has designed timeless jewelry, never succumbing to trends or fads. What originally began as a hobby of making jewelry for friends didn’t become a full-fledged business endeavor until 2014 or 2015. For the past few years, Maiko has truly focused on craftsmanship and is grateful that NiLu was the first store to carry Maiko Suzuki Jewelry.
Nevertheless, Maiko doesn’t let sales stress her out too much. “I started making jewelry with my passion — not to just make money.” Her genuine love of the art form is what keeps her motivated, even when the business ebbs and flows with success. “I believe in my vision and I believe that there are people [out there] who appreciate my vision.
Maiko is most inspired by her travels and takes great pride in her ability to immerse herself within other cultures. She loves the young creatives in Greece, the quality and details of work in Asian cultures, and finds the beauty of every culture outside and in between. African art, textures, and textiles are inspiring to Maiko, so she hopes to travel to Morocco and the Middle East next.
People may be surprised to learn that Maiko enjoys 3D learning, but she doesn’t use those skills in her own jewelry making. She thinks there’s something special about her handmade pieces — and thinks her customers agree as well. Maiko says that her favorite part of being a maker is that she can create art that follows people through life. She specifically likes designing jewelry for women, so they can become comfortable with wearing statement pieces and using jewelry as “a way to represent their power.” While clothing and shoes are quickly replaced, “metal and stones last forever,” Maiko said. That’s why she specifically works with those materials, “so maybe 10 or 20 years later you can still have the same pieces.”
It’s not all easy breezy, however. Maiko balances her thriving jewelry business along with a full-time job. “We all have [the] same limited time a day,” she explains, “and it is very hard to own your own business when you have a job.” Maiko works on her jewelry at night and on weekends, saying, “I think it comes down to how much you want to achieve your goals.”
Not to mention, it doesn’t hurt to ask questions. “When you are a startup, you have so many questions about everything, and trying to figure it out by yourself is the hardest.” So her ultimate advice?
“Ask other business owners for guidance."
Maiko Suzuki Jewelry can also now be found in boutiques in Flatbush, Midtown, and even Upstate, NY. But for Maiko, NiLu will always be home. “It’s great they find local designers and try to support the community because it’s really hard for makers to grow quickly,” adding that NiLu makes it a bit easier. NiLu’s pop up shops are some of Maiko’s favorite, since she can meet new people — both customers and makers — at each event. Additionally, she loves that NiLu’s events give customers the chance “to find something special that’s different than shopping online.”