Hubert Burda Media

5 Minutes with Salavat Fidai, The Guy Who Turns Pencil Tips into Art

Meet Salavat Fidai, the guy who turns boring pencil tips into intricate figures. If you’re crazy about Game of Thrones and if you appreciate good art, you’re in luck. There’s an exhibit featuring 16 different characters sculpted by Fidai, happening right this moment. Go check it out.  

Could you also talk a bit about your journey as a lawyer-turned-artist? 

I went to art school as part of an extra-curricular activity when I was a child. Both my parents were also artists and was always exposed to the arts since I was young. When it was time to enter  University, it was an economic crisis in Russia. I thought I could not make a living as an artist and I might not become very successful. In Russia, artists were not very well-respected and not very well paid. It is why I studied law instead. One of my first jobs was in the police force as an investigator, I later became a teacher and then started working as a manager in the corporate sector. By 40, you could say I had a midlife crisis. I quit my job at the end of 2013 and didn’t do anything for a year. I wondered what else I could do in life. Then in the summer of 2014, I  remembered that I used to do art as a kid and decided to go back to art. 

What inspired you to carve pencils and how long have you been at it? 

I started with miniature paintings on matchboxes and seeds of plants such as pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds. One day, while I was researching online, I came across someone’s works on pencils, and decided to give it a try myself. I thought it was a unique and fragile matter and welcomed the challenge. My first works appeared in 2014, when I made Batman and Darth Vader. 

Did you study art before or are you self-taught? 

Pencil carving was self-taught. It took me two years to perfect the craft. 

Did you think your work would get so popular among the world? 

Just like any artist, of course I wanted to become well-known and for my works to be shown to the world. But I didn’t expect it to happen so fast and that I would become so popular in various countries. I’m hoping to go to other countries as well, not just Singapore and Asia. Guess I’m not that popular yet as people still can’t recognise me on the street! 

On average, how long does it take to carve? How many pieces can you do in a day? 

It really depends on the complexity of the piece. It can take me anywhere between 10 hours to three weeks to finish a piece. 

What has been the most elaborate piece you have done? 

From the Game of Thrones exhibition, it was the Iron Throne. It took me three tries and three weeks to create the final piece. The Titan of Braavos sculpture was also a tough one as there were a lot of fragile and intricate details in that piece. 

In this Game of Thrones exhibit, which is your favourite character and why? 

I like Tyrion for his strong-willed nature. He didn’t have a very good start in the series and he also had physical limitations to deal with. But despite all that, he is smart and respected by other people. I like Jon Snow too, because well, who doesn’t like Jon Snow?

Happening until the 4th of June at K+ Curatorial Space, Scotts Square. Admission is free