Upholding the Traditions of Marbling in Russia. Interview with Ekaterina Hyyrynen (Savelyeva)

This interview is a part of a series produced by Anna Markova, book bindings’ historian and rare book librarian at the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts (Moscow.) The series is dedicated to book artisans of different kinds. I met with Anna last year, and she’s a wonderful specialist and a person who invests herself in her work and other projects and cares a lot about books and their history.

Here is an introduction from Anna Markova:

The first interview is with a paper marbling master Ekaterina Hyyrynen (Savelyeva). Ekaterina studied the art of making marbled paper (ebru) with Turkish masters. However, she lives and works in St. Petersburg (Russia). The first time I saw her papers, I was impressed by how accurately Ekaterina reproduces the patterns made in the 1820s. The historian of European books sees a historical prototype in a sheet of marbled paper: caillouté, tourniquet, feuille de chêne). What makes Ekaterina’s work even more special is that she looks at the art through the “east-west” prism. For each pattern, she can give a European name and a name of the Turkish original. She can also indicate its place in the Turkish hierarchy of genres.

Ekaterina uses very different techniques, styles, and color combinations: the master of marbled paper must take into account the tastes of different customers.

Anna Markova: You have clients not only from Russia but also from many other countries worldwide. Do the customers from different countries prefer different types of paper? Or their demands are pretty similar?

Ekaterina Hyyrynen (Savelyeva): This is true. My clients come from all over the world. The usual requirements are about the same. I rarely make orders abroad because foreign customers usually choose from those of my sheets that are already available and remain satisfied. Russian clients are very imperative. It was one of the Russian clients who asked me to repeat a very original ornament that I once made myself: an ornament similar to pieces of ice.

Anna: What was the most unusual or exciting order of marbled paper that you had?

Ekaterina: Over these past years, I have made custom paper several times. I would like to single out work for a restorer from the Moscow region who worked on a St. Petersburg edition from the late 18th century. The customer sent me an original binding that had marbled paper for its endpapers. Custom work is always a challenge. “Can I do it?”. You should carefully consider the drawing, see how the colors are applied, choose a color scheme matching the original. I was anxious about the result because it is impossible to make marbled paper absolutely the same. However, the client was delighted.

Anna: Do modern and original marbled paper exist in contemporary Europe and Russia? Or the aesthetics of marbled paper only imply imitation of historical models of the 17th-19th centuries?

Ekaterina: It all depends on the taste of the master and the customer. Original ornaments exist, especially in the West. Some masters conservatively make classic patterns, and they do it perfectly. Other artists create amazingly beautiful modern designs.

When I met some of these people at the World Congress of Ebru, I realized how beautiful marbled paper could be; wide horizons are open for experiments. Since the art of marbling and bookbinding died out a bit in Russia in the 20th century (correct me, if I’m wrong), nowadays, there’s a higher demand for classical patterns.

Anna: What are the applications of marbled paper today? Only to cover bindings and use as endpapers?

Ekaterina: The world of marbled paper is booming today, this paper is used not only in bookbinding but also as any design element. It can serve as a beautiful packaging for various items and gifts. Also, marbled paper is actively used in the interior design: to create paintings, wallpapers, panels, interior items (tables, lamps, shelving, and so on).

It all depends on the technical capabilities of the master. Clients from Russia and Malaysia bought my marbled paper for calligraphy and manuscripts, and there was an order from Sweden for paper for graduation work, another client from the USA ordered my paper for lampshades.

You can find both Ekaterina Huyuryunen and Anna Markova on Facebook and Instagram.

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