Michail Piotrovsky, the director of State Hermitage, looked carefully at his Baltic star award pin and noticed: “State Hermitage collection has acquired one more showpiece”. This star-shaped sign had been created by Sergey Falkin. Other small masterpieces of this famous Saint Petersburg sculptor are held by Andrzej Wajda, Donatas Banionis, Valentina Matviyenko, Renata Litvinova, for example. Today we are talking to the master about the beauty of stone and about secrets of such a unique form of art as jewelry-stone-curving plastic.
– You may do whatever you want of clay, plastics and metall. But stone is a special material. While you are working with that you are co-working with nature. It is the one, that gad given the stone its hardness, cut-out and smoothness. You must not destroy its nature. Stone doesn’t like being forced, otherwise that will revenge on you.
– How will it revenge on you?
– You will have no result. Of course, you will have some polish object but this is not a piece of art.
– Does that mean you must be gentle with stone?
– A stone doesn’t like weakness. It likes to be as an equal, it likes than you communicate and deal with it. After that, it opens oneself to you with its whole variety. For example, nephrite. It has about thousands of colors based on its place of origin, which oxides it has in it. There is a swamp color nephrite with little speckles, stars and it looks like a moss, a moss agate. There is a stone, which has a precious color, but it has a strange name, a “spit color nephrite”.
– What exactly color is it?
– It is some yellow-green color. There is an absolutely white nephrite. It is highly appreciated by Chinese. They suppose that this is a God stone. And there is a beige-true-brown-transition color stone! Of course there are unbelievable green stones. There could be a sea-wave-color to pure-green-new-leave color. You may find absolutely black stones too. But if you rip one of that stones you can see a green ice shine there.
– I suppose this is hard to work with semiprecious stones.
– You’re right, this is a demanding process. Humans have been working without pause with clay, ceramic, bronze, marble, granite but there was no such experience of work with stone. China, Greece, Rome and somehow Egypt (because we know Egyptian lazurite scarabs) worked with it in the Ancient times. There had been a long break before there was a reborn of stone curving in the Middle ages. The reason is extreme difficulty of this kind of work. For example, the State Hermitage has a famous “Gonzaga cameo” and masters had been working on it for about 30 years!
– When has stone curving become a craft in Russia?
– I think it happened in the XVIII century when the first lapidary workshops and factories in Petergof, Yekaterinburg and Kolyvan were founded. Catherine II collected ancient cameos – “antiky” as curved stones used to be called. At her times Kolyvan’s factory was established. The State Hermitage famous Kolyvan vase was made at that factory.
– Did Faberge appear after that?
– That was in the XIX century. That time Art Nouveau style was coming up in Europe and the interest to jewellery was rising. Faberge vitalized stone being on that wavelength. He was a person of a great taste and he was a genius manager, too.
– Do Russians save the adequate comprehension of stone?
– There are few well-informed people in Russia. We have a culture of viewing because we have the Urals, Siberia! When I was in the Urals I had an impression that everybody from new born babies and young girls to old men have a comprehension of stone. Over there stone is a part of life as well as the Kama river. And malachite is like potatoes at a vegetable garden.
– Does Saint Petersburg leave off in it?
– We have created a good tradition of work and comprehension of stone. There has been a stone laid in the name of our city. I mean, “Peter” from Greek is a “stone”. Our city is really full of stones. We had had the first lapidary workshop in Russia. And the State Hermitage collection has a huge influence on the comprehension of stone by citizens of Saint Petersburg.
– Nowadays many people express interest to stone. What do you think is the reason?
– There are two factors. The first one is a commercial interest to Faberge works because they worth a lot and it seems to be a good way to save money. Secondly, with the rise of esotery people got attracted to stone as a medicine. I mean, such cliché as a stone for a lever, a stone which calls wealth or a stone which fights with alcoholism. I remember, a woman asked me ones at my exhibition: “What do you have for kidneys?”
– So what do you have for kidneys?
– I think one’s own faith cures a person.
– Don’t you believe in a power of stone?
– I can’t disclaim the influence of stone. Everything which was made by nature influences us some way. Then somebody is talking with me about the power of stone I ask him some exact questions. Where is its field? In what kind of climate did the stone appear? In which way was it fond? Were there any nuclear tests? Besides, if you follow the esotery mind you may ask a good question about whose hands were working with the stone? What emanation of biological energy did that person have? I have seen many times that the result depends on your mood, thoughts and your dialogue with the stone while processing it. And moreover the stone used to stay in the womb of its mother Earth. And ones it was brought from there with force or even with an explosion. We don’t really know what was added to that stone from outside.
– Do you suppose there is no magic?
– I don’t treat a stone as a medical measure and I don’t make pills from it. The modern esotery is made for ones by magicians. And you must notice that they are not interested in healthy and happy people. That comes to a funny moment. A person likes a cornelian very much but he will not buy the stone because somebody wrote the cornelian doesn’t match his or her horoscope. But cornelian is a wonderful stone with it’s almost vine, warm and joyful colors. The stone isn’t transparent. For sure that stone may let an eye through but not the light. It gets the sun and brings the sun to you. By the way, Pushkin liked cornelian very much.
– Pushkin might have everything. But how can we choose a stone?
– Turn away from everything and listen to yourselves, your feelings. There are no “bad” stones. You should elaborate your taste with the best examples. You should travel to see the variety of nature. And you should visit geological museums. There are three unique fabulous mineralogical collections in Saint Petersburg: at the Saint Petersburg Mining Institute, at Karpinsky Russian Geological Research Institute, at the Faculty of Geology at the State University.
– I noticed cheep jewel which you can buy at the street and which are demanded by people. Do you happen know is it made of natural stone?
– As a rule, this is made of colorful press marmot. This is a synthetic material (with crumbs, epoxides, spangles) and it doesn’t much relate to nature.
– Do those lazurite figures which we brought from Egypt made from that poor quality materials too?
– Yes, if this figure cost five dollars. I mean one kilo of lazurite costs about 60 dollars. You can’t have a cheap thing made from a costly material.
– Where do you get raw materials?
– From all over the world: from Chukotka to Madagascar. I like guest at the exhibition in Tusson a lot.
– Which stones do you mostly like to work with?
– I have a deep interest in chalcedony block: cornelians, onyxes, moss agates, for example. They have a secret. One stone lies as a coble but then you start working with it and it opens its essence, its world to your eyes. You dive into that stone with your plastic and graphic ideas. And once that stone brings you a surprise. You start thinking: should I play its game or should I stay with my own idea? It may ruin your form but it also may play by your rules and bring you a better form. You’re like on a mine area with that one.
Author Inga Zimzare
Moskvichka (Moscow lady) / 29.09.2008
Translator Vera Badalyan