Birch-bark craftsman

Viktoria Mikhailova, Milkovo village, Kamchatka
Published in the newspaper “Aborigen Kamchatki” № 3 (102) of
1 April 2005 .

The Milkovo district is rich in excellent craftsmen. There are good artists. There are wood carvers. Embroidery and quilting masters are renowned. There are also excellent photographers.

I would like to tell you about the family of Nikolai and Lyudmila Shishkins. Elena Pemyakova, the mother of Nikolai, is a past master herself: she sews and weaves, using the natural material skillfully. Her daughters are highly skillful macramé weavers and very good at beadwork. The elder daughter Galina is a lace-maker famous not only in Russia but also abroad, and her works have won numerous awards.

Elena’s sons prefer wood carving and birch-bark work. The elder son, Nikolai, is better at it. He works with love and mastery. He taught his craft to his wife the wife Lyudmila, his daughter and the son.

I remember the first works by Kolya: chumans, chukoches, spoons, vases. It is not accidental that they are always in demand! Gradually, the assortment increased. There appeared sugar basins, boxes, business card cases, glass cases, etc. The skill has increased. And what panels do they produce! It is not by chance that foreigners pay attention to their works.

The works by the Shishkins were exhibited in Razdolnoye, Sosnovka, Anavgai, Esso and Petropavlovsk and have won awards.

Foreign visitors paid serious attention to the Shishkins’s works. Nikolai was invited to Canada . First he brought crafts to display, and subsequently they suggested that he conduct master classes. The Kamchatka master has gained increasing recognition in Canada. Each year, Nikolai and his wife spend one to two months in Canada . They visit various cities and provinces to teach their craftmanship. There are quite a number of volunteers to learn, particularly among Indians. All the traveling and living expenses are covered by the Canadians. The Shishkins participate in numerous exhibitions. In October 2004 they sent about 100 pieces to Edmonton , Canada . In December 2004 in Milan , Italy , the exhibition Traditional Cuisine of the Peoples of the World was held. The vessels by Lyudmila and Nikolai, made to special order, contained the dishes and the visitors tasted them with birch-bark spoons.

And Moscow, too, noticed the Milkovo Kamchadal. In the October-November 2004, The World Conservation Union (Moscow) and the Canadian International Development Agency held the First International Forum Exhibition in the All-Russian Exhibition Center (Culture Pavilion) called Gifts of Forest: Culture of Use, which involved over 500 organizations and private persons. The exhibition familiarized visitors with various varieites of phyto tea, Siberian pine syrup, honey, scented beverages from various herbs, crafts such as beadwork, articles from twigs, birch-bark and leather. The Kamchatka Region was allotted 15 m2 for the exhibition, out of which 6 m2 were occupied  by the works of Lyudmila and Nikolai Shishkin. The works by Nikolai were awarded a silver medal. In December 2004, in the same Pavilion, the Moscow Board for Culture held a big exhibition sale: Gift Exhibition.

L. and N. Shishkins are winners of numerous exhibitions. Their works were distributed among numerous countries, and numerous posters and booklets on their work have been published. In the latest poster the Northern Forestry Center ( Canada ) offers the works by the Shishkins to all those interested. …

Nikolai dreams of working in the Milkovo area in a warm, spacious room, which is non-existent, and teach his skill to all those willing to learn.