To understand an artist you should see his works. It is the most difficult challenge to express yourself in stone carving. This art is conservative and hard and the material isn’t flexible. However, there are people who have overcome stone opposition as well as the overwhelming influence of Faberge. One of those artists is a Saint Petersburg citizen Sergey Falkin, who has acquired a certain recognition on Russian and foreign jewelry exhibitions. His stone carving objects are full of romantics and lyrics, expression and sadness, humor and erotic.
Sergey Falkin’s workshop is on the bank of Fontanka River in Kolomna district which is one of the oldest areas in the city. Just at that spot there was Faberge stone business in the begging of last century. Nowadays by chance stone curving craftsmen settle here.
Like many others, Falkin hadn’t dreamed to curving sculptures from stone in his childhood. He moved to Leningrad in the end of 70s with a diploma of journalist and he had been working for some years at the publication department at the State Hermitage. Perhaps the watershed event in his live was a meeting with a famous Leningrad sculpture Victor Stavnizer who taught him to think with plastic visions. Then Sergey had been working for some time as a restorer in the famous Amber room workshop. And after that work he started studying hard stone which as it is well-known calls for a very different approach from amber.
Seven years ago Sergey founded his own workshop and named it “Bagulnik” (“Labrador Tea”) in memory of the bush that grows in his motheland in Siberia and has silky pink flowers. That was a time of high interest to jewelry and to stone carving art in Russia. Saint Petersburg has become the center of applied arts as one century ago. By the time Sergey presented his first work at a stone carving completion there had been leading specialists of that kind of art in Russia and in Saint Petersburg. But Falkin’s creative work was hardly possible to be missed. At that time almost every carving artwork has been a tribute to great Faberge. Sergey was showing his artworks at exhibitions using the principle the farther from Faberge the better. There was an aroused mask “Africa” (2000) with the bounded to the open sexuality. A classical sculpture “Atlantis” (1999) in which we can see a thoughtful fish on Antic column fragments which emphasizes a though about frailty of life of all species. A composition “Birds” (1999) was graphically laconic and lyrical at the same time as only a symbol of love could be.
Fine art experts mentioned at that time that in each new artwork Sergey Falkin had saved his own art vision. However no one could reach a peak in stone carving ignoring Faberge. As a pianist must learn gammas, a newborn stonecutter must learn the lesson at the school of Faberge. If you haven’t got an understanding of stone you have no future in this sphere.
“Baguknik” wasn’t an exception. Here they made a lot of bouquets, animal figures, sculptures of people, goblets, photo frames with enamel guilloche, plaques with enamel painting in silver and gold. Most of these artworks were just made in the style of Faberge and quite a few of them are replicas. For example, a famous toucan and a crow head. As a rule, this kind of work is kind of a test for a new one to examine what a future master can do. For seven years there had been carved no less than 50 crows like that. And none of them are like the other if you look closely. And it just proves the fact that two cutters can’t carve the same even based on the same model.
And here is a nephrite coffer (high 5 cm) with golden locks. This coffer is the unique one and Falkin doesn’t hurry to sell it. The coffer isn’t just a handy box for family jewels. It I made from one piece of stone and each corner behind the walls has a size of 1 mm and just exactly 90 grades. This thing isn’t a masterpiece, but it shows yet a high quality stonecraft and can be replayed not in every workshop.
The morning of a stone carving workshop chief starts traditionally with a round. Every day someone comes: buyers, stone suppliers, artists and sculptors. Anyone who has a relation to this complicated unusual kind of art, no matter if he is from the USA or Irkutsk, one day certainly finds himself on Fontanka, 170. Falkin hasn’t got an office but some kind of a seat where different people usually talk about destiny of modern stone carving art.
Every free minute Sergey sits at a desk to draw or carve. He had already learned to paint in his childhood. Much later he has learned to think with a pencil, to draw a sketch and to imagine a thing in stone. Unfortunately, as he confessed, a pencil is faster than a cutter. Sergei Alexandrovich celebrated his semicentenary last year with an exhibition with an eloquent name of “50 to 50”. However there could be more finished artworks. A folder with sketches swells faster than windows with new artworks. A thought about that life is short had made Sergey do a decisive move. In summer of 2006 Sergey Falkin decided to reorganize the workshop.
At first sight that was a risky change. As for the last seven years “Bagulnik” has become a very famous workshop in the circle of collectors and stone carving sculptures connoisseurs. At the other sight, it has to be indispensable to life to get a balance between commercial work and creative work. That is how on the basis of “Bagulnik” he established a creative association “Sergey Falkin” with three workshops each one with its own way to work. From now onward, Falkin has decided to attend just his author’s projects.
It stands to mention the fact that Sergey has assembled a worth collection of his artworks recently. And since he decided to say goodbye to his beloved sculptures it turned out that interest to authors’ things has risen. His collection was sold in few months. In Falkin’s opinion, the carving stone has turned for customers from an object of consumerism or an investment of capital into the amenity of art. A client who bought free years ago a stone bejeweled rose nowadays chooses a thing which is an amenity in an art way. Inasmuch as every art, especially as pricey as a stone carving art, can’t exist without an ordering customer this is a progressive way which will help to develop a new style. There is an obvious connection that if much more craftsmen art works were bought than much more art works would be produced.
Since late 80s when the reincarnation of stone carving art in Russia started no less than 20 stone carving workshops have arisen and still are working just in one exactly Saint Petersburg. For conservative estimates, there are about 200 professionals who prefer to work with their private orders at home. There has been gigantically extended production capacity. There is now a modern set of tools in stonecutter’s hands. The methods of stone work that had been discovered by Faberge’s masters more than 100 years ago are now reopened up. Finally there is a stable customer’s demand which has been confidently trending to an avail of expensive exclusive things.
As befits, one bad apple spoils the bunch. More and more frequently jewelry exhibitions in Saint Petersburg and Moscow are visited by Chinese. They are not collectors but spies who brought photos and ideas to their homeland. Nowadays there is much Chinese stone grade on the market. And their prices are lower than prices for the same things from Russia, Germany or USA. The difference in a quality of work is obvious to old collectors and professionals but not for amateur collectors. Those products are targeted at the second type of audience.
Sergey Falkin is certain that the competition with Chinese producers can be successful only if we orient on producing exclusive art works. And that exactly what many of Saint Petersburg’s stone carving artists can do nowadays.
“Polskiy uvelir” (A Polish jeweler) magazine/12.2006
Translator Vera Badalyan