THE KENTO ETHOS
KENTO was created for earring enthusiasts, colour collectors, and people who are passionate about print
With the aim of being more than a just brand and online store, KENTO is also a space to share ideas with other creative minded people and contribute to the creative community. This is achieved through transparency and a DIY approach to everything that is made for KENTO. What this means is that although I want people to buy my products, I also want to encourage and empower people to create their own fabulous earrings, experiment with illustration or get some totes printed with their own designs.
KAIA YOLANDA KENTO
The name KENTO is very personal for me because it is my surname.
My parents named me Kaia after a Bob Marley song and Yolanda because it sounded cool. But the name Kento has a slightly more interesting and meaningful origin story
People often identify the Japanese origins of the name Kento , but it is also connected to some of the early and forgotten history of my ancestors. William Kento was a Dutch whaler and the first recorded pakeha to drown in the Waiapu river. When he died in 1849 he left behind two children by his wife Ani, who was a Maori woman of high rank. Kento’s sons Wiremu and Werepu were adopted by Captain James Peachy and because Wiremu took the name “Peachey” it is perpetuated by his descendants to this day. One of those descendants was my mother who decided to change her name Peachey to Kento as a way to connect with her ancestral history. She then gifted this name to me.
So what is the origin story of a woman named after a Bob Marley song and the first pakeha to drown in the Waiapu river?
When I was about 18 months old my parents decided to search for land in the Far North region of New Zealand. We ended up moving to the Waipoua forest and my parents established a small hobby farm, where we grew vegetables and kept a menagerie of pets including a donkey, peacock and cow (the neighbours pig would also visit occasionally). I was home-schooled for most of my childhood and art was a huge part of my upbringing. I was happiest when I was creating and I remember making candles, marbled paper, woven flax flowers (harekeke putiputi), fimo beads and many other creations.
When my parents separated I went to live with my father in the Bay of Islands and enroll in high school. I was still interested in the arts and studied design and photography, but my attention was divided amongst the academic and social demands that adolescents experience. I also started to feel very self-conscious about my artistic abilities, so I stopped creating and decided to be "sensible" and study a Bachelor of Arts at university.
My journey through university was a difficult one, I struggled with my mental health and dropped out after my first year, returning home before deciding to move to Wellington on a whim. I then worked for a while but became disillusioned with working as a cleaner, worrying that I could never be anything else. I went back to university with a determination to finish and when I graduated in 2017 I was proud of myself and what I had achieved, but I was also exhausted and fraying at the edges. Struggling to secure a graduate job brought back feelings of inadequacy that have followed me throughout life. I was overcome by anxiety and scared that I would never be content with my life, or myself.
But then I started to create again. I made earrings from random craft supplies that had been stored in boxes for years because I feared they would be wasted on my creations. I made paintings that I didn't like, but I tried to focus on the process and the peace I felt when I was creating them.
Months earlier, a workmate had mentioned making earrings from polymer clay.
I had been reminded of the many Fimo beads and plasticine miniatures that I had made as a child. I didn't have much money so I bought a couple of packets of clay and made a few pairs of earrings. Working with the clay was therapeutic and I was transported back to the state of joy I remember feeling as a child, playing with my plasticine: making little cakes, fruits and a even a marbled orange roast chicken (wish I had a photo of this abomination). Creating kept me occupied during the many spare hours that I had while working casually and trying to find a full-time job.
Eventually I realised that I was actually getting good at making earrings and my friends and family encouraged me sell them. On the 28th of April 2018, I launched this website to coincide with my 23rd birthday, I went to a few markets and even got some amazing stockists along the way. I was feeling more confident, not only as an artist but also as a young woman who had struggled to see her self-worth for so long. Not long after I launched Kento, I was offered a full-time job I had applied for in the public service sector. I credit this offer to my rediscovered confidence and I don't think I could have endured the preceding months of rejection if I hadn't been creating earrings.
I love a long winded story, but in an effort to cut this one a little shorter: I'll stop here and say that making earrings has helped me traverse the difficult roads in life. I still struggle with my mental health and sometimes it's hard to balance Kento with the commitments of a full-time job, friends, partner and and what seems like a never ending list of chores that need to be done. But I am forever grateful for the confidence that Kento gives me: to be creative, talk to people and try new things.
And thank you!
For reading all of this and taking an interest in Kento's story and my story
Kaia Yolanda Kento