Clash of glass

Reclaiming the old craft of art glass, the IKEA Art Event collection of figurines are designed by eight names from the toy design, comics and manga scenes. Creative Leader Henrik Most talked us through the thinking behind the collection whilst on a visit to the Målerås glassworks in Sweden.

In April, IKEA is launching the IKEA Art Event collection – eight figurines by artists from all around the globe. The collection combines the old Swedish tradition of art glass with young art forms such as toy design, street art and manga, explains Creative Leader Henrik Most at IKEA. “In working with glass, a material with such a long and amazing tradition, we got the opportunity to lift it to the contemporary scene. To take a fresh breath on art glass and what you can do.”

The art pieces are produced at Målerås glassworks in Småland, not far from the heart of IKEA in Älmhult. One of the few glassworks still active in Sweden, founded in 1890. Henrik and the team wanted to see what would happen when combining an old craft tradition with young art forms. “I think we found something interesting that hopefully can introduce art glass to a new generation.”

In working with glass, a material with such a long and amazing tradition, we got the opportunity to lift it to the contemporary scene.

Eight selected artists have been invited to contribute to Art Event 2018: artist and art toy designer Joe Ledbetter (Los Angeles), cartoonist Arkiv Vilmansa (Indonesia), illustrator and toy designer Michael Lau (Hong Kong), artist Nathan Jurevicius (Canada), manga artist Junko Mizuno (Japan), sculptor duo Coarse (Germany), illustrator James Jarvis (UK) and Glass artist Ludvig Löfgren from Sweden. “Ludvig Löfgren is the only one with actual experience of the material from before. He’s been a driving force in trying to take the art glass to the next step and, so to us it felt important to celebrate an artist from Sweden as a representative of the country’s long tradition of working with glass.”

Making art for the many. Henrik Most working with Nathan Jurevicius at the Målerås glassworks in Sweden.
Making art for the many. Henrik Most working with Nathan Jurevicius at the Målerås glassworks in Sweden.

When choosing what artists to collaborate with, the goal for Henrik Most was to create both a geographic representation from around the world and a creative mix that could be a small taste of what’s going on in the contemporary art scene. “As a creative leader, I love the art projects because they are so different from working with design. Here you need your intuition to guide you to a much higher degree. It’s more about being open to possibilities and creating a genuine trust between yourself and the artist. About nurturing the artist.”

He describes the product development process in these cases to be a mentally bumpy journey that is both enjoyable and challenging. The process takes about four months to complete. From the start, there might be 20 artists on the table. “One of the most important things you need to succeed is to have a heartfelt, honest interest in art and knowledge about it. You have to tune in to what is happening on the art scene – current movements and changes. Because art is an ongoing reflection of important topics in the world. That has always been the artist’s main task. This gives you tools of context, for example, to see where an artist has drawn inspiration, their aesthetical universe and what they want to communicate to the world with their art.”

One of the most important things you need to succeed is to have a heartfelt, honest interest in art and knowledge about it. You have to tune in to what is happening on the art scene.

Henrik Most is intrigued by this years’ artists. “I have some of their art at home. Of course! You can’t help yourself; you get sucked into their worlds as you get to know their artwork. I’m thrilled that we were able to create pieces that show art glass in a contemporary way and happy about the designs.”

Although fragile, it’s crystal clear not to treat this years’ IKEA Art event glass figurines with too much reverence. The same applies to art in general according to Henrik Most. “From a traditional perspective, art has been something for the few, a well-situated elite. It’s been associated with status and education. In my parents’ house, a painting had its place and hung there for years. I personally believe we should liberate ourselves from this type of old reverence and authority in regards to art. In my home, I change my art often. Sometimes you need a little bit new energy, you know? That makes life more fun! Besides making art more accessible to a wider audience, this is one of our core messages in the IKEA Art Event.”

Comparing prototypes. Artist Arkiv Vilmansa and Henrik Most.
Comparing prototypes. Artist Arkiv Vilmansa and Henrik Most.