Bone carving should exist

Albina Morilova, city of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskiy
Published in the newspaper “Aborigen Kamchatki” № 3 (102) of 1 April 2005 .

During the last ten days of February in the Sakha Republic (Yakutia), under the guidance of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, a festival of bone-carving art of the peoples of Russia was held. The great event gathered together scientists, artists, and folk craftsmen from numerous regions of the country. The program included a scientific and practical conference on Bone-Carving: Experience and Problems, the exhibition of works, etc. Yegor Chechulin, a member of the Creative Union of Artists of Russia visited Yakutsk . In our editorial offices he shared his impressions of his business trip.

I had the opportunity to visit Yakutia, the republic of hospitable, gifted northerners, for the second time. I represented our bone-carving school there, thanks to the financial assistance of the administration of the Kamchatka Region, without which that trip might not have taken place. It needed to see the development of that ancient art with the Yakuts and other ethnic groups. The visit was very strenuous.

At that meeting in Yakutsk where art critics from Moscow and bone-carvers from Chukotka and other regions were present, the present and future of traditional folk crafts was discussed, and also the problems that those arts and crafts face and their solutions. They also discussed the legal protection of the folk bone carver. It was concluded that in the course of such events it is desirable to work out and table proposals to be addressed to regional and federal agencies. It was proposed that culture and art workers should come up with proposals to modify some individual articles in the Art Law, which is currently in force. Incidentally, the conference concluded that there are very few art critics specializing in bone-carving art in Russia now.

They brought up the problem of protecting the local producer. In Yakutia, for example, excavations revealed huge amount of precious raw materials for bone-carving. That makes it possible to auction off mammoth ivory. But it would be better to carve the products where the raw materials are found. For instance, the United States prohibits the export and import of walrus tusks to protect the interests of their bone carvers.

The exhibition presented works by numerous Russian bone carvers because a large number of schools and master craftsmen responded. They had the opportunity of familiarizing themselves with the works of their colleagues and a lively communication and exchange of ideas took place. In Yakutsk I met a number of old acquaintances and friends. It is nice that the colleagues brought in their works. From the remote districts of Yakutia came some beginning bone carvers.

An interesting collection from animal bones was brought by a representative of the Arkhangelsk Region. Openwork carving is widely distributed in those parts. They say that these works sell very well. The Tobolsk masters who attended that meeting also presented some works made from moose antlers. They learned to make the crafts more commercial by whitening the material

Those who came to the festival were surrounded by the attention of the hosts. They were entertained. I personally visited and art school where I met with students. I conducted a master class. The students were interested in the instruments that I use in my work. I told them that by using a circular saw one can obtain blanks for one’s products. So far, the young people only learned to work at a dental drilling machine. Generally, the work of bone carvers arouses universal interest. I was asked to address the students of the Arctic State Institute of Culture and Art (AGIKiI), where bone carving is taught.. I also met with the students of a design college. As you can see, in the Sakha (Yakutia) Republic they treat bone carving very seriously, which is indicated by the number of schools where young people acquire the relevant knowledge and skills. Our students, too, could study at AGIKiI. Understandably, the road there is long and expensive. But one should strive to get there.

The government of Sakha (Yakutia) gives much attention to the development of culture. There are thousands of people employed in culture and art. Dozens of musical schools operate. And particular attention is given to ethnic folk crafts. That explains why the results (judging by the exhibition) are so impressive. I have seen works made from a whole mammoth tusk, estimated at 100-300 thousand rubles. Bas-reliefs, volume carving – all that can be done by Yakutian masters. What is the difference of their work from ours? The Koryak craftsmen are more naturalistic, whereas Yakutians address myths to a greater extent. They view the horse as a symbl of kindness and the bull as the symbol of evil. The characters of fairy-tales are more often present in the works by bone carvers of the Republic. I think that time will come when the Kamchatka carvers will address local fairy-tales They will start dedicating their compositions to the characters of folk tales.

The artists of Yakutia participate in international exhibitions. For instance, Fedor Markov went to China to the festival of ice sculptures where he took the first place, and in his second trip he took tsecond place. In Anchorage , Alaska , his sculpture won the grand prix. I visited the studio of that master and saw what tools he used in his work, for instance, good dental machines. They help the master cope with such material as the mammoth tusk. Moose antlers find an increasing application, although the traditional material used by Yakutians has been mammoth ivory.

Incidentally, in Kamchatka we have deer which give up their antlers. We only need to collect it. Why don’t we use this material on a larger scale? Deer antlers are a very promising material. In Kamchatka mammoth ivory resources rank significantly lower compared with Yakutian in terms of quality. But they can serve as material for combs and brooches. The articles produced are flat or bas-reliefs. A creative person will always find what can be made from this material. Bone carving only needs investments.

The next such festival is planned in the city of Salekhard. It is easier for participants from European Russia to get there than for us. But I think that Kamchatka residents should take part in it. There is little time left – less than a year. That is why my fellow-countrymen should get ready. It is necessary to try and present the best articles of our craftsmen. We should decide the size of the delegation. We know from experience that it is difficult for a single person to attend all the events. A team of three people can can be fully representative both at the conference and at the craft exhibitions, where explanations should be given, and at all the events representing the region.

I believe that the enthusiasts of native culture face a responsible problem – the propaganda of bone carving, In Kamchatka, particularly on the coastal sites where walrus tusks are harvested, some time ago that type of folk crafts was developed. The local people must get back to that craft, which is profitable.

Bone carving should be revived and developed. It will yield good fruit. We should value our craftsmen and create good conditions for them and, hence, for their creative labor.