Ekaterina Stepnaya – the manager of the ANKARS art studio (Russia / Moscow - August 2004) - www.rina-ankars.narod.ru
I'm glad to present a head of creative studio of Ankars. She is the founder of breath-taking Ankars technique. She is active, incredibly strong woman with sunny disposition. She is Ekaterina Stepnaya.
Ekaterina, what is your profession?
Now my post is called – the manager-supervisor of the art studio “ANKARS”. I've been teaching for 13 years already, so, I think that makes me a teacher. I work out the models of the adornments and accessories. My students create their own works using my design. So, I'm probably a designer. O organize and carry out exhibitions – manager.
Photo was taken furing the international festival "Golden hands of the masters" (Moscow 19-29 December 2003). Ankars technique with Ekaterina Stepnaya ahead took part in this festival. This pictures presents a Ekaterina's and her students talent. I appreciate Ekaterina's teaching effort, because I were the one of her students. Follow this interview to know more about Ekaterina's life and her Ankars studio.
What is your vocation?
It's hard to define it by only one word. I do everything I have just named with great pleasure, and rather fruitfully. I suppose, this all is my vocation.
Tell us how did you “fell ill” with tatting?
It seems to me that I'm still healthy about this matter.
I began tatting by accident, though my history is rather typical. Mathematic school, technical college, perestroika, removal to the “sleeping” region of Moscow, 1991, my second child was born, and I lacked the possibility to find a job on my profession. A lot of women had the same problems during those times. There were a lot of different courses in Moscow at the time, including those, which taught tatting. My mother had just retired. She had been working as n engineer in the “post box” for all of her life, and having gained freedom, she started to work at two jobs and began studying at the courses of macrame, hand embroidery and tatting. I was at home with a baby on my hands(the youngest), my elder son was 3 years old, so I didn't really have anything to do, and I began helping my mother, I was doing her homework, which she was given at the courses. This is how I have mastered the tatting technique.
I must say that I didn't see how I could use this technique for the works at that time. It was classic tatting, - lace. I didn't wear collars, napkins didn't inspire me, and making the works seemed too long and labor-intensive. Besides, I could knit and crochet (almost everyone from my generation could do it, the question was: learn to knit if you want to dress smart), I could think of and knit any object, if it was required – a collar or a napkin, it seemed much easier to me and faster too. But they were promising huge incomes from saling the ready makes at my mother's courses, and this was a stimulus for me. These promises never came true. But the tatting technique was mastered. There seemed to be a lot of people, who were interested in it and who were willing to learn it. My mother started to teach tatting after she had finished her courses. She was rather busy, considering everything of the above-mentioned, that's why I often carried out the lessons instead of her, this way I started teaching.
When did your attraction grow into profession?
In 1992, when my daughter was 1 year, I began looking for a job. I had two children of the preschool age, I didn't have any grannies, who I could give them to, and I couldn't put them in the kindergarten. The region, where we lived,- was a region for the families having many children (there were 10 junior classes at the school, where my son started studying). I found out that I had to put my child on the list for the kindergarten even before she was born, and by the time she went to the 1 st grade, it would have been our turn. There was one more way – to help the kindergarten with the financial aid, which exceeded the year bydget of my family. That's when tatting was useful, I began working as a teacher, such job enabled me to take care of the children and the house.
How long have you been involved in the ANKARS?
The word “ANKARS”was created in 1996. The thing is that we were developing rather quickly. It turned out to be impossible to be limited by the classic tatting. Almost right ahead we began bringing some own additions into the classic patterns, then the author's patterns appeared. It became interesting to try to work with the not-traditional materials for tatting, and soon we have gone over to them, having worked out the corresponding tatting technique. A.Rozanova worked out a set of the three-dimension many-layered elements on the basis of the classic many-layered flower, they were later used in her author's works. Different methods of decorating the base were also worked out. Creative work attracts you. It;s a special language, which you want to speak after you've mastered it, because it enables you to express, to put into the material form some things, which you cannot express any other way. Besides, I have been interested in this process since I was a child. I have been drawing ornaments during all of my school years, I still have them in several thick copy-books. It was one of the ways to understand the world and to communicate with it, that's why I found myself in my own element, having once started to work in the decorative applied arts.
Soon our works differed from the traditional tatting a lot. We were often asked for the name of our technique at the exhibitions. And we were asked by the people who mastered the classic tatting very good. It became clear that we need to give a name to our child. And we began calling it the “ANKARS”. It's an abbreviation of the names and surnames of A.Rozanova, E.Stepnaya and A.Safonova. Angelica Safonova has finished the tatting course of A.Rozanova, and her first author's works appeared before the “ANKARS” was created, so there is her name in the abbreviation too. Thus, the word “ANKARS” appeared in 1996, but the technique itself was formed earlier, the first works in this technique – are approximately of 1994. I;ve been work with this technique from the very beginning.
Who's idea was it to create the new technique of the tatting decoration?
The thing is that ANKARS uses a lot of innovation techniques of the decoration. If talking about the author's decorative elements, then they were created by different craftsmen.
There was only classical version of the tatting with beads earlier. I had to bring many additions, which touch upon the calculation of the sequence of setting on the beads for the complex patterns, which mean the change of shuttles ( in the classic tatting it was stated that such patterns could not be used when tatting with bead by the “beads on the thread” method).
The ANKARS technique – is not only the decorated tatting lace, as they often think. Firstly, it's the usage of the appropriate materials, secondly, the presence of the authors' pattern, author's elements of the craftsman. Thirdly, - yes, it's the decoration. In 1996 we've been trying to make the definition for the ANKARS (“the technique of shaded decoration for the basis, which is done by the shuttles”) as laconic as possible, meaning that all the details are marked by the words “shaded decoration”. But there appeared too many details during these past 8 years. Now the works of the craftsmen differ probably more than the first ANKARS from tatting, and precisely by the used technique.
Now there are two schools in ANKARS (the school of Rozanova and the school of Stepnaya), the author's directions of the leading craftsmen are inside them. And the styles in conformity with the purpose of the works also differ (the “Salon” style and the “Podium” style).
How old is your art studio?
The studio was formed till 1993 as a group of creative people, united by the common affair, common interests. In 1996 it was officially registered, and there was a first presentation of our art studio (we called ourselves “The Lacemaker” back then, and the word “ANKARS” was officially announced to be a name of our technique). In 1997 we were given a diploma by the “Culture” VVC pavilion for the work-put of the ANKARS technique. In 1998 we were exhibited as the art studio “ANKARS” for the first time at the exhibition in the House of Zinaida Volkonskaya.
You works were exhibited at many exhibitions. Do you remember their approximate amount?
No. You can find the list of the biggest exhibitions on my site, beginning with 1997. It's easier to say “a lot” for me.
How many students do you have? What countries did they come from to study?
Not it's hard to say how many there were. There is a list of those, who had finished our courses and who continue to work in our art studio on my web site in the section “our craftsmen”. This list is not complete, those students, who I've taught classic tatting, who had been studying later but got out of sight for different reasons, are not there. There also no students, who came to study not for long and took only several lessons. As to the geography – Russia (from Moscow to the very suburbs), the countries of the former Soviet Union, some foreign countries.
Do you remember any interesting accidents?
There are many such accidents, and I think about opening a section “The Exhibition Jokes” in my site after each exhibition. It happens that I'm trying hard to suppress my wish to begin taking down in shorthand, when some of the visitors begin explaining me what is the ANKARS technique in detail. But the brightest impression was probably made, when one of our needlewomen was entering the Union of artists, and the member of the selection committee, a big specialist at the decorative applied arts, who knows the tatting technique “very good”, advised her to make the picot square in future (it would have looked more modern in his opinion). She said “Ok” with a radiant smile.
What is your greatest achievement in your opinion?
I think, it is the fact that I'm satisfied with my life. I can say to myself that I've played my game not that bad with the cards, which my destiny had passed me.
How are the new ideas born?
I'd like to say “like the stars and roses”. But in real life it;s different for every craftsman. Something really happens unexpectedly, on its own. I often start with the color, I just notice some combination of colors and wish to stop this moment, wish to show everyone how beautiful it is.
Sometimes new ideas are born from the image, some image association finds its embodiment. There appear a lot of practical ideas during the work with the clients: they order something we have never done before, and a lot of ideas are born while working at such orders. Thus, I began making rings. I had a lot of problems with the first one, but then there were so many new ideas that I'm not able to stop for several years.
Actually, each new work brings new ideas, - some not very important element happens to deserve being a basis for the next work, or an idea about the new combination of colors comes to me, - I think that it is well known to any professional craftsman.
Do you have a big family? Do you have any pets at home?
My family – is my husband and my two children. I also have a dog – black collie, it's name is Sandy, a cat named Asya, and an aquarium – my old passion.
Do you have a dream, Ekaterina?
Of course, piece in the whole world.
Come to see the website of a great master of Ankars - Ekaterina Stepnaja:
Interview by Irina Astratenko - August 2004