Hiné Mizushima

By Sonaksha Iyengar • Issue 3, May 2017

Japanese artist Hiné Mizushima sees the world as an explosion of colors, much like her cozy studio filled with little and huge objects, some of which can seen in her collages. Currently based in Vancouver, Canada, Hiné explores art through slow crafting, needle felting, weaving, making miniature collages, illustrations and puppet stop-motion animations.

Hiné was born and raised in Kanagawa (south of Tokyo), Japan, and majored in Japanese traditional painting. While growing up, she liked doodling and coloring, and wanted to be a Manga artist. Today, along with many commercial projects to her name, Hiné has participated in over 30 shows across galleries in the US and Japan to exhibit her work, particularly her felt sculptures. She has also designed covers for bestselling authors and collaborated on many videos with one of her favorite bands — They Might Be Giants. Hiné’s work is largely inspired by creatures like beetles and squids.

We spoke to Hiné over a few emails about the large eyed, unusual, charming and fluffy creatures in her work, the tools of her crafts, and her addiction for learning new things.

Hiné Mizushima

Left: Lili the Cat – Studio Supervisor, Right: A glimpse of Hiné’s studio.

Could you tell us about your work in Japanese traditional painting as you majored in it? What influences did it have on your work?

While I was studying traditional Japanese painting, my interest shifted to graphic design and illustration, so my paintings didn’t resemble the traditional style. They looked like giant illustrations (the height of a person) on Japanese traditional papers with traditional Iwa-enogu (beautiful pigments made from naturally occurring materials) by traditional methods.

You have such a diverse portfolio comprising of different forms, techniques and mediums. How did you learn these crafts and why did you choose to work with such varied mediums?

Since graduation, I always have been an illustrator. Then about ten years ago, I was looking for information about some simple GIFs on the internet, but instead of finding that, I stumbled upon ‘How to make a stop-motion video with your digital camera and iMovie.’ It looked interesting and easy, so I made a parody music video with tiny handmade puppets for a song by They Might Be Giants (Brooklyn based rock band, of which I have been a big fan for a long time), just for fun. Then I tried to post it on their MySpace page, but I didn’t understand how it worked. But I found a ‘send message’ button instead, so I simply sent them the link to my video. Then a few days later, they contacted me, asking me to work on a video project with them!

Then, when I started to work on the second stop-motion music video for They Might Be Giants, I had to make some needle-felted characters and props for the first time. It was actually a lot of fun, and was easy to create 3D stuff by felting wool. Since then I have been making felt sculptures and stop-motion music videos. If I hadn’t stumbled upon the how-to website and then worked with They Might Be Giants, I probably wouldn’t have even been a crafter. Life is very interesting and unpredictable! At the same time, I started my Etsy shop to sell my handmade felt stuff and prints.

Etsy Shop

For three years now, I have been having a problem with my shoulders and arms. It has been quite tough not to be able to make needle-felted pieces, because needle felting was the main cause of the pain. I’ve almost recovered now though.

Because of the pain, I have had to decline gallery show invitations and video jobs. I also had to cancel my first solo show in Japan. But during the same week, I was contacted by a big Japanese publisher to do a book cover design for an award-winning author’s book, which was miniature collage work. I had done a few miniature collages in the music videos as well as in some personal work before. And at that time, the only thing I could do was miniature collages. So I got lucky!

At the same time, instead of needle felting, I started hand-sewing felt (which doesn’t cause damage to my shoulders) to make creatures. I’m still abstaining from needle felting.

Left: Miniature collage for Kazoku Theatre Book, Right: Kazou Theatre Book

Tell us about the materials and tools you use for your work across crafting, weaving, and making miniature collages.

I use ordinary materials and tools for crafting, weaving, and making miniature collages like felt, yarn, beads, wires, glue, etc. I use five different types of scissors depending on the materials, and also use a nipper, needle-nose pliers, a stabber, and tweezers. My other tools are an iMac, a Nikon DSLR camera and an Epson printer.

Tools used for Felt Sculptures

Blue Octopus Box

If I hadn’t stumbled upon the how-to website and then worked with They Might Be Giants, I probably wouldn’t have even been a crafter. Life is very interesting and unpredictable!

How did you get into weaving? 

I accidentally found a small plastic loom on a Japanese online craft shop towards the end of last year. It was much cheaper than I thought (less than US$20). I was always interested in weaving, but had never tried it out, so I ordered it and started weaving about four months ago. I initially watched a lot of tutorials and how-to videos on the internet to learn the technique. It was quite easy and fun, and I was immediately addicted.

We would like to know more about the small wall hangings. Also, do you have other weaving projects planned in the future?

The charm of weaving a small tapestry is that I can see fun experimental results in a day by combining the textures and colors of the yarns and wool roving that I really love. I have also found that I can focus more with weaving than with any other craft. The disadvantages of weaving a small tapestry is that it is not good for my physical health. I have to concentrate a lot and I cannot stop till I see the results, so I end up sitting for way too many hours. Also, I always really want yarns and wool roving, like an addict!

My current loom is quite small so I would like to get a bigger one with a stand. I don’t have any specific plans in the future but if I continue weaving, I’m sure I’ll get some interesting ideas. So I’m looking forward to that.

Small Woven Hangings

Materials for Small Woven Hangings

Could you tell us about the Prime Numbers Go Around, the book cover you worked on? You incorporated both miniature collages and felt sculptures in this project.

First, I wrote a lot of keywords and created some doodles based on the theme in my sketchbook. Then I put together some new and vintage miniature/small items from my collection. At the same time, I made some felt creatures, paper and fabric items, etc. I also went to a (not so fancy) flea market and a few craft shops to get some items and worked on remaking them. Then I put everything together and took photographs and edited/adjusted them.

Left: Prime Numbers Go Around work in progress, Right: Book Cover: Prime Numbers Go Around

What are some of the challenges you face while juggling between so many different mediums?

None in particular, because I use only the materials (mediums) I want to use. I really love materials like felt, yarns, wool roving, fabrics, pompoms, papers, glass tubes, wooden boxes, and colour combinations. I often make something because I desperately want to use certain materials and colours.

Do you prefer working with your hands or digitally?

I use both analog and digital. And I like both.

Could you take us through the process of creating the Hello! Art Machi 2016 event poster?

The client was a gallery/shop owner whom I know well. The event concept was ‘art & town’ and the client wanted a simple fun poster in my style, but the budget and time were both tight, so we decided to use a needle-felted octopus that I made a few years ago for the main character. I just changed his eyes and mouth.

I wanted to make the piece by merging my diorama and miniature collage styles. I doodled several ideas in my sketchbook, and then gathered tiny items related to a “town” like restaurants, cafes, music, etc. I then used some vintage toys and letters and also made some props. Some interesting ideas and details always emerge while I am crafting and assembling, especially at the very end of the process. And then I took the final photograph.

Shoot in progress for Hello! Art Machi 2016 Event Poster

Hello! Art Machi 2016 event poster

Your fascination for different kinds of insects and creatures can be seen in the choices of the objects in your projects. Tell us more about that.

I just love their ‘looks’, especially squids and octopuses. I think they are very cute, cool and funny looking, so I simply want to make my version of them with my favorite materials. I’m not an insect lover or nature person. I’m super scared of real insects that I often choose as my subjects. But I really love those insects if they are created by humans (including me) as art and design.

That is why I always love vintage science and biology charts, books, dioramas and models at science and natural history museums. They always give me a lot of inspiration.

The disadvantages of weaving a small tapestry is that it is not good for my physical health. I have to concentrate a lot and I cannot stop till I see the results, so I end up sitting for way too many hours.

Hiné at work

Button Eyed Giant Squid for LAIKA Show

Help Friends Make Things: I’ll hold, you wind


You can read the rest of the issue three here.

Photo Credits: All the images are artworks by Hiné Mizushima. ©
Hiné Mizushima's photo is provided by her. ©
The cover photo is a photograph of Hiné Mizushima at work. ©

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