Fuzzy and distorted, Musubu Hagi’s delicate illustrations are inspired by handmade glass

The illustrator takes cues from Tenobe glass, a traditional hand-stretched material made by craftsmen in the 18th and 19th Centuries.

5 September 2022

One of the best ways of keeping your creative work original is by sourcing inspiration from unusual places. By taking visual cues from Tenobe glass – a traditional hand stretched glass made by craftsmen in the 18th and 19th Centuries – this is exactly how illustrator Musubu Hagi has developed a distinctly delicate style.

What drew Musubu to the glassware – now only found in museums or historical buildings – was the unique visual effects its organic composition creates. “Since glass manufacturing technology was not as advanced as it is today, the surface of the glass was distorted and shaky,” Musubu explains. To create this mesmerising effect, the illustrator use expressively free brush strokes and diluted watercolours which often bleed into one another – a technique that replicates the act of looking through a thin gauze, or the blurred vision of someone taking off their glasses.


Musubu Hagi: After the Rain (Copyright © Musubu Hagi, 2022)

It’s with this “fuzzy” approach that Musubu hopes to create a sense of obscurity in artworks which, in turn, hopefully allows the viewer to more freely interpret them. With the potential to invoke memories, Musubu welcomes people to place their personal experiences and feelings into the works. And, what Musubu most enjoys, is when people interpret the works with an entirely unexpected meaning. “I try to express such ambiguity in my artwork, and I hope that helps the imagination of my audience,” the illustrator says.

For us here at It’s Nice That, this is the defining quality of Musubu’s portfolio; the way in which it manages to be obscure yet simultaneously recognisable and relatable to one’s own recollections. In After the Rain, the figure turned away at the end of the vehicle seems to capture the precise moment before a friend sees you’ve joined them on the bus. Or in Holding a Bouquet, the backseat depiction of a car illuminated by the twinkling lights of roadside lamp posts invokes the peaceful, childhood feelings of a late night car journey.

Now, Musubu is about to embark on a process of exploration and growth. This involves finding new materials and methods to continue creating with, including a series of illustrations for a large craft market in Shizuoka – the biggest project yet.


Musubu Hagi: Holding a Boquet (Copyright © Musubu Hagi, 2022)


Musubu Hagi: In a Town Far Away (Copyright © Musubu Hagi, 2022)


Musubu Hagi: Supermarket (Copyright © Musubu Hagi, 2022)


Musubu Hagi: Far and Long (Copyright © Musubu Hagi, 2022)


Musubu Hagi: Something Forgotten (Copyright © Musubu Hagi, 2021)


Musubu Hagi: Still Not White (Copyright © Musubu Hagi, 2021)


Musubu Hagi: Hilly Town (Copyright © Musubu Hagi, 2022)


Musubu Hagi: Petal (Copyright © Musubu Hagi, 2022)


Musubu Hagi: Like a Clear Mind (Copyright © Musubu Hagi, 2022)


Musubu Hagi: Sometimes I Go There (Copyright © Musubu Hagi, 2022)

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Musubu Hagi: Swell (Copyright © Musubu Hagi, 2022)

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About the Author

Olivia Hingley

Olivia (she/her) joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in November 2021 and soon became staff writer. A graduate of the University of Edinburgh with a degree in English literature and history, she’s particularly interested in photography, publications and type design.

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