Having a ‘kitschy aesthetic’ is something many artists avoid at all costs but for Suh Moonju, a South Korean glass artist based in Edinburgh, her colourful and animated designs embrace fun, kitschy qualities wholeheartedly.

“The style of my pieces is playful and inspired by Kidult toy culture,” Moonju, 33, says . “Kidult culture relates to adults who wish to retain their sense of childhood happiness by enjoying popular cultural activities and products that are commonly intended for children. By applying a kitschy aesthetic, my work expresses a contrasting idea that links certain darker themes, such as microaggression, in a joyful way.”

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Moonju’s distinctive style was recently on display at Collect 2023, the international art fair at Somerset House in London for modern craft and design. She was one of 10 designers and makers selected to be showcased by Craft Scotland at the event.

The makers selected represent some of the most exciting work happening in Scotland today. Moonju admits she felt “honoured” to be part of the exclusive event, which welcomes an average of 20,000 visitors.

“It was a blast!” she says. “I really appreciated all the amazing support.”

Her collection at the event, titled ‘Nobody Knows What the Problem Really Is’, tunes into contrasting emotional states, mainly that of adolescent joy and microaggression. She references a source of her current inspiration as stemming from “dark emotions caused by social pressure from everyday interactions in the UK as a female Asian minority”.

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She says: “I hope my artwork not only gives the viewers a feeling of playfulness but also encourages them to think about microaggression that generally happens through implicit bias.”

For Moonju, it was love at first sight when it came to glasswork art, and the techniques involved.

“I will never forget the moment I saw the art glassmaking process for the first time, beautifully glittering in flames,” she reflects.

“That initial experience awoke a strong passion within me and eventually led me into the field of glass art at a time when I was working a desk-job dreaming of a new creative path.”

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After escaping her office job, Moonju honed her skills in graphic communication design, with a particular focus on drawing characters. In 2021, she was awarded an MFA (Master of Fine Arts) Glass qualification from Edinburgh College of Art (ECA) at the University of Edinburgh.

“I’ve been taking an interdisciplinary approach to develop my artistic work by combining two different disciplines of graphic illustration and glass,” she explains. “Through this approach, I can develop my art from a creative, hybrid perspective, which is different from traditional studio glass artists.”

Moonju is currently studying towards her PhD in Glass at ECA.

The Seoul-born artist admits she loves to incorporate colour and engraved images into her work. After deciding on the final designs, she then heads to the ECA glass studio to begin making her pieces.

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“I blow glass in the hot shop [workroom containing the furnace], the glass is then hand cut onto vinyl, sandblasted then finally engraved,” she says. “For engravings, I mainly use pendant drills.

“For me, it can be a challenge to transfer a specific idea in my head to a physical object within glass art.”

Although her animated glass figures are delicate and detailed, Moonju hopes her work transcends to more than just art.

“I am a big fan of subcultures such as manhwa/manga [Korean/Japanese comics], web novels, anime and mobile games. I would like to collaborate with subculture genres like these. I hope my work will be developed in various aspects so it can appeal more to collectors.

“I also hope to collaborate with the colourful textile/fashion field – just thinking about it makes me very excited!”