Jungsuk Ko’s Mazarine Blue Doll Line Evolves and Expands

By Wil Peterson

Lluvia is Mazarine’s second Black doll sculpture after Leona. He said dark resin is more difficult to work with because it hardens quickly and the color doesn’t spread as fast. However, he is satisfied with the result and said the resin caster did a good job. “There was no particular inspiration or model for the sculpture. I just did what I wanted,” he said. “Many years ago, somebody told me that my doll with an open mouth seemed like she was saying something to her. I took it as a huge compliment. Since then, I enjoy making open-mouthed dolls.”

Collectors often see dolls as things of beauty. Jungsuk Ko views them as works of art — vehicles for artistic explo­ration and expression. This mindset motivated him to become a multitalented force in the doll-design arena.

Constantly Creating

Perhaps best known for his high-fashion Mazarine Blue ball-jointed dolls (BJDs), the insatiably curious, technically profi­cient, and seemingly tireless resident of Seoul, Korea, has spent 15 years designing and refining female muses. This intense pas­sion has led him down several interconnected paths in recent years. “I have three jobs, but they are all about dolls. I make and sell my own dolls, not only fashion dolls but also other BJDs,” he said. “I also sculpt dolls as commission work for other people or other BJD companies in Korea and Japan. And I’ve been tutor­ing many people about making dolls in 3D modeling.”

Inspired by Korean fashion models with hush cut hair, Mazarine said, “Ivy is a cool city girl who expresses herself. Urban, cool, and a tiny bit goth.” She is a modified version of his former Korean doll, SunYeong, with a face that is intended to have a stronger, more detailed look. Ivy comes with a casual — but detailed — dress in deep coral pink with black ribbon.
Carmen is wearing a grayish-blue gown with faux fur. Carmen was released in 2013.
Ava has one of the first heads created for this new body, and her red wig was inspired by ‘90s Ginger Spice. She’s wearing a mermaid dress and faux fur shawl. Mazarine designed the fabric: “I started the pattern with simple lines, then added romantic roses to look like a rose garden. I wanted Ava to look glamorous and posh. And, of course, I made a pair of long gloves.” The sculpted glove hands are an advanced version of ones he made several years ago for his dolls Gabriella and SunYeong.
Versatility was a key element for Mazarine’s forthcoming resin ballerina BJD. “She’s a ballerina, but she comes with black gloves. So, if you put on her gloves and her high heels, then she doesn’t look like a ballerina. She looks like a fashion model or actress for the red carpet with the natural, Korean-style wig,” Mazarine said. “I chose a ballerina concept because it can show the amazing posability of the new-generation body, which comes with ballet feet.”

Jungsuk, who is also known as Mazarine or Mazarine Blue — a name in­spired by a species of blue butterflies, has created numerous BJDs of varying sizes (20 cm to 70 cm) since 2008. This year, he introduced four 41.5-cm resin models: Ivy, Marion, Lluvia, and Ava. Each doll has 24 points of articulation and comes with luxurious wigs, colorful ensembles, accessories, and additional hands. The original plan was for there to be a trio of characters (Lluvia, Ava, and Ivy), but production delays for project components resulted in Marion’s last-minute addition to the lineup. “She is a little bit different from my other dolls because she has more of a dolly face when comparing her to other dolls for which I made a strong jaw or cheekbones,” he said.

Meanwhile, an in-progress BJD will feature a ballerina theme, including bal­let feet. The ballerina’s inserted-eye feature, a first for the artist, is admittedly a gamble of sorts. “I know some collectors don’t like glass eyes and say it’s kind of creepy, but I had to try,” he said. “They can make more facial expressions than just painted eyes. I’m glad about how it turned out.”

Mazarine designed the doll in 2022 and oversaw the prototype’s production this year. “Basically, I was inspired by Jung HoYeon, a Korean top model who appeared in the Netflix drama Squid Game,” he said. He did the doll’s face-up, just as he does for all of his BJDs, but he regularly recruits expert assistance for fashion components. “I have a very talented doll dressmaker in Korea,” he said. “As we work, she learns from me and I learn from her. She does exactly what I want.”

A personal studio in his home city provides the ideal environ­ment for the artist to expand upon an impressive base of doll-related knowledge and expertise. That includes making fiber art, his own fabrics for fashions. “As time goes by, I get more interested in various arts and I want to mingle them into my dolls more and more,” said Mazarine, who also designs wigs, shoes, and other accessories.

Marion is a direct result of production delays for the other dolls in Mazarine’s new collection. “My resin caster told me Marion reminded him of a game character or something. I’ve been a fan of Spice Girls, and I was watching Game of Thrones then, so ‘90s Posh Spice and Margaery Tyrell were the biggest inspirations for the sculpture, but as always, I changed it to my style. And after makeup and styling, Marion looks totally different from the inspirations,” he said.
SunYeong in Wonderland is one of Mazarine’s previous Korean doll creations.
The newest collection of fashion dolls from Mazarine Blue Doll includes (from left) Lluvia, Marion, Ava, and Ivy.

An Ongoing Journey

Mazarine’s interest in dolls stems from his teenage desire to dress American and British pop musicians. Since life-sized man­nequins were prohibitively expensive, he settled for sewing Barbie-scale fashions. Eventually, he decided to make 40-cm res­in BJDs while majoring in fiber art during his university years.

From the beginning, articulation was a top priority for Mazarine. He increased both the posability and height of eventual releases, such as 43-cm fashion BJDs Carmen and Madison. But finding a proper balance between form and flexibility was challenging. “I made lots of body details that other dolls didn’t have then. I made cervical vertebrae and lots of muscles here and there,” he said. “I wanted them to look like tall supermodels, but it was kind of new, so some people told me it was kind of too much for them. My newest dolls have those details, but I made them more natural and beautiful.”

Mazarine’s upcoming project in 2024 will combine his love for dolls and art. He plans to have a solo exhibition in Insa-dong, the famous art street in Seoul. “It’s not just dolls. It will be fine art. It will be art of sculpture, fiber art, metal crafts, and haute couture with a very deep and spiritual story,” he said. “And if it goes well, I’ll do more exhibitions.”

Mazarine Blue Doll