New course! Intaglio carving technique on transparent stones by Vladimir Popovich


The International Jewelry School launches a new course in intaglio carving technique on transparent stones. It will be conducted by Vladimir Popovich, an amazing person and a talented carver. We talked with him the other day and learned a lot of interesting things, both about the teacher himself and his carving technique.

Vladimir Popovich is a truly unique person: in the past, he was a qualified mine geologist who traveled all over Russia on expeditions to search for ore, gold and precious stones. Right now he is an outstanding jewelry professional cooperating with the Tenzo Jewelry House. An unusual combination of knowledge and skills in the fields of geology and jewelry craftsmanship open up new horizons: according to Vladimir, thanks to his work as a geologist, he learned to “hear” the stone, feel it and see its essence. It is one of the foundations in the study of his original course in the intaglio technique.

- Could you tell us in more detail what makes your technique unique? What makes it difficult? What are its distinguishing features? What to pay more attention to?

- The carving technique is a traditional thing rather than unique. I carve the same way it was done by the ancient carvers. The only difference is that I use an electric drive instead of a foot or bow-shaped one. In addition, the fundamental difference from traditional carving is that I work with a rotating tool as if it were a chisel or a pencil. That is, both the stone and the tool are in a free position, making my work more convenient, whereas traditional carvers worked on stationary, rigidly fixed machines and tools. Nowadays it can still be used in a traditional way, like in the German school, but the current trend (a kind of a revolution in the area) is to use a rotating tool as a cutter.

It’s hard for me to talk about complexity, because when there are skills, everything seems simple. At first I was afraid of the stone (afraid of damaging it), but with time it went away. But this reverent attitude towards the stone remained. The main law that I have deduced for myself is that stone does not tolerate negligence. Working with it requires maximum concentration, otherwise mistakes are inevitable and their elimination takes a lot of time and effort.

The distinguishing features of my carving technique is that I devote a lot of time to manual stone processing. With the help of a drill, I select the main volume, and then I work with hand grinders (various). At the same time, manual grinding is almost invisible (for example, during photo shoot), although it takes a lot of time.

When it comes to work, a drawing is of utmost importance. Then you need to look for the motive of the image and understand what you want to do. That is, to convey not just physical similarity, but the true essence of what you are trying to embody in stone. Only under this condition the work will be successful. I am interested in this very moment — conveying the deep essence of the depicted. You may call it the distinguishing features of my work.

- What is your favorite material and why do you prefer to work with it? What is easier and more difficult to work with?

- My favorite material is topaz, especially carved burgundy stones — the play of light is very strong in them. Topaz is so clear, light and at the same time it is great in manual processing. However, when you use a rotating tool, it is extremely capricious. In general, any stone is interesting to work with. The hardest thing for me is to work with quartz, although it has always been the favorite material of all carvers. Considerable physical effort is required to work with corundum. Diamond is also intricate. It requires complete concentration — you need to give all of yourself to this work.

- We know that you are cooperating with Alexander Tenzo, performing work for his jewelry house. Tell us a little about your collaboration with him. How long have you been working together? What have you managed to achieve so far? What are your plans?

- Our cooperation is long-term, now it’s even hard to remember when it began. We met in the early 2000s in St. Petersburg, when I arrived there with Vladimir Malyasov (1948-2016), with whose support I went a long way of improving my skills. This meeting was a spontaneous birth of ideas. The three of us were discussing what can be done on one beryl, and I suddenly thought about the Feasts of Jesus Christ. I don’t know where it came from, but the general atmosphere somehow influenced me — it was sublime. I felt good and joyful anticipating something, something was going to happen and it would be done in cooperation. I remember this moment very well.

Getting acquainted with Alexander meant getting acquainted with the Hermitage. I met Oleg Yakovlevich Neverov (1934-2014), a historian, antiquity researcher and art critic, curator of the collection of antique carved stones of the Hermitage. May 17 — November 27, 2019 there was an exhibition called “Glyptics: Past and Present.” The exposition included about 200 historical and modern works of glyptics, jewelry and stone-cutting from the Hermitage funds, as well as those provided by Tenzo (including more than 70 intaglios by Vladimir). I would like everything to keep moving that way — to something good, to light and kindness. In the future, I would like to pass on the experience I have accumulated.

- Where do you get inspiration? What/whom do you admire?

- I find inspiration in nature, in things and people that surround me. Relatives, friends, colleagues and everything that comes into my view. And the world culture, of course, within the limits in which it is available to me. I admire everything which is done well and without guile. Fake things, falsehood is palpable in art, and good things made with love always cause awe. It can be anything, be it an object of art, a poem, a carved stone, whatever.

- What should your students get ready for? What advice would you give them? What will your course be like?

- The most important thing is a sincere desire to learn what they want to learn. I would wish them patience, patience and patience again. And don’t be afraid of anything. It is important to understand; to love the material you work with. This is a necessary and sufficient condition to create something. You need to overcome fear in yourself. Our main goal is to reveal the essence of the stone and make it perfect, especially since our main topic is inserts into jewelry. The gem cutter is the first person who turns a stone into a work of art, revealing the play of light, refraction of rays, enhancing color. For me, a stone is a tool for knowing myself. I wish my students to go further, discover their ways of finding beauty in stone, surpass their teachers. Students should become wiser and more skillful than the teacher. The symbiosis of a teacher and a student is fruitful only when there is a transfer of information: a student should have a desire to learn more, the teacher should want to give more. The more we give, the more we receive. And the more we accept with gratitude, the more we can later give. It’s a continuous and, in my opinion, amazing cycle. It’s great when it ends with real deeds and students brings to life not only what the teacher gave them, but surpasses the teacher.

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