Heralded as the “new wave of Russian art-doll designers”, Elena and Ekaterina Popovy‘s eerie and surreal creations captivate the viewer from the first moment, true works of art. The Perm natives, have studied art and fashion design in the Ural State Academy of Architecture and Arts in Yekaterinburg, yet their passion for designing and sculpting art dolls became evident, bridging a variety of artistic disciplines. We talked to the designer duo about their way to art, inspiration and future plans.
Interview by Ksenia Belolutskaya. Images courtesy of the Popovy sisters.
Katya and Lena, you embarked on your doll-making journey in 2014. Was there any event or person who acted as a catalyst in your artistic development?
Our first doll was shown at the exhibition in Yekaterinburg, and we were instantly noticed by Svetlana Pchelnikova (art historian, antiquarian, doll artist, head of Russian society of doll collectors) and awarded with a special prize. Svetlana was the first person who would recognize our potential and instilled into us confidence to work even more. So our meeting with her gave us a really powerful incentive.
We have always been upheld by our priceless parents: they’ve always been our support, our shelter and source of love, kindness and warmth.
In retrospect, what would you consider to be the greatest difficulty that you encountered when you begun crafting dolls?
To find our niche, our style, to make our dolls recognizable and unrepeatable. We learned how to work with different materials for doll making: melted plastic, cold porcelain – FIMO, a self-hardening polymer clay – Paperclay and LaDoll, and, of course, porcelain.
We started with literature characters and portrait dolls in order to perfect our sculpturing skills, and then, when the results became really good, we decided to have fun. Our first collection created a furor and won two awards at the International Doll Salon in Moscow. In this moment we realized that we had found ourselves.
You are professional artists and designers. In your opinion, how important is education? How much did it help in your becoming as doll artists? Was there anything that you still had to learn from the start?
Education is extremely important. Moreover, we think that it is knowledge and skills that we received in the Academy, which helped us to reveal our potential and predetermined our success. It was a great decision to combine our passion for costume design with doll-making art. It was our way to achieve self-fulfillment. We are constantly in the process of learning; this is part of the doll-making process.
Your dolls are really recognizable because of their relation to pop culture of the far East in terms of appearance. Is there anyone or anything that you look up to as an example?
There is no particular ideal for us. Recently we became interested in facial features which might seem abnormal, but for this reason they are interesting to us. Sometimes we are inspired by children’s faces because they are often much more expressive. We try to emphasize charm in obvious flaws – stick up ears, chips, uneven teeth and so on, and turn them into individual advantages.
Can you define beauty for us?
Nothing can be more beautiful than self-confidence.
Your biography speaks of “the magic of certain personalities” which served as your first source of inspiration. Who were these personalities?
We were attracted for some time by bright persons and faces, we did a lot of sketches and then this hobby developed into creating dolls. We’ve done a few of such dolls: Madonna (two dolls), John Galliano, Dita von Teese (three dolls), Johnny Depp, Marilyn Manson, Ville Valo.
Have you now distanced yourself from making portrait dolls?
We reached certain success in this field thus the wish to move further appeared. Now we simply don’t have enough time for making portrait dolls, even upon request.
What makes you feel satisfied in the end of the day? What makes you happy?
A feeling that the result of your work isn’t as good as it could’ve been. So we have something to strive for tomorrow.
Art is inherently related to magic. And no one would deny this when looking at your dolls. Is there a moment of the creation process which you like the most, precisely because of feeling this magic?
When a doll is ready, when it is photographed and put in a showcase, you keep coming back to it and looking at it again. As if it magnetizes your view. And it is strange because we usually have enough with it while making.
Your works are exhibited in Berlin and Saint-Petersburg now; you are involved in different associations and take part in a large amount of exhibitions, unmistakable signs of success. Are there goals that you haven’t reached yet? What are your plans for the future?
We have a lot of ideas for ball-jointed dolls including work on new collections and prototypes. And we are also going to work with porcelain. We like the material very much and we already have a series of porcelain ballet dancers; maybe porcelain ball-jointed dolls will also appear. We’ve got a lot of collaboration offers, so maybe we will work in the show-business field in the nearest future.
Could you name your favourite literally works ?
And what about film works or directors?
What kind of music do you listen to?
We listen to different music but there is one composer who we can listen to all the time – Angelo Badalamenti.
Is there a superpower you would like to have?
Superpower of changing superpowers depending on the circumstances.
What would you do if you were invisible for a day?
Tricky question! Close to a sin.
Do you have a favourite motto?
Do what makes you happy.
What do you think we should expect in the future?
Something interesting, undoubtedly.