fbpx vie magazine subscribe button

Timeless Treasures

By Sallie Lewis Longoria | Photography courtesy of Vladimir Kanevsky

A porcelain garden grows inside the New Jersey home of artist Vladimir Kanevsky. On a crisp April day, I stepped inside and saw hollyhocks and hydrangeas, foxgloves and fringed tulips rising from the windowsills and cloth-covered tables.

Kanevsky lives and works from his home in Fort Lee, which he shares with his wife and business partner, Edita. After walking through the living room past dahlias, blackberry bushes, and potted hyacinths, we sat down for lunch.

“You have to approach the subject like a scientist,” he says of his sought-after sculptures, which are available to order on Moda Operandi and through private commission. Science is a passion for the artist, who dreamed of being a physicist in his youth. Instead, he studied architecture in his hometown of Kharkiv, Ukraine, drawn to its balance of both art and engineering. Over the next twelve years, Kanevsky worked in Leningrad (Saint Petersburg today) as an architect while dabbling in painting, sculpting, and interior design.

In 1989, shortly before the collapse of the Soviet Union, he left his home, stopping in Austria and Italy on his way to New York. While in Europe, he painted Russian Orthodox icons. “I’m not religious at all, but I was closest to religion at that time because it was really scary,” he remembers of his journey.

When he arrived in New York, Kanevsky had just one hundred dollars in his pocket. One day, while visiting a local ceramic shop, he saw an advertisement placed by Howard Slatkin. The revered interior designer was looking for an artist to create a porcelain melon tureen. Despite his halting English and lack of experience, Kanevsky jumped at the opportunity and completed the job over the next two months. Soon after that, a relationship formed, and he decided to try making porcelain flowers.

“It’s a fascinating topic for an artist,” he says. With his background in architecture, Kanevsky quickly saw parallels between buildings and Mother Nature. By studying the insides of flowers and branches, he noticed they had everything a good building did in terms of structure and physics.

Kanevsky’s first flower was a blue carnation, and not long after that, Charlotte Moss picked up his first porcelain lily of the valley. Most recently, he finished a large tableware commission for fashion designer Tory Burch. Lilacs are particularly poignant for the artist, who remembers them growing in thick, fragrant clusters near the KGB building back home in Ukraine. Perfecting them in porcelain took years, and clients took note. While most flowers fade with the changing seasons, Kanevsky’s collectors see his blooms as timeless treasures, enduring for generations.

After lunch, we passed back through Vladimir and Edita’s living room turned porcelain garden before taking the stairs to the studio on the second floor. Here, the creative space stretches across multiple rooms, each dedicated to different parts of the artistic process, from sculpting to metalworking, painting, and firing. In every direction, there were tables topped with weathered terra-cotta pots, shelves of sorted porcelain flower parts, tubes of paint, and trays of freshly fired petals. In another room, loops of copper hung from the walls next to welding tools and tiny drawers filled with metal insects and leaves. Layered on the doors and vacant surfaces were tear sheets blooming with colorful flowers and fruit trees. Natural light flooded in from the window, spilling over trays of work blossoming with new life.

Kanevsky admits he’s formed an almost spiritual connection with his subjects. “Flowers talk,” he says, adding, “and I talk to them.” Despite his reverent approach, he reveals that working with porcelain—a medium he likens to “regular clay with a very bad attitude”—keeps him focused, cautious, and humble.

“You never know what waits inside the kiln,” he says.

The finished pieces that are born of Kanevsky’s seven kilns are striking, though he asserts it’s not physical beauty he’s after.

The blemishes are a metaphor for all of life, a representation of the humble beauty that reveals itself through the cracks and flaws.

“It’s not enough for me,” he confesses. The real beauty of his work is its feeling, which begs people to stop and reflect. “I never follow the exact truth, otherwise they look too formal, too dead,” he says. “I need different qualities.” On closer inspection, one realizes the depth of his sculptures—the fragility of life so masterfully expressed in porcelain.

Kanevsky’s work is also designed to convey the beauty in imperfection. The artist hopes to one day write a book about the nuances of porcelain, including the Japanese philosophy of wabi-sabi. “Imperfection is what makes eighteenth-century porcelain so warm and beautiful,” he says. The blemishes are a metaphor for all of life, a representation of the humble beauty that reveals itself through the cracks and flaws. “It tells the eye it’s alive.”

While every finished flower is a rewarding addition to the Vladimir Collection, Kanevsky shares that he’s happiest doing the work. “I like the process,” he says. He imports his porcelain clay from France and England and draws from myriad influences, including trompe l’oeil. Over the years, the artist has honed his craft, mixed techniques, and created a style uniquely his own.

Kanevsky’s artistic process varies depending on the flower and the problems he is trying to solve. Often, it begins by disassembling the flower and studying its interior blueprint before sketching and sculpting the individual parts. Then, the porcelain is fired, painted, and assembled on the tole frame. “I don’t have a real stable procedure,” he says. “No rules.”

When Vladimir and Edita take a break from the studio, they find inspiration in multiple places. Some of their favorites are the glass flower collection at the Harvard Museum of Natural History, the sculpted bronze blooms adorning the Baptistery of Saint John in Florence, and the New York Botanical Garden. “I love being in the garden,” he says. He also loves studying the masters of yesteryear and is inspired by the works of Brunelleschi and Michelangelo, the latter of which he calls the “greatest architect of all time.”

His most significant accomplishments to date include the limited edition flower collection he released with Meissen in 2012 and his 2017 exhibit at the State Hermitage Museum, which Kanevsky walked by every day when he lived in Leningrad. Little did he know at the time that his work would one day fill the institution’s hallowed halls. Still, his pride is bridled with profound humility. He is refreshingly grounded, at times self-deprecating, and seemingly unaware of the magnitude of his talent. This modesty is best expressed in his poetic homage to nature, with her sagging stems and insect-torn leaves.

Vladimir Kanevsky Porcelain Flowers
The incredibly talented sculptor Vladimir Kanevsky creates lifelike blossoms in all shapes and sizes out of porcelain. His gorgeous creations are often implemented in the work of interior designers and photographers, and each one is unique.

Kanevsky’s story is an inspirational one, and his success in America is a source of great pride for the artist. Indeed, he knows what it means to struggle, to survive, to re-create himself, and to do it all with grace and raw beauty.

At the end of our meeting, Edita and Vladimir handed me a single porcelain sprig of lily of the valley. The ivory bells were so delicate and plump I could almost smell their perfume.

Their generous gift took me back to my wedding day, when I walked down the aisle in a cloud of white chiffon, clutching a flower as symbolic, beautiful, and ephemeral as life itself. After good-byes and profuse thanks, I turned to leave, feeling grateful for artists like Vladimir Kanevsky, whose work reminds us all to stop and smell the flowers.

— V —

Visit TheVladimirCollection.com to learn more or view Kanevsky’s work on Instagram @vladimir.kanevsky.

Sallie Lewis Longoria is a Texas-based freelance writer. She has a master’s degree in writing from Johns Hopkins University and is currently at work on her first novel.

Read Responsibly

VIE Magazine September 2023 Jay Mercado
VIE Magazine - The Art & Design Issue November 2021
VIE Magazine January 2021 Special Commemorative Edition
VIE Magazine September 2020 Wanderlust Issue, Fancy Camps, The Idea Boutique
VIE Magazine August 2020 Art & Culture Issue, Nathan Alan Yoakum Art
VIE Magazine - Architecture & Design Issue - July 2020
VIE Magazine - Decor and Home Issue - June 2020
VIE Magazine May 2020 Entertainment Issue, Leslie Odom Jr
VIE Magazine - April 2020 Culinary Issue
VIE Magazine March 2020 The Fashion Edit, VONDOM, Alys Beach Fl, Digital Graffiti, Tres Chic, isidro dunbar Modern Interiors, Digital Graffiti Festival
VIE Magazine February 2020 Health & Beauty Issue
VIE Magazine - Travel Issue - January 2020 - Tanzania Safari Cover
VIE Magazine - Women's Issue - December 2019 - Tina Brown Cover
VIE NOV19 Goodness Issue
VIE Magazine, September 2019 Art & Culture Issue, Paul Hanninen
VIE Magazine - August 2019 - The Architecture and Design Issue
VIE Magazine - July 2019 - The Artist Issue
VIE Magazine - June 2019 - Fashion Edit
VIE Magazine - May 2019 - Culinary Issue
VIE Magazine - April 2019 - The Health & Wellness Issue
VIE Magazine - Special Entertainment Edition - March 2019
VIE Magazine February 2019 Luxury Homes & Technology Issue with Robbie Antonio of Revolution Precrafted
VIE Magazine - January 2019 - Southern Sophisticate Issue Cover
VIE Magazine - Special Anniversary Travel Edition - December 2018
VIE Magazine - The Goodness Issue - November 2018
VIE Magazine - The Art & Culture Issue - October 2018
VIE Magazine - Home & Garden Issue - September 2018
VIE Magazine - August 2018 Animal Issue
VIE Magazine - July 2018 Architecture & Design Issue - Subscribe to the magazine!
VIE Magazine - June 2018 Travel & Tech Issue
VIE Magazine - May 2018 Couture Issue
VIE Magazine - The Culinary Issue - April 2018 Cover - Chef James Briscione and Brooke Parkhurst
VIE Magazine - The Entertainers Issue - March 2018
VIE Magazine - February 2018 Destination Travel Issue
VIE Magazine - January 2018 Health & Beauty Issue
VIE Magazine, The Sophisticate Issue, December 2017
VIE Magazine - November 2017 Art & Culture Issue
VIE Magazine - October 2017 Home & Garden Issue
VIE Magazine | September 2017 | The Stories and Storytellers Issue
VIE Magazine - The Adventure Issue - August 2017
VIE Magazine - July 2017 - Art & Artist Issue
VIE Magazine - The Voyager Issue - June 2017
VIE magazine 2017 March-April Cover South Walton Fashion Week
VIE Magazine - January/February 2017 - The Health & Beauty Issue
VIE Magazine - Nov/Dec 2016 The Sophisticate Issue
christian siriano vie magazine september october 2016 vie magazine
the modern minimalist issue
the culinary and couture issue march april 2016 vie magazine
the voyager issue alys beach vie magazine january february 2016
cultural issue vie magazine november december 2015
home and garden issue vie magazine september october 2015
the art and style issue vie magazine july august 2015
the wedding issue 2015 May June vie magazine
the food and fashion issue vie magazine march april 2015
the travel issue vie magazine january february 2015
the music issue vie magazine 2014 november december
The Animal Issue vie magazine september october 2014
the home and garden issue vie magazine july august 2014
the wedding issue vie magazine may june 2014
emeril lagasse food and fashion vie magazine
the men's issue january february 2014
the music issue november december 2013 vie magazine
the home and garden issue 2013 october september
the wedding issue vie magazine july august 2013
the artist issue may june 2013 vie magazine
the food and fashion issue march april 2013
the men's issue january february 2013 vie magazine
The Holiday Issue
the love issue july august 2012
the all american summer may june 2012
the entertainment issue march april 2012
the fashion issue vie magazine winter 2011
the home and garden issue vie magazine fall 2011
the anniversary edition vie magazine summer 2011
the wedding issue vie magazine spring 2011
vie magazine the holiday issue 2010 Dec
vintage swimsuits vie magazine 2010 Fall
judith march designer vie magazine summer 2010
wedding giveaway vie magazine spring 2010
holiday gift guide vie magazine winter 2009
emarketing explosion vie magazine fall 2009
tribute to mother's day vie magazine summer 2009
james and robert redford vie magazine spring 2009
zz top vie magazine fall winter 2008
project dreams vie magazine new york fashion week
Sign-up for VIEmail

Sign up for VIEmail