TOMSK, Sep 13 – RIA Tomsk. Siberia is dark, sweet, digital and fun - this is the direction of the art brand created in 2020 by Anastasia Kuklina, a graduate and employee of TSU. Her idea is to bring souvenir and fashion products to the market, where instead of images of balalaikas, ushankas and bears there will be new elements - with creativity, humor and Siberian beauty.
And if there are bears with balalaikas, it will be as seen by young Tomsk artists. Read more about the startup that unites beauty and contemporary art in this RIA Tomsk review.
Beauty Day is celebrated around the world on September 9. It was initiated by the International Committee of Aesthetics and Cosmetology in 1995. Initially the holiday was considered by employees of the beauty-industry, but then it grew from a narrow professional to the popular. Now it is celebrated by professionals who work with beauty in many areas, including fashion.
Schemes and authors
"The other day we made a digital prototype of a black sweatshirt from the Dark Siberia collection. The circulation of this collection - sweatshirts, shoppers, T-shirts - is planned for October," Anastasia Kuklina shows a 3D model of the sweatshirt on the monitor. It has a colour print - a mosquito drunk on blood. It is the mascot of Art-lavki Sibby's startup.
"I thought about what the logo should be, what it should be about. I ran a small survey on social media, asking the audience what animal or insect they associate with Siberia. The mosquito came first, followed by the tick and the bear. But there are already many different projects with the bear. The tick is not that either. But there hasn't been anything before with the mosquito, the main resident of Siberia," Anastasia says.
© Анастасия Истомина
The author of the mosquito mascot was a graduate of the "Art&Science. Art. Design. Technologies" master's degree program Arina Ponomareva (Reskaro Kern). The image of a mosquito was adapted for the logo by the project designer Kristina Lamakina, a student of the Design Department of the TSU Institute of Arts and Culture.
This is how new clothes designs are born in the project: during brainstorming the idea is discussed, then works from resident artists' portfolios are selected, then the designer of the project, Darya Kareva, creates a digital model, selects the appropriate fabric that will balance price and quality, and only then the team goes to a conventional print shop and sewing workshop.
The scheme is standard. But the task of the project participants is to move away from decades-old standards of souvenir products and show non-trivial images of Siberia on art products about Tomsk.
"Our participants are mostly students and graduates of the Institute of Arts and Culture. There are also authors from other cities. Two girls are responsible for the design in the project: Dasha Kareva and Kristina Lamakina. Together with them we think up the models and integrate the prints into different formats," says Anastasia.
Eagles and chavs
Art lavki Sibby's startup appeared in 2020 as part of the project "mUka. Skladi iskusstva" ("tOrture. Warehouses of Art"), a festival held at TSU, for which Anastasia received a grant of 750,000 rubles from the All-Russian Cultural Initiative/Leadership in Creative Industries educational program.
Initially, the startup was called Sibby's Art Boutique. But the word "boutique" didn't fit with the Siberians' concept, whereas the word "lavka" (small shop) already resonated better. In the end, we settled on the name Art-lavki, albeit in the Latin alphabet, so that it would be clearer to foreigners.
Foreign students and tourists, including academic tourists, are the main audience of the project. The four Art-lavki collections contain souvenirs and merchandise you can take with you to another country. T-shirts, protective masks (an element imposed by the new conditions of life in the pandemic), postcards, jewellery, shopkeepers, sweatshirts with pictures that are somehow related to life in Siberia and Russia.
These include outlines of thin women's lines, squatting chavs, and a girl in a kokoshnik and with a sword. The latter, by the way, is called "From Siberia with... Blood" - a little aggressive, but in the spirit of the times, a creative performance by young TSU artists. The plan is to sell original works by the resident artists.
The pride of the project participants is jewellery with a Siberian identity made from recycled ABC plastic.
"We made them jointly with Moscow-based brand Resycle Object, which, among other things, implements projects with Reebok. Alumna of the TSU Institute of Arts and Culture Alexandra Brovkina, an artist, sketched the jewellery. She has studied the theme of Selkup mythology and made a sketch of an eagle or "Lebyr" - a bird most revered by Selkups, associated with the sky and the sun and guarding the sun from evil spirits," explains Kuklina.
© Анастасия Истомина
Art-lavki Sibby's brand merchandise
Pendants, earrings, and key-rings are lightweight, hypoallergenic, and have surgical steel fittings. Anastasia points out that products made from recycled plastic are today, according to the designers, a "must have" category.
Promote and sell
The main idea of the startup Art-lavki Sibby's is to create a kind of laboratory for creative trials of Tomsk's young artists and designers, including the commercialization of creativity.
"We invest entirely in production, but we give a percentage of sales to our authors. So there is a double story here: on the one hand, we create interesting souvenirs, and on the other hand, we support and promote artists and designers. And the university brings us together and supports us. Perhaps one of our prints will be used for TSU merchandise," says Anastasia.
"Overall, though, this project is an expensive story. I am interested in doing it, especially since there is a trend towards creative economy, which goes beyond creativity in fact. It is interesting to understand the mechanism of working with the art market, which we don't actually have in Tomsk. We are on our way - we are standing at the origins. Let's see what comes of it," comments Kuklina.
For now, the project works online, but part of the art production is also presented in the independent bookstore Dogma and in the new space "to_love_to_adore".
Ahead of October, when the updated Dark Siberia collection will be launched in addition to the existing Fun Siberia, Sweet Siberia and Digital Siberia, the designers are working with Anastasia to select new fabrics, looking for democratic options that will make the products more affordable.
"Creative young people appreciate quality products - fresh bright prints and good fabrics. But that is more about tourists.
What about students? Not everyone can afford a T-shirt for 3,500 rubles. You can print on fine cotton, but the quality and impression will be different. In general, we are looking for ways to create cool fashion, to work productively with young artists, and not to slip into cheap souvenir products," sums up Kuklina.
© Анастасия Истомина
Art-lavki Sibby's souvenir brand T-shirt