Alexander Nurulaeff of Dandy Shoe Care – Interview
In an effort to get the blog back to its roots of truly feeding the readers the knowledge that they are yearning for, I had the idea to get back into doing interviews. With the help of my colleague Stacey who gave me the idea to dive into the world of patina, we are kicking off this interview series with none other than Alexander Nurulaeff of Dandy Shoe Care. He just had his birthday last week and while we wanted to release it on the day we were not able to. So this post is in honor of his celebration!
The interview was conducted in Russian and translated to English so some things might not have a literal translation and therefore might seem confusing in English. The Russian version is below the English text. Enjoy!
-What is patina to you?
– First and foremost Patina is art. The most beautiful examples of it are created by nature itself as a result of chemical processes and effect of the environment. It is enough to see the ancient objects of bronze, marble or many other different materials exposed to oxidation, to admire all the beauty and unpredictability of Patina created by nature. And oh how beautiful can be a very old pair of a true gentleman’s boots, that one has been taking the deepest care of for decades… All I do is carefully examine and follow those processes, the olden objects and works of art to be able to create something beautiful and truly exciting.
-How did you start? Were you self-taught or someone guided you? It would be really interesting to know about how you moved to Italy from Russia and why. How did you find inspiration to create art?
-I began to draw at the age of 3 and never stopped. From the very childhood I have decided to be an Artistic Person. That I will create objects of art with my own hands, changing techniques, materials and style. I drew water color and painted in oil on colors, I did tattoos, silk painting, wood carving, metal etching, I did decorations for theater and a lot more… I can not even account for everything. Nobody ever taught me anything. Everything that I know and can do is a result of my life long research and experiments. My God given talent allows me to master any technique and trade in a space of months. And my natural curiosity always pushes me to explore “new lands” and conquer new height of art. My grandfather helped me in a lot of things. From him a learnt to work with wood, metal and learnt to do any other job that every self-respecting Russian man of the old mentality should know how to do. And also he was the one, a military man, how to take care of my shoes, always reminding that shoes of a real man have to be clean and shiny. All of this stored knowledge helped me in my future life.
In order for me to always have an excessive amount of masterpieces and art (created by the greatest masters and artists) surround me at all times I decided to move to Italy, where you know is one of the biggest concentrations of the arts of the world.
Also the climate and food is way better than in Siberia…
Oil on canvas by Alexander Nurulaeff
The fight between good and evil by A. Nurulaeff. 1977
-What was the most difficult thing to learn in the beginning? Or that you still find challenging?
– To learn how to make Patina on leather shoes became a natural step in my creative development. I was always weak for shoes. I wanted to have a pair that nobody else would. That is why I learned how to make shoes by hands, how to paint it and color it, how to shine it so it doesn’t resemble anything you can see. Patina is a sort of Alchemy, there is close to no information about it anywhere. Nevertheless I did not require much time to learn the trade. With the help of already gathered over the years knowledge, I was able to create my own technique, that is actually considered one of the most recognizable and unrepeatable in the world level at the moment. Perhaps that is the reason why lately there is more and more people trying to copy my style.
-Where would you like to see the world of patina in the next 5 years? Where do you see yourself within that world in the next 5 years?
-First of all, I would like to still continue doing art and not commerce. I receive lots and lots of offers of collaboration with massive manufacturers, but I prefer to not have anything in common with factory methods of work. Quality is a lot more important than quantity. I do not limit myself with time and instead work on every pair of shoes for as long as I find necessary to achieve an ideal result. Such luxury can not be afforded by any shoe company in the world. Usually factories, have sad people working with some of the most primitive methods of shoe dyeing and they have to “stamp” an enormous amount of shoes every day. They have no time nor desire to create pieces of art. They just have to fill their plan.
My plan is to give my customers happiness and true pleasure. To make everyone happy with my new ideas coming to life. A character from a Dostoyevsky novel said “Beauty will save the world” and I honestly believe in that and put all my energy to make it true, to make this phrase come to life.
-What other patina artists do you feel deserve respect?
– As I have mentioned times before, the amount of people wanting to make patina has increased drastically in the last years. But to be honest I still don’t see anything that new or interesting. Everyone is trying to recreate the work of the old masters and unsuccessfully so. I respect accomplishments of such “dinosaurs” of Patina like Paulus Bolten and Landry Lacour. Also admirably follow the works of Japanese masters-shoemakers.
-What is your special patina skill, what sets you apart from the rest?
– My main difference from everyone who does Patina is the fact that I do it for pleasure, not for money. Because if you count the amount of time, strength, energy and love I put into every pair of shoes, it will never be enough money to compensate that. Every Patina I make is a sort of painting. And I am pleased that my paintings aren’t hanging in museums but are proudly travelling the world on the feet of my clients. Every passer-by can notice and admire this art by just glancing at those shoes. A beautiful and clean pair of shoes always attracts attention and never goes unnoticed. Like my grandfather used to say “Shine your boots to a mirror level. Damsels love it”.
-Is patina a trend or will it stand the test of time? Why do you think so? Can the artist ever be replaced by a machine?
– Absolutely no machine will ever be able to replace an artist. Because the indispensable part of creating a masterpiece is the SOUL. To create a true Patina you also have to have many different talents combined in one person. You have to be a painter, a designer, a shoe master, a chemist… You have to have a refined and impeccable taste, be able to feel the colors, be ahead of fashion and trends and a lot of other things. I believe that just like any other masterpiece created by hands of true talents. Patina in a whole meaning of the word, will always be in demand from those who truly appreciate beauty.
-Are you involved in any other facets of the shoe industry?
– I am collaborating with many famous shoe manufacturers on creating prototypes or some rather exclusive collections. There are a few projects that I am going to participate in as a designer in new model development. I would like to not stop on the already achieved, but to continue my artistic search. I would also love to finally find time to write a book about shoe care as I get asked a lot of questions regarding this subject. And there isn’t much of the honest correct information out there on this mentioned topic.
-Do you have anything that you want to freely add that I may have forgotten to ask?
– I would like to use this opportunity to thank everyone who isn’t indifferent to my artwork. I receive letters of gratitude not only from my clients, but from the readers of my blog as well. It pleases me to know that my art is sometimes even a best cure for overcoming the sad moments of life, that it leads people to happiness and positive emotions. I will continue to give joy to people by making new and unique Patinas.