Craft work: inside the artists’ studios at a former Moscow power station

Craft work: inside the artists' studios at a former Moscow power station

Once a Soviet electricity plant, Elektrozavod is now home to a colony of artists and designers. Maryam Omidi visits them in their studios to watch their creative energy flow

2 February 2015

In the north-east corner of Moscow sits Elektrozavod, a hulking red-brick building, its entrance flanked by stately turrets. Few factories in the world could boast the plaudits showered upon this former power plant, once integral to the electrification of the USSR. Writing in Pravda on 3 April 1931, Josef Stalin paid tribute to the complex: “Ardent greetings to the workers and the administrative technical personnel of Elektrozavod, who have fulfilled the five-year plan in two and a half years. Forward to further victories!” Many of the building’s old hallmarks remain: Soviet-era chansons float through the hallways, entry without a passport is impossible and a modern appendage to the building turns out transformers. But several floors of the original factory have now been taken over by artists and designers and today it's their creative energy that keeps Elektozavod humming.

1. Name: Tigran Avetisyan
Age: 26
Profession: Fashion designer

Menswear designer Tigran Avetisyan is one of Russia’s most promising fashion exports. His talent was spotted early on: his graduate collection for London’s Central Saint Martins in 2012 was produced with sponsorship from LVMH. On his return to Moscow, Avetisyan launched his eponymous label, using fashion as a platform to express his, often political, views. Most notable was his Spring/Summer 2014 collection which featured slogans of disillusioned youth: Nothing Changes, Stop Dreaming, Too Much Pressure, No Jobs. Today his collections can be found in high-end boutiques around the world. Describing his experience of working at Elektrozavod, Avetisyan says: “Aside from the occasionally leaking roof, I find it incredibly inspiring.”

2. Name: Kim Malygin
Age: 25
Profession: Shoe designer

Kim Malygin moved into Elektrozavod two years ago after launching his eponymous shoe label, which takes as its inspiration the timeless brogue. Each pair is handmade in his studio using natural materials. Self-taught, Malygin resolved to master the craft after meeting a shoemaker wearing an unusual pair of shoes. A few more meetings with the shoemaker and several YouTube video tutorials later, and Malygin was already stepping in the right direction to his dream.

3. Name: Sasha Pirogova
Age: 27
Profession: Performance artist

For performance artist Sasha Pirogova, Elektrozavod offers the opportunity to “enter into another reality. Starting from the architecture and ending with the people”. Pirogova’s work uses video art to explore the spaces we inhabit through movement. Last year, she picked up the Innovation award, the Russian equivalent of the Turner Prize, in the New Generation category for her ten-minute video, Biblimlen, a contemporary dance performance set in the Moscow State Library.

4. Name: Albert Nuykin
Age: 27
Profession: Product designer

Whether you’re after a bar stool (in the shape of a wine bottle) or a wine rack (in the shape of the letter “W”), I Love Wine has got you covered. Albert Nuykin graduated in engineering but it’s product design that he’s since turned his hand to. When he’s not in his workshop in Elektrazavod, Nuykin organises events and workshops at his loft space in the building. “Being in the factory is like being in your own skin,” says Nuykin. “You feel perfectly free here.”

5. Name: Julia Gvozdeva
Age: 29
Profession: Fashion designer, artist, stylist

Julia Gvozdeva wears many hats. A graduate in fashion design she opened Monolog, a photography studio, with her sister in Elektrozavod four years ago. The pair work with an all-female team comprising a tattoo artist, a painter, a make-up artist, a stylist and a photographer. The result is fashion imagery worthy of contemporary culture mags such as i-D. The studio also doubles as a space for Gvozdeva to design and produce clothing and accessories, many of which make it into her fashion shoots.

6. Name: Dima Filippov
Age: 24
Profession: Artist

Dima Filippov is part of a team of four artists who run Elektrozavod Gallery, a non-profit space for contemporary art. Trained at the Moscow Institute of Contemporary Art, Filippov works primarily with sculpture and installation. The gallery offers a platform for emerging artists, its location and configuration, like that of a workers’ cooperative, allowing it to remain independent from existing institutions.

7. Name: Maria Dmitrieva
Age: 28
Profession: Bag designer

Trained in tailoring and then in costume design, Maria Dmitrieva spent several years making bespoke clothing before focussing on leather goods. She now spends her days making everything from satchels to rucksacks and clutches. “I really love Elektrozavod and it loves me back,” says Dmitrieva. “This place has become my home, my inspiration and my friend.”

8. Name: Tichon Penkin
Age: 22
Profession: Industrial designer

Like so many others in Elektrazavod, Tichon Penkin is a multi-disciplinary artist. Since graduating in costume design in 2009, he has worked in a variety of roles from fashion design to teaching art to children. These days he’s focussing on industrial design, anything from building roof gardens to lighting. At Elektrazavod, Penkin organise public classes on sculpture and drawing in collaboration with other artists.