Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Modish Matrons: Folk Art


Welcome to Modish Matrons - a link-up that once a month offers you a theme to play with and an opportunity to get together to share our diversity and love of fashion and style! Add your link in a special place at the very end of my post, and please visit my beautiful co-hostesses Tina and Beate to see their interpretation of the theme!

When it comes to folk art, often bold colors, simple shapes and naive interpretation of such things as perspective and proportions come to mind first (read the Wiki article about it HERE). Folk art is usually perceived as decorating practical, utilitarian things that people use in daily life. But while it certainly has an applied nature, folk art still can express the individuality and outlook on life of the artist - and it definitely does not have to be bold, naive or primitive. It very well can be subtle and intricate. One of the less known forms of Russian folk art is the ancient art of birch bark carving. 

As a gratifying material to work with, birch bark is well known not only to Russians - you might be familiar with examples of Scandinavian and Native American birch bark art and domestic items. The bark of a birch tree is both sturdy and soft, pliable, in many ways reminding leather, so that many of the same techniques are used with both, such as carving, embossing, weaving, etc. Birch bark is also highly water-repellent which allowed our ancestors using it thousands of years ago to make clothes, shoes, boats, huts, kitchen utensils, baskets, containers of all sorts, writing surfaces (famous ancient Novgorod manuscripts - берестяные грамоты, berestyanye gramoty), decorative panels, and jewelry boxes, as well as jewelry. 

Russian artisans developed their own techniques and aesthetics when it comes to birch bark. Their work, inspired by the rich Russian traditional culture, tends to be highly detailed and often displays a combination of complicated techniques. To this day, master carvers work with hand tools that they design themselves. In my post, I introduce you to one such rare and unique Russian artist - my brother Andrei Lialin (visit his website for more information). Andrei is a self-taught artist who spent a few years practicing this ancient art. His pieces have been showcased in art exhibits and festivals, and many of them are in private collections throughout the United States.

Samovar, teapot, three cups and a tray by Andrei Lialin. 
Birch bark and birch wood. Artist's gift for my birthday

Jewelry box by Andrei Lialin.
Birch bark and birch wood. Private collection

My outfit today is a fantasy around birch trees (their beautiful bark with layers, hues and the almost lacy feel of it), as well as an interpretation of Andrei's intricate artwork. The peasant skirt is a ModCloth purchase from last year. It's my very first purchase from this company that offers a wide variety of charming and quirky vintage-inspired designs. The quality seems to be pretty good so far - the skirt is fully lined, made of soft natural fabrics. I love the subtle print mix and the abundance of crochet lace they used. The waist part is stretchy and very comfortable.

I combined the skirt with red tights which really pick up the red tones from the skirt pattern. 
The legwarmers I have had for ages! I think my friend gifted them to me 20 years ago or so. 

Birch bark and birch wood box by Andrei Lialin.
Commissioned for a very special man in my life - Justin Donie.

Inside of the birch bark box by Andrei Lialin.
(Andrei used various techniques to create this masterpiece - from applique to inlay.)

Russian church - a double box by Andrei Lialin.
Birch bark and birch wood. Private collection

My necklaces are malachite, the long one is Justin's gift, years ago, and the pendant was a festival find a couple of years back. The only new things here are the lace choker and long cardigan. You know my weakness for long cardigans and knitted coats, and with this intricate item I felt helplessly in love the minute I saw it. I just had to have it. I ended up buying two and I intend to keep them both (which happens extremely rarely to me). My size was sold out so quickly online that I decided to grab a smaller size before it was completely gone (which still fits me well!). When it showed up in my size again, I of course grabbed it too. And I was right - the cardigan is no longer available in larger sizes on the Chico's website, but you might get lucky and still find it in stores. Ask for Elizabeth's Ruffle cardigan. Words can't describe how delicately pretty it is. I hope it shows in our photos, though I have to tell you, it's even better in person.

Birch bark ring by Andrei Lialin. From my personal collection, 
in which there are also earrings, necklaces and bracelets made of birch bark.

Please visit Beate's and Tina's posts - there is always something inspiring there!
Feel free to add your links below. The link-up will be open for the whole month of February!

Skirt - ModCloth
Cardigan - Chico's
Lace choker - Lane Bryant
Birch bark ring by Andrei Lialin
Malachite jewelry from my collection
Boots - Born

Photos by Justin Donie
Photos of birch bark boxes by Andrei Lialin

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  1. your brother is such a gorgeous artist! this birch objects are so pretty and beautiful and fairy tale like!
    and they tell stories! even the tiny ring! marvelous!

    and you natasha - are totally the fairy of the birch woods! but not "costum-y" - in fact its a cool modern boho-look! and i can understand why you have to had that cardi :-)
    and you´r inspiring me to dig out my own malachite pearls and wear them - love the deep green of that stone.....
    your very special man has made excellent photos again! chapeau justin!
    thank you for that theme and for your friendship!

    1. I'm glad that you had fun with this theme, my dear - your folk collection is fabulous! Unlike your weather (-8C, brr), we had a very mild day, 10C or warmer. We took our time in the park taking photos (Justin did feel inspired :) - and only my neck/shoulders got cold, but I didn't want to add a shawl in this outfit - I had them a few times on the blog lately, and I just needed a change. I'm glad that you don't find my outfit costume-y. I was thinking recently that I have tendencies to wear a bit "theatrical" stuff lately - which I do not mind at all, actually. But I also want my outfits to be wearable. This cardigan reminds me of early 1900s fashion. Garden, dacha, long conversations with friends, birds singing, and piano. :)

      Lots of love!

    2. YES! turn of the century - dacha style! this are the words i was missing!
      talking "theatrical" - look at me - i can´t even be not theatrical :-D
      huge hugs! xxxxx

  2. That birch art is amazing---I don't think I've ever seen such pieces before. And you did such a great job incorporating that same look with your skirt!!
    Overall, a wonderful outfit and post, Natalia!!

    1. I'm glad you enjoyed the post, Jodie, and thank you for joining our team with your mighty and lovely team! :)

  3. Wow Natalia your brother is a wonderfull artist. Great this works!
    Natalia you look great. I love this skirt and the sleeves from this cardigan and this cute folk flower ring.
    Thank you so much for this wonderfull pictures and post.
    Many hugs and regards from London ;)

    1. Thank you, Tina! Have a safe trip home, dear friend!

  4. That skirt is really amazing. It reminds me of regional costumes and has also a hippy touch.

    Jasmine xx

    1. Thank you! I love folk clothing, and many times you can find that shapes and techniques are very similar in different cultures. :)

  5. Von Birkenrinde inspiriert und doch ganz modern. Sehr schöner Look.
    Tolle Kunstwerke aus Holz schafft Dein Bruder.
    Birken sind wunderschöne Bäume aus denen Ihr wunderschönes gemacht habt.
    Liebe Grüße von Sieglinde

  6. Dearest Natalia,
    I love step skirts ... (I'm not sure if this is the right word - but I mean the kind of skirt as you wear it here in this post) ... and I love the colors and the way you've combined your skirt. Birks are really very, very inspiring, I like the coloring and the pattern of their bark very much - but I didn't know what one can make from birch and birch bark! (I know only juice from the birch, which is very healthy.) The art work of your brother is breathtaking - what a talented family you are!!! Both you and your brother are highly artistic, everyone in one's own way. Your cardigan has really been a stroke of luck - very attractive and I think it fits well to many of your clothes!
    I had to smile when I saw your lace choker: When I was a very young woman, I wore garters around my neck. Here is a link to an older blog post - when you scroll to the end, you can see photos of me in my black phase - with garter on the neck ;-) >>
    Best wishes - XOX

    1. I know what you mean, Traude, we call them ярусная юбка in Russian, and I frequently forget the English term for these skirts. :))

      Oh yes - birch juice!!

      You are right - it does remind a garter! I will visit your old post. Thank you so much for visiting and joining our link-up!

  7. That ring is so beautiful, your brother is a true artist! I do remember seeing these creations on his site when I visited it a while back. I also really like how he took drawings of you and Justin made by your daughter and turned them into paintings. That was such a wonderful collaboration between a niece and an uncle:).

    Your outfit inspired by the birch tree is very pretty. I do like the folklore feel to it. I remember reading on your blog about how birch trees appear in the Russian stories- and they do in Croatian too. There is a story about a man who imagines that a birch tree is his wife, because he feels guilty for her death- I think I told you about that one.

    that warm long looks so cozy. You were right to buy it before it sold out. I also really like your lace delicate and feminine. I always loved black jewellery.

    1. Thank you, Ivana! Birch trees have a very strong personality, yet feminine, beautiful and giving. No wonder it inspired our ancestors to write stories and songs about them!

  8. I really like the colors of your look. It is full of harmony
    Many greets Ela

  9. Dear Natalia, my your family is a talented one , the work by your brother quite breathtaking with all the small details. Your outfit reflects the folk theme perfectly, with your multi-tiered skirt , long jacket , all accesorised to perfection. Love your boots with the striped legwarmers, they take me back. Your story about the importance of birch trees was so interesting.

    1. You are so kind, my dear Jill! Thank you, join us whenever you can!

  10. Ha Ha! I joined in! Albeit without the theme.
    I love your birchbark skirt. It is beautifully paired with the delicate cardigan.
    Your brother's artwork shines and your husband's photos speak eloquently.
    You are surrounded by artists! xo JJ

    1. Thank you, my dear! Birch bark skirt - I love that! :)

  11. Andrei is very talented! I love the details. I'd absolutely love to have some of his work.

    In your outfit the skirt is my fav...and the bark ring:)