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My name is Olga Orlova; I was born in Leningrad, the USSR, and live in that beautiful city. From my childhood up, my mother has paid much attention to our (mine and my sister's) cultural education; there were lots of art books in our home. Paging through albums by Russian painters Polenov or Shishkin instead of children's books was normal for me. It goes without saying that there were museums, exhibitions, art hobby groups, and an art school.
As early as I was in my primary school, I used to sew whole collections of dresses for my Barbie and arrange her "fashion shows". My mother could come home from work and find a sleeve of her favorite blouse cut off - I needed a material for my creative work! When I was in my high school, I got acquainted with students of the Leningrad Higher School of Art and Industry named after Vera Mukhina. I visited exhibitions, workshops, and started embroidering myself.
I do not remember the reason for choosing embroidery; perhaps, monuments of Old Russian art and medieval European needlework inspired me. I refused simple techniques, such as cross-stitch, at once, as unserious and pretty useless. Once I happened to meet a gold-work seamstress among my new friends artists. Looking at her works, I realized that such stitching is doable, and started to learn from her. There were neither Internet, nor materials, nor money, I was just about 15 years old, and everything had to be learned by "cut and try" method using materials at hand.
Despite such difficulties, I made a lot of pieces of works, over 50. However, only few photographs of them survived. I neither remember how those works looked out, nor know where they are. That happened because I used to give them all away; the works were sent to different cities of Russia and abroad.
Later, I worked at the workshop of Alexandra Dubravina, the outstanding puppet master. Just then I began to master beads; I embroidered fairly beautiful small puppets, which went for sale to the USA. However, at that time I held it rather for handicraft, simple and in no way comparable with golden needlework; that is why beads didn't impress me then. Still, not a single photo. Simultaneously with artistic evolution, I studied at the Military Medical Academy. Later, I worked there, and then left the Academy for office work, where I have been until recent times when I decided to quit and proceed with the thing I like - art.
Surfing Internet, I got the possibility to study online, discuss my works with professionals, and find out places to buy new materials. I discovered what I was looking for on the website of the Saint Petersburg golden stitch workshop, Ubrus. This website or, more precisely, community is notable for providing the ability to get a master's advice or consultation, prompts and corrections for a specific work, to find out where materials can be purchased or even taken as a gift from the participants; and all that is absolutely free.
Highly proficient masters provide the beginners, or students, with maximum information and help. No need to mention that it is rare nowadays and all that is to create more beautiful things for the world. The workshops like Ubrus, MEA and some others restore the long lost techniques of Old Russian embroidery, including manual dyeing of materials and fabrics with natural dyes (oak bark, buckthorn bark, alder, etc.).
One finished work can take a master from several months to years to complete; big surfaces are filled with very thin threads and tricky seams, but the result is a laborious monument with amazing complexity. In my turn, I am happy to have managed to get in this atmosphere, take part in exhibitions and conferences dedicated to golden needlework, and to learn with help from artists.
So, I embroidered bit by bit, simultaneously working, until I saw purses of Lyuba Shuvikova, the restorer of accessories' collection of Alexander Vasiliev. And I fell in love with all these ancient reticules, clasps, tassels, and knitted purses. That happened a year ago. Little by little, in the Web, I came upon many ancient and contemporary patterns and, lucky again, talented masters, who restore lost, like Old Russian needlework, techniques of knitting and purse embroidery.
And again, like Ubrus masters, the needlework women generously shared their knowledge and rendered their assistance patiently. Thanks to Yulya Kapustina, Natasha Schutz, and Svetlana Nikiforova, I learned to knit purses, though not as good as I would like to, and I cannot do many things yet. But only one year passed since I started that, and everything still lies before me.
Now I make jewelry, too. Though I have never taken them very seriously, making jewelry is more profitable, and that allow making some money for materials for more complex works. Anyway, my mainstream will be working with purses; I also wish to apply elements of embroidery to clothes. I'm an efficient person, and choose rather a casual, but beautiful thing, than a necklace to wear once a year during holiday. And I do not like to be driven by profit to make things that lack of artistic value, but would however be sold out quickly.
I spend almost all my spare time working and embroidering and, while making one idea or another, I think least of all of how to sell it. My thoughts and hands are busy searching for best result. I can remake an item several times, and if it appears worthless for me, I just take it to pieces. And when someone places an order with me for a purse styled after ancient reticules, I'm getting happy to find that people understand and appreciate such things. For me, that is more important than to make ten necklaces, which can be finished and sold quickly! The only problem is timing. It seems to me, I can manage to implement no more than 10 percent of a pile of my sketches.
The process of creation always varies. At first, I draw a lot of sketches, and then look them through to choose a thing I wish to make currently, and then materials are selected. Surely, many things change during the process, and the more I think of how to make it, the worse is the result. By the way, my most harmonious works come out when I am completely distracted, for example, watching a movie, and when I set my hands and mind free.
I leave brooches for my spare time, and it takes for me one evening to embroider a piece leisurely without planning its look in advance. But it is not always so, there are things, which require elaboration; purses and their assembling are exactly of that kind. At first, a general idea of what I want to see matures; when it comes into shape, I draw a pattern and do other necessary things. There are times when the sketch transforms completely during the work, as it was with my Poppy jewelry items. First, I planned two flowers, and I made two, but having applied Swarovski crystals, I understood that the work should be done with lace. Eventually, one poppy got into the necklace, and another became Poppy Hairpin.
A thing not always takes shape quickly and easily, it happens that the decision has to be awaited, and it comes by itself. You only don't need to hurry up trying to finish the work through thick and thin - it is better to distract and do something else for a couple of days. And then, deep at night, you are suddenly up being flashed on to draw it while you think on, or even to start working!
I copy all traditional ornaments by hand, though it's possible just to print it out and to make a piece. I take a notebook with me to my work; I cannot use Internet there and draw pictures from memory. At the end, the pattern can turn out to be traditional but reworked by myself. Moreover, funnily enough, I have no folders with works of recognized designers on my PC. I know that they exist, but I recall the look of Sherry Serafini's work, for example, only roughly.
Though known long before, the decisions are more interesting when invented by myself. As to works, I collect only antique ones, purses and jewelry. I cannot understand what "copying items" means. I believe that even a designer himself cannot exactly copy his own work though he has same materials. That is why the phrase, "I used to stay up nights, and all of a sudden someone made an easy copy!" sounds absurd. It does not happen this way. Then, if you have no time to complete 10% of what you are supposed to do, you are not likely to speak about copying; it is a matter of "done and forgotten", the finished piece is already in past.
It goes without saying that, having the experience of interaction in communities of people of art, those who share their knowledge selflessly, I would like to carry on this good tradition without transforming art into a skill of making maximal amount of money with concurrence and figuring out who stole an idea of whom. A talent without culture - of course, that is modern, but, in my opinion, has no roots. It is natural that saying "culture" I mean not only education in arts or design, there may be no such education.
I understand human culture as a state of mind, accomplishment, and esteem for people, and I think that profoundly influences a master and, therefore, his or her works. Obviously, that is my subjective opinion that comes from my experience. For some it can be useful, for another person it can be strange. Anyway, I am always ready to share my experience and my knowledge - for free.
As for my creative plans, I have recently taken part in the Biser Fest 2010 bead exhibition in Moscow. Along with that, I have many ideas of new works I previously mentioned: embroidery on clothes, several purses are already conceived, jewelry at odd moments, custom orders. There is a lot of work and a room for improvement, I am just a beginner!
|Olga Orlova, Saint Petersburg, Russia|