Karelian Oak, 19″ x 7″ x 3″
Sergei Kulakov was born on March 4, 1945 in St. Petersburg, Russia. Sergei did not know his father as the family never lived together. It was quite difficult for his mother to raise her son on her own so Sergei was sent to live with his great-grandfather in Yaroslav. His grandfather lived in a small isolated village comprised of four houses. Early Slavic rituals were a part of daily life of the village. All the inhabitants were farmers. Paganism was their religion. Everyone practiced wood carving and then took their carvings to the nearest town – Rostov – for sale or exchange. Wooden sculptures, toys and utensils were sold or bartered for such staples as sugar, kerosene or flour. Sergei’s great-grandfather made idols, carved spoons and salt pots out of black aspen. Sergei was allowed to observe and to help him, and eventually he was permitted to execute simple carvings. Before carving it was necessary to prepare sketches then to build a clay model and only after that Sergei was given a piece of wood to carve. All work was done by the light of a kerosene lamp. After the piece was finished Sergei’s great-grandfather would take it into the woods, built a fire and pass it through the smoke to inhale life into it. According to early Slavic mythology fire lets the good spirits to enter the wood. Sergei continued this ritualistic practice throughout his career.
Sergei was thirteen years old when the village burned to the ground and he was forced to return to St. Petersburg. His love of nature and his ties with the land were never severed. He deeply absorbed the ancient culture of the pagan world. Like his predecessors he used only primitive tools like a hand ax and a steel knife. Sergei carved his pieces from old fallen oak, birch, beech and ash wood found in the Karelian forests north of St. Petersburg. Staying true to ancient tradition each figure is dried to create a natural split and to allow good spirits to embody the sculpture. Each symbol which marks his pieces seems to have a life of its own.