From Mine to Store: Ichien Ballaga’s Bejeweled Bullfinches

Among birders, bullfinches are distinguished by their front-heavy, bullheaded form. But there’s nothing blunt about Ichien Ballaga’s jeweled rendition of a pair of bullfinches about to take flight. The founder of Moscow-based Ichien infused an uncommon airiness into a piece that boasts a lot of volume. But then a certain grace was baked into the design from the get-go: “As soon as I started drawing, these graceful birds started appearing through the rough lines, with outlines and shapes forming as if by themselves,” Ballaga recalls. “Within minutes, two were fluttering all over the watercolor paper.” If he hadn’t willed his hand to stop, he adds, “they would have turned into a whole necklace of bullfinches.”  Airy Tale The piece’s unusual, highly nuanced use of colored gemstones played into the mission of “portraying the lightness of the birds and their m

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