For the IKEA Art Event 2018, the Swedish-founded Dutch-based company focused on issuing affordable sculptural art pieces. Creating a collection of limited edition glass figurines that were handmade at Målerås Glassworks, IKEA invited eight contemporary artists to participate in the project, most of whom had a background involving designer toys. Designed by the only woman involved in this collection, the Nocturnal creation embodies not only the fantastical artistry but also the feminine spirit of its maker, Junko Mizuno (水野純子, or Mizuno Junko, in her native Japanese).

A Brief History of Junko Mizuno

An accomplished illustrator and popular manga artist, Mizuno began her career by self-publishing a comic titled MINA animal DX in 1996. Following this, her work in the Japanese pop culture magazine H received notice from the record label Avex Trax, who enlisted her to create a manga that would be serialized within the booklets of their Pure Trance techno compilation CD releases. After this first major manga outing, she retold Grimms’ Fairy Tales in manga format, her renditions garnering international attention and allowing her to develop a worldwide following.

With an aesthetic that is possibly best described as a fusion of pop art, psychedelia, and macabre fabulism, her illustrations and paintings often reference familiar fairy tale tropes, like revenge, retribution, tragedy, and indulgence. Frequently imbued with symbolic content, her two-dimensional works have been regularly displayed within fine art galleries since 2005. And while Mizuno has continued to produce new manga works, including a pop-up book, she has also had her concepts frequently translated sculpturally as designer toys since 2002. Known for granting a sense of femininity to all the forms she works on, Mizuno’s designer toy oeuvre frequently employs gold accents, flower- and flame-shaped decorations, and a sense of internal aspects being exposed externally, all of which can be seen on her IKEA Art Event 2018 contribution, Nocturnal.

IKEA Art Event 2018: Junko Mizuno’s Nocturnal

According to Mizuno, “because it’s hard to make a very detailed figure with cast glass”, the only limitation IKEA initially stipulated for her submissions was that they had “to be simpler than the art toys I’d previously designed”. Trying to make each “design as simple as possible while keeping my own art style”, Mizuno states, she proposed two designs to the company, which she originally referred to as “Owl Girl” and “Lion Girl”, based on the animals these feminine forms reminded the artist of. And while Mizuno clarifies that she “loved them both”, IKEA’s selection to ultimately produce the Owl Girl design didn’t seem to upset the artist. “I just love owls”, she explains, “they are beautiful, mysterious, and look kind of human-like to me”.
“When I create art, I usually don’t think much and just draw whatever naturally comes to my mind”, Mizuno discloses, listing the elements on her creation’s chest as “a heart, a diamond, a piece of meat, an egg, a snake, and some flowers”. Admittedly, these “are just my favorite things to draw”, she says, before pondering how “my art is always about women’s power and energy so I may be picking the elements that have something to do with the themes unconsciously”. As for the coloration of the piece, Mizuno’s “first ideas for the color were amber or blue-green”, she admits, noting that “IKEA kept trying different colors and finally decided on the purple to balance with the other figurines in the series”. Accented by metallic gold sticker details on her figure’s face, “I love how the color is subtle and not too bright”, Mizuno adds, “and how it looks different depending on the lighting”. As for the final title of her limited edition glass figurine, “I chose the name Nocturnal“, she says, “because owls are nocturnal animals and I’m a night person too”. In fact, “I worked on the design mainly at night”, Mizuno notes, “so I thought it would be a perfect name”. Coincidentally, Mizuno mentioned that she “actually wanted to name it Nattlig“, or “Nocturnal” in Swedish, only to discover that “there was already an IKEA product named Nattlig, which is a mattress protector!”

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