Friday, July 24, 2009

NIKOLAI BALABIN

Today we explore the international flora of St. Petersburg's Botanical Garden.

In 1714, the garden was founded by order of Peter the Great and is presently one of the oldest botanical gardens in Russia.

Russia is also the birthplace of featured jewelry designer Nikolai Balabin.

Balabin's venture into jewelry design began 30 years ago when he studied with jewelry artist Tatjana Aleksejeva in her studio.

Three years later, he switched gears to some degree, by studying architecture at Repin Institute's Academy of Fine Arts in St. Petersburg, Russia. While attending Repin Institute, Balabin met and married Finland native, Melitina, and upon graduation, they moved to his bride's hometown of Lappeenranta, Finland where they both currently reside.

Having situated himself in his adoptive country, Balabin initially gained employment in an architect's office; but jewelry design was never far from his mind. "I never forgot my first studies and in a way jewelry is architecture on a small scale." He then retread familiar territory by attending Finland's College of Crafts and Design.

He was struck by the contrasting teaching techniques of Russian and Finnish instructors, particularly in the way his Finnish instructors wanted students to take a cognitive approach to design.

"Here in Finland they tried to teach us to think why we do things, and how simple objects could be. I started to understand how simply things can be made, and still have beauty." He obtained a diploma for jewelry and stonework design in 1996, and set up his studio not long after.

Balabin's creations are simplistic yet unconventional and abstract in their presentation. He approaches art and design from two alternate positions: objective and subjective. In some instances, he creates items with their function in mind, while other times he creates purely for the artistic impact.

His designer jewelry collections represent elusive themes such as memories, line compositions, and space that invites interpretation on the part of those who observe or wear his pieces. He uses gold, sterling silver, wood and, in some cases, allows patina or oxidation to form on the surface of the alloys giving items an aged appearance.

Balabin eagerly and openly explores the connection between "form and surface graphics," by incorporating a 17th century Japanese laminating technique called mokume-gane in some of his designs.

Since 1996, Balabin's avant-garde creations have been featured in both solo and group exhibitions in Russia, Finland, Germany, and Poland.
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Photo 1 (top right): Bronze and Patina Reflections Brooch Pin
Photo 2 (bottom left): Silver Ring from Fragility Collection
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