Calling herself an "anti-social" person, architect Kseniya designs public buildings during her "day job" and creates silver jewerly as a passion project. After searching fruitlessly for ideal rings and earrings, she decided to making by herself what she was dreaming of.
Kseniya, tell us your story.
I was born and raised in Pushkin, which is still one of my favorite places in St. Petersburg. My parents still live there and I visit them regularly. About 10 years ago I moved into Moskovsky District.
I’m quite an anti-social person, which is why Pushkin was ideal for me: small scale, low buildings, huge green areas and lots of absolutely different parks. My favorite place there is Fyodorovsky Gorodok [an architectural complex built for the court of the tsar Nicholas II].
My childhood memories are attached to this place, which I always associated with Alexander Pushkin's fairytales. It is built in a pseudo-Russian style and now is partly restored. It includes a recently opened World War I museum, stables, and the complex around Fyodorovsky Cathedral. When I studied at the Russian Academy of Arts, I often practiced by making sketches here. The only tourists there are locals, who come to make shashlyk, to walk around or cycle.
I studied as an architect and graduated from the Academy 12 years ago. Straight away I was invited to join the architectural bureau Studio 44, where I still work. I’m involved in designing public buildings. Recently I worked on the reconstruction of Apraksin Dvor [a huge historic market area in the city center, which has a dodgy reputation at present]. Another important project is a new museum about the Siege of Leningrad [unfortunately, when the new governor was elected in St. Petersburg in September 2019, the project was canceled].
But what about projects that were finished?
I could name Olympic Park railway station in Sochi, but honestly I can’t stand it (laughs). But our office is a truly cool project that I’m really proud of. When I joined the team, it was under construction. And on my third working day, there was a fire on the mansard floor. It took two years to restore the mansard and the rest of the building. But today it’s awesome place, which is often used for filming and for advertising shoots.
It is normal for architects to have a large percentage of non-realized projects. But it is also one of the reasons I started to make jewelry. I wanted to do it for myself, to make what I like and not what the market needs. And the most important thing is, you come up with the idea, and you make the object. You are responsible for all stages of production, and in the end it is completed.
But initially, this wasn’t my plan. My partner once asked me, why I spend all my time on our vacations searching for the ideal pieces of jewelry. I would walk and stared at display cases, constantly commenting about what I liked and disliked. “Kseniya, why don’t you do it yourself?” he asked. That was 5 years ago, not everyone had an Instagram back then and everything was so different. I felt it was as if someone had asked me: “So why don’t you study to become an ophthalmologist?”
In the beginning, I was very shy and hid my hobby from everyone. Nobody knew except my parents and my partner. Even when I started leaving my job earlier than usual, nobody guessed. But later I had to confess, after I launched my jewelry Instagram account. It’s a whole new system.People started to find me; friends and acquaintances recommended me as well. I work on a made-to-order basis, and until recently I did everything myself. Today I have assistants, but it’s still rather challenging to combine both jobs.
How did you turn your hobby into a second job?
I was extremely lucky with the people involved. I didn’t make any special effort, and as an anti-social person I often wanted to step back. But I always got support, people put me in touch with the right contacts. And this is how I found a group of jewelry makers based in the Red Triangle Factory [former Russian-American Rubber Manufacture Association factory – a partially abandoned industrial zone]. Actually this is a really cool place in St. Petersburg! It's a city within a city, and its an amazing time machine when you enter very interesting space with this weird mix of things.
There are hyper-modern photo studios next to dogs guarding a cement factory, homeless people next to young roofers. It is like a giant anthill with people who aren’t that visible. I worked there for two years, explored everything, moved my workshop four times, and I’m absolutely happy with this experience.
My grandmother also was glad, because my grandfather worked at this factory during the siege of Leningrad. This is a unique place, and the city needs to do something with it. But we find ourselves having the same problem as at Apraksin Dvor – too many proprietors in one complex [after the fall of the USSR, the former factory was privatized by many different companies, which now rent it out for various purposes].
I also recommend visiting Vitebsky Railway Station. In my case, of course, it’s connected with Pushkin. You get on the train in the city center and soon you are in this beautiful town. From an architectural point of view, it's a very modern building, yet it’s over 100 years old. There is plenty of light and space. It was reconstructed recently, so you can explore different areas and waiting halls.
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