Man working in glassworks surrounded by steam.

The art of making glass

In between discussions of Harry Potter and video games, three unique toy designers and artists partook in the first IKEA Art Event workshop for 2018. The creative team paid a visit to Målerås glassworks, where the first prototypes are produced.

James Jarvis, Nathan Jurevicius, and Joe Ledbetter met with the IKEA development team and Creative Leader, Henrik Most, for the first look at their prototypes at Målerås Glassworks.

Located in the Kingdom of Crystal in southern Sweden, Målerås has been creating hand-blown glass since 1890. CEO, Mia Hagström gives everyone a warm welcome upon entering the factory. From floor to ceiling, the walls are decked out with crystal designs in every imaginable colour. “Glass is a very soft material. It’s almost like syrup,” she explains as she walks us through the different techniques. Everything at Målerås is completely handmade, but upon watching the glass blowers in action, it’s almost as though it happens on autopilot – a synergy that puts everyone in awe.

Behind the scenes at the Målerås Glassworks in Sweden.

In the paint room, Joe, James and Nathan split into groups for a closer look at their prototypes. Nathan is standing between two owl figurines, with two very different expressions. “Many of my character designs usually incorporate elements of an owl – although not always distinguishable. This design is more of a “pure owl” I’d say. I’ve been inspired by my grandfather’s and father’s roots. It has this Baltic style, mixed in with owl motifs. It has this invented mythology to it, like the imagery coming from a story, or a world that has been lost or is yet to be discovered.”

It’s really fun to work on a project like this because it’s a little bit outside of what we normally do.

Joe is discussing his bunny figurine and its colour options together with glass painter, Mimmi. “It’s really fun to work on a project like this because it’s a little bit outside of what we normally do,” she smiles. Joe’s first toy design ever, 12 years ago, was a bunny – creating one in glass felt natural. “Although I was reluctant to make the bunny at first, but now that I’m here working with the prototype, I feel great about it. The technique we used – spray-painting it on the back – allows light to bounce around inside, making it look different at different angles. It kind of reminds me of candy,” he smiles as we think about what it would be like to eat a giant candy bunny. “I’m very happy and I can’t wait for it to be released.”

James is closely examining his piece – a thick block of glass in the shape of a peace sign. Although it’s quite simple in its form, there’s more to it than what meets the eye. “I ended up submitting a really simple idea – a hand that was reversible, which has this yin-yang quality to it. It’s quite retro and nostalgic. My idea is kind of unrefined, and different from the other artists’, which I’m learning to find quite exciting. Rather than having to apologise for the material or push the material to do what we wanted it to do, we could make an object that just let the material do it’s thing quite naturally, and kinda just let it be glass.”

IKEA Art Event glass figurines will be launched April 2018.

Glowing piece of melted glass.
Glowing piece of melted glass, soon to be a prototype for the IKEA Art Event.