One can recognize the eye-catching works of young Bulgarian artist Kalina Muhova by her characteristic calm and elegant style. Her exquisite pencil drawings, in black and white or colour, strike viewers with their depth and contrast. She has illustrated many books, short stories, comic books, as some of her works were selected to participate in the Children's Book Fair in Bologna in 2018 among works of over 3,000 artists from around the world.
However, the latest project that the talented artist has been working on has nothing to do with the world of drawings. This time Kalina decided to embark on a bold artistic experiment, creating something never seen before in Bulgaria – hand-embroidered illustrations. They are part of the innovative approach of the publishing house she works with.
"For some time now I have been engaged in making embroideries and I upload my works on social networks," Kalina Muhova told Radio Bulgaria. “When I was offered to illustrate a book, I immediately liked the idea, because I had never worked with something as complex as embroidery. It seemed like a big challenge to me, but also an exciting one. And the story they offered me to work on was of Leo Tolstoy - one of the few children's books he wrote. "
The pages of the children’s book "Ivan the Fool" (translated into Bulgarian by Asya Grigorova), which Kalina Muhova recreates with a needle and thread, convey the atmosphere of a Russian folk tale, but are also impressive with the precision and attention to the smallest detail - not only in the illustrations themselves, but even in the price tag on the back cover of the book, which is a piece of canvas stuck with a needle. How long did it take to make these fascinating embroidered images?
"Actually, it took me less time than I expected," says Kalina. “There is a double page in the book which required more than 10 days of work, while for the smaller illustrations it took me about 3 to 4 days, which is not so much for me, because if I draw with a pencil, I need about 2 to 3 days. All in all, I managed to finish the whole project in one summer. ”
Kalina Muhova is not engaged in embroidery professionally and her work on the illustrations to “Ivan the Fool” is her first artistic attempt in this field. She tried different techniques and gradually learned more and more about this art, skilfully selecting the threads and creating the images we see on the book pages.
"I chose the right materials by intuition. The colours were more important to me so that I could convey the right atmosphere”, the young artist says, admitting what was the most difficult thing in making the illustrations. “These were the human faces because their characteristics are generally extremely difficult. Every time I end up with something completely different from what I initially imagined, but to a large extent this is also the beauty of embroidery. This is a technique where you can't go back, so you have to learn to accept mistakes. And this experience changed my way of working a lot in other areas of illustration, too.”
Kalina Muhova says that such a project requires a lot of patience and time, but admits:
"If the right story came out, I would definitely do it again. In such matters I like to follow my intuition."