A guide to the New East

Makers of Siberia

Meet the best and brightest of Siberia’s burgeoning creative generation

With its wild mix of savage deserts, diamond mines, white sand dunes and tracts of thick forest, there is no place quite like Siberia. But aside from the land’s natural diversity, often explored in travel diaries, who are the people and projects that help shape the region’s identity? From artisanal wares to a local film industry, hand-crafted ceramics to nature-inspired broaches, creatives across Siberia are reinventing their land as a place of significant cultural value. 

Makers of Siberia, a new online platform launching in November, will present the ideas, people and small businesses shaping Siberia’s cultural community. Here’s a sneak peak of six projects making Siberia a more interesting place.

Krasnoyarsk/Berlin

Anastasia Koshcheeva

Danish design meets Russian tradition in furniture made from silver birch bark

Anastasia Koshcheeva uses the age old Siberian technique of birchbarking – the act of stripping birch trees of their bark – to create her exquisite artisanal furniture. Fusing together Danish design with a modern take on traditional Russian aesthetics, Koshcheeva’s collection comprises chairs, lamps, a tabouret, storage containers and other household objects using a simple combination of metal and birch bark. It might look flimsy, but the silvery strips of bark are strong, guaranteeing a comfortable recline in Koshcheeva’s signature Sibirjak lounge chair. Although Koshcheeva was born in the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk, she is currently based in Berlin where she set up her workshop. Her collection of modern wares is now available to purchase in Europe.

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Tyumen

Na Mori

Handcrafted ceramics inspired by nature

In defiance against the shopping malls and high-street brands that have made her home city of Tyumen famous as Russia’s consumer capital, Marina Kulakova decided to set up her pottery studio and ceramics brand. Na Mori takes its inspiration from nature, shunning the squeaky-clean image of mass-produced urban homewares. Its rough edges and curves imitate the natural forms and patterns of wood, sand, leaves, stones and the human body, enhanced by the bold addition of coloured paint. Although Tyumen is a landlocked region in Russia, Na Mori – meaning “to the sea” in Russian – owes its existence to the sea, with its selection of blue-grey hued cups echoing the tideline of the beach, its bowls replicating the splash of water. There’s no doubt that Na Mori is leading a new wave in the local artisanal market.

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tomsk

Alexander Karpinski

Collection of unique metal-cast objects and jewellery

Alexander Karpinski’s surrealist objects – anything from hairpins and bracelets to knives and forks – are created using an unusual set of processes, ranging from fossilised trees cast in sterling silver to meteorite fragments fused with brass. Like many Siberian designers, Karpinski is inspired by the nature that surrounds him, though his main interests are not water and forests but rocks, ice and the unique formations of the earth. Just as important in his works are minimalistic textures, devoid of superfluous detail, though designs at the other end of the spectrum also inspire him, such as the collections of Belgian fashion designer Dries van Noten. Karpinski’s objects are sharp and rough, made with irregularities, kinks and cavities: they are created to be unrepeatable, and it’s clear that individuality is one of the most distinguishing features of his work.

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Novosibirsk

Lera Petunina

Wildlife and pop-culture captured in exquisitely embroidered broaches

Wade through the Siberian forests with Lera Petunina, a Novosibirsk-based artist. Living in a city where foxes get domesticated and owls are regularly spotted soaring over rooftops, it felt natural for Petunina to tame the local wild spirit into a recognisable artwork. A painter and graphic designer, Petunina captures nature’s tiny details and dynamics, making her embroideries look incredibly real. A stray bird setting off a shirt collar or wheat harvest peeping from the chest pocket of a T-shirt: it’s the smart combination of the expected and the new that makes Petunina’s signature style and wins over everyday buyers and savvy fashionistas alike. Some of her work is more akin to woven art objects than accessories. Her highly detailed pieces – bunch of grass breaking through asphalt, a person lying on the shore of a river, a portrait of a friend and a bunch of replicas of well-known paintings – would be as much suited to hanging in frames in an art gallery, proving that embroidery can go far beyond traditional craftsmanship.

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Novosibirsk

Mikhail Rynkov

Precious metals and mixed fibres in wedding rings challenging the industry

Eschewing the ubiquitous minimalist aesthetics usually employed by hip jewellery brands, Mikhail Rynkov’s designs are challenging the most mainstream sector of jewellery making – wedding rings. Rnykov works with precious metals and mixes fibres for what ends up feeling more like sculpture, such as the Möbius strip rings and wedding pieces replicating bicycle chains. Both play on the subject of eternity – the idea that initially drew Mikhail into working with couples. For Rynkov, the value of the metal itself and how it resonates with the people that wear it is important, and he finds interesting the interplay between his work and his customer’s creative will that culminates in elegant rings – of zirconium and wood, titanium and rose gold.

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Sakha Republic

Yakutian films

Independent cinema from the coldest place on earth

The vast expanse of Yakutia (or Sakha Republic) in the northeast of Siberia is principally known for two things: diamond mines and the coldest city in the world – Yakutsk. The lives of its local people largely remain unknown, both to the rest of the world as well as to the other people of Russia. The best way to change this? Watch the oeuvre of independent Yakutian filmmakers. The first of this budding generation emerged in the mid-2000s, making a name for themselves as they refused to work with the Sakhafilm state studio, preferring to shoot their films without government support. At the same time, blockbuster By the Will of Genghis Khan was filmed at Sakhafilm studios, and interest in cinema grew among the republic’s population. Interestingly, Yakutian audiences seem to enjoy the works of Yakutia’s arthouse directors like Sergey Potapov and Michael Lukachevsky just as much as the leading figures of more genre-based cinema, such as Kostas Marsan and Ilya Portnyagin. What matters to viewers is that the directors, whoever they are, speak to them in their language, both literally (most films are shot in the Yakut language) and in a figurative sense – by treating old-age Yakutian traditions with respect during filming, like performing rituals to ward off evil spirits while making a horror movie. The fact that Yakutian filmmakers engage with social issues that resonate with Yakuts, such as illicit gold mining or people frozen to death on the roads, also draws a loyal native audience. As a result, there are some aspects of films which seem distant from Russian life usually captured on film, and critics have readily bowed down to the works of Yakutian directors for their visual innovations and local relevance.

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The Makers of Siberia project is generously supported by Gazprom Neft PJSC. You can submit your project to the Makers of Siberia website.


Text: Artem Makarsky and Maria Borodacheva

Video directed by Daria Mareeva and shot by Egor Protsko

Images: Anastasia Koshcheeva, Crispy Point Agency, Olesya Ananeva, Marina Kulakova, Alexander Karpinski, Lera Petunina, Mikhail Rynkov, Lyubov Rynkova

Music: Pavel Ugamochi

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