• By Rita M. Ford

I’ve been to Russia!

Updated: Feb 1, 2021

Hello, dear friends! This article is about my trip to Saint Petersburg, Russia. It was the First International Festival of Pressed Plant Art “Floral mosaic” on June 23d-29th, 2019 over there. 12 years ago I immigrated to the USA from Saint Petersburg, Russia. I can mention this trip to Russia was full of impressions for me. I’ve visited many other places in Russia on this trip, besides Saint-Petersburg. I was on the Black Sea in Sochi. Sochi was the city of the Winter Olympic Games in 2014. I saw the beautiful Caucasian mountains there. Nature over there is wonderful. It’s a subtropical climate in that area. I saw plenty of beautiful waterfalls in high mountains, the clearest mountain lakes, and bubbling, fast rivers. I also have been to the Ural Mountains. The Ural Mountains share Asia and Europe. I saw gorgeous flowering meadows over there. They looked like the richest Persian carpets. I saw the biggest river in Russia – Volga. This river is so wide in some places you can’t see the opposite bank of the river. I spent a lot of time in Russia. This my photo was taken in the Summer Garden in Saint Petersburg.

I wanted to see Pressed Flower arts made by somebody besides me. I’ve never seen them before in real life. I left my Louisiana, USA and flew to Saint Petersburg, Russia to take part in the 1st International Festival of Pressed Plant Art “Floral Mosaic” (June 23d – June 29th, 2019). Wow! At last, it happened. And each art I saw at the exhibition was a real masterpiece. The theme of the exhibition was “Peonies’ fragrant tenderness”. So, artists suppose either way to show peonies on their PF arts or use petals and leaves of peonies.

I also wanted to see very much vacuum-sealed Pressed Flower Arts, but there were not many of them at the exhibition. The reasons for this are different: some arts don’t need to be vacuum sealed because they were made of the straw

Or fluff

And also some artists are nor familiar with the vacuum sealing method yet.

I came to the conclusion: when I use all kinds of botanical materials for my Pressed Flower Arts it is not enough just to preserve botanical materials right. It is not enough to keep them in the right condition before using it for the PF arts. It is very important to protect already ready Pressed Flower Art against UV light, moisture, oxygen for a long time with the best modern way – vacuum sealing the Pressed Flower Art.

There were a lot of classes during the Festival, but the most important class personally for me was Kate Chu’s class about vacuum sealing procedures. As a result after taking that lesson about vacuum sealing, I’ve got the confidence that I do vacuum sealing right. It was very important for me to know this.

About all the rest classes at the festival. I saw, there were simple, medium-difficult, difficult and very difficult classes. Let me tell you about the class with the most difficult for me technique. In this class we supposed to do the fragment of Peter the Great (Russian Tzar) portrait.

Very soon I understood that you can work in this technique only if you have the ability like our teacher Olga Golobokova (Russia). What kind of ability do I mean? Can you just look at some piece of the black-white sketch of the art, then to the colorful photo of Russian Tzar (Peter the Great) and then to cut exactly such shape of that piece and at the same time in color like on the photograph? Olga can do that very easily and very quickly. To choose a similar color for your detail I agree is not a very difficult task. Though, you need to have such botanical materials that can imitate human skin the best way. In my opinion, it is not easy but possible.

But to cut detail exactly necessary shape and size, having only cutter and dried botanical materials… Wow! Our teacher Olga Golobokova, I see, has a very rare unique ability which is probably we can call as extraordinary visual estimation or eye estimation. I have seen the person with such an unusual ability for the first time in my life. I can’t tell about myself that I don’t have a good eye, but my eye is not even close to Olga Golobokova’s eye. But I’m sure if an artist doesn’t have such excellent eye estimation it is impossible to work in such a technique that Olga demonstrated to us. It is my opinion. And she can’t teach her technique to anybody. And also, I’m sure, If you have a good eye from the Mother-Nature you don’t need any teacher to work in such a kind of technique. I suspect that Olga doesn’t realize that she is a person with extraordinary eye estimation and maybe she even thinks that everybody has the same ability as she does. I’m telling this because in her teaching was an emphasis to choose suitable necessary shades of some color. She was repeating many times how important to choose the right tints of some color for some details. I agree with her about that but can I improve the ability of my eye estimation now or this is a gift from the God I don’t know, to be honest. I hardly was able to do this,

when the class was over. In case if Olga didn’t cut what she exactly wanted to correct herself she just places the detail on her sketch and cut. It sounds only easy but in fact, your detail can be bigger and it covers lines of your sketch. So you can’t see the lines but you need to cut exactly on lines. I can’t do that, I have to see the lines. Well, many moments in creating the fragment of the portrait in this class was impossible and incredible for me. By the way, If I remember right, it took Olga to do the whole PF portrait of Peter the Great about… 2 or 4 hours! I’m sorry I forgot. Wow! This is really incredible for me. Look at this portrait.

Could you do this job for 4 hours?

I’m fond of vacuum sealing for Pressed Flower art now. That’s why Olga surprised me she doesn’t use vacuum sealing for her art. Such perfect art won’t last for a long time not being vacuum sealed, I believe.

It took her 4 days to create her the First Prize Winner art at this festival. It’s unbelievable! Here picture of her amazing art.

A portrait I think is one of the most difficult subjects for the Pressed Flower Art. I’ve decided to do the self-portrait for the exhibition and for the contest during the festival. I had my self-portrait (oil painting) when I was 35 years old.

My idea was to repeat my self-portrait in my favorite media – with pressed plants. This idea was born in my mind since that time when I found that petals of crape myrtles from my garden imitate good enough the human skin. I had many tints of petals of crape myrtles. And I was inspired that I can do vacuum sealing now. This is a result.

If I don’t go to this festival maybe I’d never tried to do a portrait. I remember I did some portrait of Japanese woman, but her face was covered with traditional for Japan white powder. So, it was easy to imitate her skin with corn husk. Taking part in this festival definitely encouraged me to try something new.

Probably, in the future I’ll never do any portrait again. I like to create birds and animals on my Pressed Flower Arts much more than people. For this festival, I also brought my Pressed Flower Art with a bird. It’s vacuum-sealed, has two glasses.

I didn’t win anything in this contest, but it is okay with me. I’m glad I was at this festival. I’ve never been to such kind of festivals, conferences before. It’s absolutely new experience for me. Communication online on the internet is good and we need to be thankful for the internet, but communication in person is different, it is also interesting. I’m glad I saw Eugenia Ivanova (Russia) at this festival. She was so kind to me, we communicated with her by email before the festival, she answered all my questions about the festival. I saw her wonderful Pressed Flower Art “Vase with peonies” on the exhibition and was impressed very much about her whole art and especially how she made a pottery pot for her peonies.

I’ve got a mutual attitude to classes at the festival. I remind it is a new experience for me. On the one side, I was able to learn how to use in Pressed Flower Art some botanical materials which I’ve never used before. The fluff, for example. But on the other side usually, we were given the number of pressed plants to create the art for the class. I don’t like it because my favorite portion in the creation of Pressed Flower Art is to choose all materials for the art myself. But in a class all ideas already exist, somebody already found what to use and you only need to full fill the ideas of somebody. I fill I loose fun in these moments.

After my new experience with classes in real life, I know exactly about myself that I don’t like to create art being in a hurry. I can do some job, being in a hurry but it’ll be a very bad job. I took all my not finished Pressed Flower Arts home to the USA and finished them.

I like to do my Pressed Flower Arts slowly. Only then I can do them tidy. Now I know that to create ready PF art in an absolutely new technique for two hours is not possible for me.

In Saint Petersburg, there is a studio “Magic Straw” for people who like to do arts with the straw. The Chief instructor of this studio Georgy Engelke taught us the class how to work with such a wonderful material – straw.

I saw at the exhibition many gorgeous arts made of the straw. I was thinking to try to work with the straw at home. But very quickly I understood that to get the straw is a big problem for me. When I asked the teacher where to get the straw I was told: “On the fields”. But in the area where I live there aren’t such plants which have excellent straw for the arts. I went to the store for craftsmen in Saint Petersburg and also did not find the straw. To tell you the truth, a long time ago I already tried to do art with the straw from pampas grass, which grows in my area. But this straw is not as shiny as supposed to be. Here it is my only art made of the straw of pampas grass.

By the way, peonies don’t grow very good in my area (Louisiana, USA) too. I can see only leaves but not flowers. I used peonies which I got from South Korea like a complimentary present after the contest for PF artists in 2018. Real peonies need cooler air temperature in wintertime than we have here. Then they will bloom. Somebody during the festival gave me some petals of peonies when I told friends that I can’t get flowers of peonies in my area. Katy Chu gave me like a present Japanese fabric for the background, I added my own leaves of peonies, stamens of roses and eventually, I created simple Pressed Flower Art with peony being already at home.

Thank you so much, my dear friends!

When I was at the exhibition and saw a lot of Pressed Flower Arts at the same place I was proud that I’m a Pressed Flower artist and I was thinking about so beautiful my kind of art is.

These are my videos about the festival in Saint Petersburg, Russia.

Vacuum-sealed Pressed Plant Arts are HERE

Pressed Plant Arts are HERE

Real butterflies in shadow boxes are HERE

Resin pieces of jewelry are HERE

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