There is a tradition in China: at the beginning of any business meeting you are invited for a tea ceremony. During the first three cups, companions can touch on any topic except the one that’s actually on the agenda. All in good time, they say in China. All is arranged so that the magical power of tea works, and the hearts of the companions begin to beat in unison. Thus, the tea ceremony helps to achieve peace and understanding.
A few years ago, Roman Korotkin was a businessman and in typical big-city pursuit of capital – he ran as fast as he could just to stay in place. It was necessary to prove something to everyone around, and most importantly to himself … but what exactly? To understand and find yourself is a long way, it is impossible to accelerate it. As a result, we always come to the ultimate goal at the right time. For Roman the race ended with a trip to Bali, where he found what we are all looking for – inner harmony and love.
It was in Bali where the unique project ARTEAFACT (arteafact.art) was born. Creating unique tea tables from petrified wood is a complex and painstaking process, as the material is very fragile. No wonder – it is several million years old! But we didn’t rush, drank tea and talked to the founder of ARTEAFACT Roman Korotkin about the project, the ability to take time and a little bit about love.
How did your business start? How did you get into the culture of tea ceremonies?
The idea of creating Arteafact was born in Bali, where I’ve moved 5 years ago. Until 2014, I successfully ran a tourism business, but then everything started falling apart, health problems ensued, and the only way out was to leave. Bali is an ideal place for curing your soul. For those who embark on the path of spiritual development, it is necessary for everything to be destroyed first. Building something new in the old place doesn’t work. I was invited to live in a place where creative people stop and study. A few months into my stay, a monk arrived who was a master of tea ceremonies.
Then the idea was born?
Take the time (smiles). I was shocked and bewitched by what this monk was doing. I had a thousand questions: why are the cups so small? Why is water poured out? And what is that? But does it work? This monk, in fact, accepted me as his apprentice. After two months he gifted me his tea set. I was very happy, but I did not have a table for the tea ceremony. I decided that I need to make it myself. If you want to do something well, then you need to do it on your own. I devoted a lot of time to studying this issue. The path took a year and a half. Although even then I could not find my material. Once at a furniture exhibition, I saw petrified wood and realized: I am in the right place at the right time. I found my material.
What is so special about it?
After the eruption of the volcano, a huge amount of ash is thrown out. Then it settles on the ground and in some cases can form a layer up to 7-10 meters thick. Further, the ash creates a dense shell, under which a vacuum is formed. In such a vacuum, wood ceases to rot. And in some there is a chemical substitution – wood becomes a mineral.
How long does it take? A couple of decades?
Such a process can take from 5 to 250 million years. It’s hard to imagine! In our production we use material that’s about 20 million years old. This material is mainly located on the islands of Java and Sumatra. The uniqueness lies in the fact that the tree has become a mineral. The density of the material is comparable to granite, but it is incredibly fragile. Only tools used for diamonds are suitable to work on it. And since the material is very fragile and needs to constantly come into contact with hot water (which makes the material move), one has to account for the fact that even the smallest crack will cause the table to simply fall apart. So, finding the perfect piece can take a lot of time.
So basically, the manufacturing process of each table takes 20 million years and a couple of months?
(Laughs). In a way, this is a really painstaking process. But everything has its time.
How did you come up with the name of your project?
I thought about the name for a very long time, but came to ar-tea-fact. Firstly, because the tea ceremony is a real art, therefore art. Tea – because it’s a story about tea. And all this is a fact.
But the uniqueness of your project is not only in the material …
The task was to do something high-quality and beautiful. This is something that can then be proudly passed down and serve multiple generations. We wanted this tea table to be a unique piece of art, but at the same time it could fit into any interior. Moreover, each table is custom-made for its owner. We carry out individual engraving of symbols on the tables, a kind of altar that enhances the positive energy of its owner. All this is calculated using the system of the ‘I Ching’ (also known as ‘Classic of Changes’ or ‘Book of Changes’), Vedic astrology or human design. Sacred symbols are selected that enhance the structure of a person while he drinks tea. Moreover, we provide training for our customers: starting from the history of tea and choosing water, where to place a table, what should be the temperature of the water for brewing, how to conduct a tea ceremony for yourself, for two, etc. If you choose the right material for the table, you can conduct 16-hour negotiations around it and at the same time not feel the slightest fatigue.
Who is your main customer? Where is he from?
These are completely different people. There are customers who have long studied the art of the tea ceremony and they may miss the table or some items. And there are clients who start from scratch and they need help to figure it out. Then we go to them and try to personally impart knowledge.
Before the interview you said that you’re planning a new collaboration…
Exactly. Together with my new partner, Vadim Silkopryad, we plan to combine our two projects and thereby create something even more unique. It is a tea club with a high level of aesthetics, and, most importantly, with detailed observance of all the intricacies of the tea ceremony that involves a petrified wood tea table.
How did you meet?
While my story took its course in Bali, Vadim Silkopryad, who had studied tea craftsmanship for 11 years, decided to open his own tea club in Moscow under the name “Arteafact”. It was such an incredible coincidence. It turns out that two independent projects existed and developed all this time. At first, I was overcome with childish emotions – how it can be? This is my project’s name! But then I decided to meet Vadim. And so, we began to observe each other on the Internet and become friends in some way…
Then an amazing thing happened the doorbell rang. At that moment, the very Vadim Silkopryad decided to appear. I thought that there might have been something in my tea, but it is unlikely that it was strong enough to teleport people.
Vadim, how did you come up with such a name?
The first two words, like Roman’s, mean ‘art’ and ‘tea’. But the third word is related to the location of the tea club – the old tea factory built in 1914 in Moscow. So, fact is short for factory in my case.
Vadim, it’s interesting to listen, but how did you find out about Roman’s project?
One of my friends told me that there is a similar project with a similar name. But I did not have any negative emotions in this regard. The world has a huge number of names and a huge number of repetitions. There was some kind of correspondence … But the really important moment of our friendship was a personal meeting, when I was able to look a person in the eye and understand – we will do this project together. In general, the story of life is a story about personal relationships. We have different views on some issues, but we look at what unites us.
Roman, are you a fatalist? So many incredible coincidences in your life – were they destined to be?
I believe that we can create our own destiny. When I tell my story, many say that it is magic. In fact, it’s just my passion and faith in what I do. On the other hand, in my thoughts I always prayed for a man who would help me to share the history of tea craftsmanship with the world. And the universe brought me here, where I met Vadim.
Vadim, what would you say?
This is like the law of quantum mechanics – all objects move towards each other. I don’t know if the universe needed us to meet. It seems to me that there are many variations at the same time. In some dimension we met; in some, didn’t; in some dimension we have evolved to a planetary scale; and in some – it was not us. And all this happens simultaneously.
Roman, what does presence on the Internet mean to you?
It is extremely important, because my business is based in Bali – and it is very far away. How can I tell you about unique tea tables? Only online. It’s like a catalogue that I always carry with me that people in different parts of the world can see and, at the same time, get a very accurate and complete understanding about my product.
My website is like a catalogue that I always carry with me. People in different parts of the world can have a look and get a very accurate and complete understanding about my product. I chose .ART – because what I’m doing is art, albeit not in its classical sense.
Roman, I don’t feel like rushing at all anymore. Let’s talk about love. I know you are married. Is your wife involved in the project?
Oh, I love her very much! We met about the same time when I came up with my project. I mean, at that moment when I was ready to build something new in my life. My wife is from Brazil and she is a person of amazing energy. She conducts training retreats for women, helps them to discover and understand themselves. She has her own unique business, and I am very glad that she is developing it. When I met her, she gave me a lot of energy, she helped me to feel my strength. It’s great that she can help others. It is said that a woman is Mother Earth, and a man is the sun. And they can only exist together. The result of our love is already 8 months old, began to crawl.
Your energy stone?
Ruby, lapis lazuli and amethysts.
“Two Lives” by Concordia Antarova
Three most valuable qualities in a person?
Courage, honesty, kindness.
The most difficult thing in accepting yourself?
The most difficult thing was to bring together the brain and the soul. In a sense, the brain is an instrument, but it always considers itself to be the main thing.
With people like Roman and Vadim the last question often becomes the beginning of a new conversation. I decided to ask what would happen if we draw an analogy with modern technology. Can progress lead to a scenario in which a person becomes a soul, and technology begins to “think” that they have become the brain and guide us? answers did not disappoint.
Roman: Probably, yes. Technologies can at some point develop so much that they will consider themselves to be the main unit. And in human development, that was also the case. But at some point, they will have to become friends, because one is impossible without the other. Most likely we will go through the stage when the machine will really think it has the upper hand.
Vadim: Oedipus complex at machine level. A machine will think that it is “above” a person. In fact, what is happening between man and nature now is also a struggle of these two principles, in a sense. At some point, for some reason, we believed that we had become higher and more significant than nature. But all this should return to harmony.
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Also published on Medium.