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Man behind the mask

Dimitri Shabalin’s studio in Moscow is like a candy shop: in every corner, there is something bright and colourful that catches the eye.

Artisan Dimitri Shabalin - ©Dimitri Shabalin

Dimitri Shabalin’s studio in Moscow is like a candy shop: in every corner, there is something bright and colourful that catches the eye. The sunlight beams off the rows of bejewelled masks, and just like a magpie, one is drawn to the sparkly exterior and struck with a desire to touch them. On closer inspection, these detailed sculptural masks are composed of pieces of memorabilia and discarded objects collected from the past. A unique way of upcycling, where the old meets the new and behind the jewelled facade is a more meaningful evocation of the past.

Intriguing is the contemporary juxtaposition of jewels with historical pieces. How this came to become the template for Dimitri’s creations is a matter of serendipity. The inspiration was born during a visit home from Moscow one weekend in 2013, when he used his old childhood toys and some of his mother’s jewellery to make his first mask. Dimitri’s creative process involves the fusion of different elements, from pearls, beads and semi-precious stones to umbrella parts, watches and pins.

"Each mask is born out of multiple symbols, pieces of memorabilia and associations, and I am fascinated to hear their owners talk about what they see in them. Sometimes they come up with the most whimsical images, and this is what I love: it means my art inspires soul searching, creativity, curiosity and an exploring spirit." – Dimitri Shabalin

Dimitri seeks to give a new lease of life to the pieces he collects; reawakening the era they come from and telling the stories of their owners through his masks. He is fascinated by old civilisations and has a particular intrigue for Soviet era memorabilia, and the social and political experiences of that time. He approaches his work as an archaeologist. Dimitri hopes to inspire creativity, curiosity and an adventurous spirit through his pieces. For him, his masks are enigmatic characters.

Artisan Dimitri Shabalin at work - ©Dimitri Shabalin Notes to editors

Michelangelo Foundation for Creativity and Craftsmanship is an international non-profit organisation based in Geneva, Switzerland, which was set up to celebrate and preserve master craftsmanship around the world and strengthen its connection to design. Rooted in a tradition of culture and excellence and in the realities and challenges of today’s global economy, the foundation aims to support those who dedicate themselves to the pursuit of master craftsmanship and to foster a new cultural movement built around the values that are essential for their work. The foundation focuses on Europe as a starting point for its activities, in recognition that craftsmanship has been a vital part of the economic and cultural fabric of the region for centuries, providing both a rich heritage and a competitive advantage in a global world.

#EverydayExcellence - discover more artisans and the special stories behind their unique masterpieces, through a series of digital initiatives, which place the focus on craftspeople. With Instagram takeovers, step into the world of masters artisans, learning about their creative processes, studios, tools and personal journeys of creativity and craftsmanship.

Dimitri Shabalin was born in 1993 in the Perm region (Ural Mountains) of Russia. He studied performance art at the Institute of Contemporary Art Moscow. From 2012 to 2015 he was associate fashion editor at Numéro and Interview magazines, Moscow. He started to handcraft his decorative sculptural masks in 2013. Dimitri’s masks were exhibited at Révélations, Paris in 2017 and recently at Cube art space, Moscow. He has designed masks for fashion designers, such as Ria Keburia and for private collections in Russia, Georgia, Monaco, Belgium and the United States.

Dimitri Shabalin©Aleksey Kim Undefined title Dimitri Shabalin Artisan©Dimitri Shabalin Dimitri Shabalin Artisan©Dimitri Shabalin Dimitri Shabalin Artisan©Dimitri Shabalin