Irina Parosova, a self-taught artist from the Russian city of Syzran, creates mind-blowing artworks from straw. Work on just one of these masterpieces can take from one day to a whole month, depending on the complexity of the project.
Straw is usually defined as an agricultural byproduct that is mostly used for livestock bedding and fodder, thatching and basket making. But for Russian artist Irina Parosova straw is a complex artistic medium that can be turned into amazing artworks. The self-taught master started making straw art as a child, in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. She was 11 years old when her geography teacher came back from a holiday and brought them a photo album as a souvenir. But it wasn’t the photos that caught Irina’s attention, but the straw-inlaid cover of the album. She went home, climbed to the attic of her house where some straw-filled mattresses were stored, pulled out a few pieces of straw and started replicating the photo of a ballerina she found in an old magazine. It wasn’t her best work, but at that age she already thought of it as a masterpiece. But then she abandoned straw for the next 21 years. it was only after the birth of her second child that she rediscovered this amazing art form, when she used it to provide for her family. Her Russian husband had problems with the Uzbek language and couldn’t find a job, so she had to use her artistic skills to feed her children. Her straw art helped them overcome the financial crisis and since then Irina Parosova has become an acclaimed Russian artist.
Making straw paintings is not as simple as some might think, It’s not just a question of placing the straws on the canvas and gluing it into place. First, Irina has to pick out the right kind of straw. She works with a variety of cereal plants, from wheat, rye, oats and barley, to rice and buckwheat, but she can’t just buy them from anywhere. She either has to plant them herself or pick them out by hand from the field, because the ripeness of the plant plays a very important role in the quality of the straw. Once she has the raw material, it needs to go through processing. Each straw tube is boiled in hot water with ammonia for 3-5 minutes , then they are cut to size and ironed on several layers of newspapers which absorb all the moisture. Then she uses white glue to stick the straws onto paper, from which she cuts all the desired shapes for her artworks. Some straws are bleached with perhydrol, others are darkened with pyrography techniques and some are simply dyed.
The simplest of Irina Parosova’s straw paintings sell for as low as 60 Russian rubles ($2), while more complex ones range from 600 ($20) to 6,000 ($200) rubles and her most impressive masterpieces cost up to 10,000 rubles ($320). She’s had problems competing with cheaper Chinese artworks coming in, but says demand for her work is slowly rising again. Some people however just don’t understand the time and effort that go into each one of her incredible creations.