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Ukraine — Los Angeles — The Dreamway

Today we came to visit Svetlana Telbukh, the Creator of the Sand Art Centre.


-Svetlana, we are interested in the question: how did you come in sand animation, how did it start?

-I did not start with sand animation. I started with lessons for children. They are always very inspiring. When I was pregnant with my first baby, kids came to my home. Sand animation was one of the areas that I was interested in and I wanted to try it by myself. It is a kind of art therapy. I was inspired by working with sand so knowing nothing I just took the old cabinet with a piece of glass, semolina and rehearsed dots and lines. I just draw dots and lines for several months.

-In the kitchen?

-In the kitchen, while the kids were sleeping. There were no light tables. I had neither Sand Art lessons nor the Studio.

 -Was it a kind of therapy for you or a creative process?

-I wanted to try the technique, to master it and I want to say that sand animation was not easy for me. It seemed to me that I can’t do anything. I did not succeed. Then it turned out that to draw with sand was much easier than with semolina. I was very inspired while I was working with children, and now I am inspired by them.


By the time I met sand animation, I quite successfully had been working as an architect for 6 years. I had got an interesting experience at the office but I began to notice that I was waiting for the end of the day, to get to the Studio. The Studio was getting bigger and bigger. More and more children were coming. And one day I went on unpaid leave and has not returned.


At architectural work?

-Yes Yes Yes.

-And I remember that you studied at the Lyceum of arts, then at the university, and then you became an architect.

-I studied at the Lyceum of arts, and then enter the university to become an architect. I had studied for 6 years and had worked for five years probably.

— And how did especially your working at the Studio begin?


-At first I had thoughts of working at home with children. But finally I decided to open a Studio in the city center — it will be more prestigious. Almost immediately I got the offer of the lease. I started sand animation and a month and a half later I found out that I was expecting the second baby.

I enjoyed drawing, walking, sleeping because I knew that then I would not have enough time for sleeping. But the child, by the way, was born very calm, so I was able to sleep with him (Svetlana is smiling). Maybe sand animation helped. Being pregnant I went on performing. In the casting of «Ukraine’s Got Talent» I also participated being pregnant, then the shooting went after had I given birth.

-Where did you learn sand animation? Did you learn by yourself? Did you watch the videos in You Tube or you go to someone to learn? How was it?


-Some exercises were showed me by the Kharkiv artist. Children taught me a lot and I am still learning together with them. We hadn’t got any methods. We wrote and produced our own methods. As a result, now it is rather big volume, there are about three hundred pages I guess. Of course I watched You Tube. We were the best in Ukraine, the biggest and remain so. And this situation pleases our vanity, but it is difficult not to have anyone to look up to.


We organized a huge international festival. By chance I called the best master in the world and he accidentally came to Ukraine.

-What country is he from?

-He is from Moscow. Artur Kirillov.

Yes, Yes, I remember. A couple of years ago in Dnepropetrovsk…

-Yes, three years ago. It was the first festival in Dnipropetrovsk and it became much clearer after the event how to continue to grow and where to move.

-To invite great masters, to see their level and to learn, it is a good idea.

-Yes, exactly his works helped me to study. And I’m not even to be dreamed of meeting him because the Sand Art artists does not occur to meet. And only such festivals help us gather together. And a year later we organized children nationwide festival. As for me, the biggest revelation was at the international festival, our children, my students, and those who came from other cities, had much higher level than adults who came in sand animation and made money doing it. And yesterday we opened the exhibition and I saw confirmation of this. So we are bringing up the younger generation of creative people.

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Maybe kids, who don’t have stereotypes and templates how to do it, just flow their creativity…

-It is generally discussed at all teachers ‘ meetings, the younger they are, the fewer patterns they have. Obviously, the youngest age group shows the most creative works in all our competitions. This is excellent! Children of the senior age group in sand graphics works sometimes show weaker level. Every day we try to develop their creativity.
-I see! How difficult is it to create videos? Is this a very difficult process?

-Sand animation — this is an unusual way of thinking. At first it is very difficult to readjust. That is, after graduating from college I thought, why I wanted to do it, if I then studied in the process of working, and then I realized why!

It took me 6 years to learn how to think as an architect. So in the Sand art we need some time to learn how to think and see the way, to tell a story in the sand. Now it is much easier to lay down the plot; some rules have already been developed. But to become an artist requires an extraordinary approach.

Indeed, sand art has many areas, for example, sand graphics is a picture. There are people who are good at this. Something else may be failed.

-You take photos and put on the wall.

-What stunning pictures we have! There are artists who do it, and in the performances they reveal themselves worse. Someone shoots video; I saw on the Internet some crazy videos, I can’t imagine how much time the authors spent! Probably, these cartoons were being made for 6 months, but these people have no graphics or live performances. They are the fans of animation it is. By the way, we have such children who were drawing the cartoon for a year.

And sand show has its own features. I think this is the hardest part, because nothing can be corrected. You go to the viewer and you have one shot at this. You must have many hours of rehearsal, and in addition, you need to be an artist, you need to be an actor! You need to be able to draw quickly on the public. As speed increases the quality of the picture needs to be a greater.


-Yes. There should be the plot.

-The plot is very important and, by the way, this is the idea Kirillov has spoken about.

-Remind me, please, the name of the woman who has won “Ukraine’s got Talent” with sand animation?

-Kseniya Simonova.

-Is Ksenia self-taught?

-There are a lot of interviews about her. She writes that she is self-taught. Lucky for us, I mean those who are engaged sand animation in Ukraine, because it became very popular.

Everything which is done with sand, it’s cool. People have not learned to distinguish a good animation from a fake. After “Ukraine’s Got Talent” the audience admire of Sand Art! And I started then. Up to this day, unfortunately, I periodically encounter with misunderstanding.

-I thought the level is getting higher and higher…

-Yes…But there are a lot of people that will not soon begin to understand this art, it is rather young art.


If there are any other schools of such level, with several departments, or your one is the biggest?

-How many schools in Ukraine? In Ukraine there are a lot of schools, we invite them to festivals. But Kharkiv is the centre of the Sand Art.

-When you have just opened the Studio and very few people knew about Sand Art and your Studio, how did you do PR?

-The word PR was not clear for me then, but intuitively I just loved working with children. The Studio turnover (in the best month) was 3 thousand UHR, the performance was worth 5 thousand. Twice a year I organized exhibitions that needed investments. But inside me was a feeling that I want to do it and don’t want to leave. In other case, I think I would not have taken place as an artist. And I would not have met Arthur.

I didn’t understand and don’t understand those people whom we invite to the festival. The festival is free, there is no difficulty to arrive from other city, participation is free, you can even send your videos or photos by e-mail, but they don’t go! I don’t understand why?

People do not understand Sand animation. Let’s compare with dancing. A dance club which does not act or dance Studio that participates in local, national or international competitions.

As for the exhibitions, I always believe that we need them. We organized exhibitions twice a year at least. We have current exhibitions, thematic, personal, for children who are learning for several years.

The third year we select thirty of the best works. We have a lot of exhibitions. We always want children to achieve higher and higher level. I’ve always been in a search of festivals and contents where to go. We are invited, and we choose. We already know what the diplomas listed, which are not.

-What famous people did you take photo with and personally to get acquainted?

-Sometimes I do not even guess to take a photo!

-I see a photo with Vakarchuk, and here what is interesting man…

-There is Sergey Kolontay there. We’re at the same party with him and we had fun in the dressing room. He was in a costume, and I didn’t recognize him. We were chatting all the night. Then he changed and I recognized him!

I met Vakarchuk when he came to Kharkov.


These are “Virtuosos of Slobozhanshchina” (Symphony orchestra), we performed together in a time-concert “Peer Gynt”. They also played with Vakarchuk. Due to these acquaintances, we slipped backstage and had an opportunity to communicate with the producer of the Okean Elzy.

And we discussed American project asked with him. I was given the right to perform the song “Hug”. He remembers my video that I did for Vakarchuk. Although Svyatoslav Vakarchuk is very busy the producer gave me the rights to the song.

-A question about American project: What is this sensation? Why is that the USA? What motivated you, what will you win? Well, you will be shown on television in the U.S., or the motive for you is a big prize Fund, or is it a rating? Why do you need it? Rank, money, fame…

-Show on TV for me is not a motive. I have participated in “Ukraine’s Got Talent”…


-What did participation in “Ukraine’s Got Talent” give you? Did you become famous in Ukraine?


Then, at that time I had a producer. He said I should! I answer, Seryozha, leave me alone. Ksenia has already won. At second time sand animation would not be interesting to anyone. But it was commercial calculation, if you want your performance has become more expensive do your rehearsal now!

-You went to the semifinals, did you?

-I passed the qualifying audition, and then I did not passed next stage. Actually passing qualification is also an achievement because it was the third season. In the first sand animation has won, in the second my student was in the top five, that’s why the fact that I passed was really a success. They chose me despite the fact that Ukraine has already had a bunch of artists. The producers of the channel and the program had their own rating plan.

American talent is the ancestor of all of the show Got talent. It’s a TV show. One morning an American the Creator of this program woke up and thought that the TV show is not enough, where would be a place where talents can meet and create. And there are so many singers, dancers, but they are not united. Now the show connects more than 76 countries (if I’m not confused in the figures). Got Talent is the most popular show in the world. And I want to get on the show which was the first. I would like to represent our country on a show that is most famous.


I’ve been doing this art for a long time and for me it is clear that corporate parties are commercial, but there are rating performances which help you set the bar for the rest. We teach children and developed the methodology. I would like to make this art f more popular in the world. I want to glorify the positive things about Ukraine; I would like to prove the fact that we have got a huge number of talented and creative people. In the clip, which I’m going to represent in the qualifying round, I said that the most important things in the world are birth, life, peace, art.

-Have you already created the clip? The plot?

-Yes, the work is almost completed.

-How interesting. You haven’t shown it, have you?

-The clip hasn’t been filmed and edited yet. It is similar to my video “Hug” but there will be the song in English.

-When is the competition?

-The competition consists of several qualifying rounds. It started in November 2015 and it will finish at the end of February 2016. I’m leaving for Los Angeles on February, 6th.

— Are you going alone or getting the orchestra? It would be cool, right?

-Yes, a project with an orchestra is an amazing thing. But no, I’m going with the soundtrack. There are so many musicians I would like to cooperate with; it’s very cool tandem music and sand animation. It amplifies both music and sand animation.

-And what about submission for the contest? So you filled out a form on the website, didn’t you?

-Yes, I filled out the form on the website this summer. I was in the countryside, night was falling… I think — why not to participate in “America’s Got Talent”?Went to the site, and there is information about the casting this year. Filled out the form and forgot. And then the confirmation to the email address comes: your serial number is … we are waiting for you!


I’m not going along. I need help to carry equipment. I need support. Last year my father went to Los Angeles for the international conference “The Way to Happiness”. He established “The Way to Happiness” in Ukraine and he is the president of the charity fund “The Way to Happiness”. He went to the US and talked about Ukraine. He knows a lot there and he volunteered to carry my little suitcase.

I understand that the trip to Los Angeles is the next step in the development for you.

-I as the head of Children Studio want to show the children the example that dreams can come true. There is also a desire to show and give the way to talented children. I saw this famous American show, I can already see sand animation there, I see my students there. I finished the franchise, but it is not translated.

Of course, I also see that it is such a wonderful opportunity of self-development. I want the list of extra activities for kids such as English and dancing was completed with sand animation too.

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-And what skills does sand animation provide, could you clarify?

-Good question! I like it very much. And I often hear the answer about the development of fine motor skills and I cannot understand, what pisses me off about this response.Because you can get fine motor skills in the sandbox in your yard, I would say that this is a side effect. As for me the send itself is associated with intellectual and creative development.

Sand animation contributes to the development of faith in yourself as a creator; because whatever you do you have wonderful result! When you put more challenges the children, who engaged in several years, reach a serious goal. Kid is convinced that he or she is going in right way and then the child is revealed. Working with the sand is very relaxing.


— Contact with yourself? Contact with your inner world?

-Yes, exactly. This is a remarkable therapy, I have experienced! Giving birth to a child I wasn’t drawing for a month only. And I felt internal stress, anger. When I began drawing with sand and I relaxed. People usually say: Wow, three hours passed, as minute! If the adult feel good, what happens to the child? This confidence helps in any activity. I have studied drawing since childhood. But none of my classmates with whom I communicate, associated with art. But nobody (nobody hurts if I say) became a grey or ordinary person.

-You mean the Lyceum of arts?

-I’m talking about school, about school age. The Lyceum… they are teenagers of 16-17 years old. We don’t have students of such age group. They have found themselves: someone is a surgeon, someone is a businessman, someone is a housewife, but they all are very interesting people and I didn’t want them to become sand animators. We have a girl, our apprentice, she is 16 years old and she teaches now, we have professional development where to move next. But mostly we focus on the fact that for the child sand animation is a way to develop and it really reveals the talents, in any field.

-I understand that you have a dream to have as more as possible schools to around the world which have the subject of sand animation and people have a chance to be evolved…

-I began to receive such requirements even before I realized it by myself. They started to write and ask more often than once a week or once a month (I can’t remember). We started teaching the technique and methodology. Our methodology works for many schools.

-In fact, you first personally created your own methodology?

-Yes, and without having any pedagogical education and I am proud of it.

-How many years have you spent on the work by developing the methodology?

-We have worked for six years. The Studio was 6 years old on 1 December and we are still adding some things. Initially, when there were 20 people in the Studio, children of different ages studied together. Now we divide our students by age, children 3 and 5 years old are not already doing together. WE have different approaches and different tasks to different age groups. There are several age groups there due to the fact that we have a lot of teachers. They are better at working with children than me. I am proud that there are such people in my team. We saw that all children got the development and everybody liked that.

-Have you calculated how much money do you need for a trip to Los Angeles?

— About 5 thousand dollars with flights for two.

-You wrote that you had 20 percent or may be more?

-I have a little more, maybe 25-26 percent.

-Well, people will respond. And did you write all maecenas, whose contacts I gave you on Facebook or they are closed to communication?

— No, I have not written to everyone yet. The last few days I was not engaged in it.

-But those people whom you wrote to?

-They have not responded yet. I correspond with those who responded and I’m leading a list, who threw even 200 UHR. Because I promised some small prizes for the New Year, postcards … Who sent larger amounts got a video with congratulation I made!

I’m not actually lacking money, because I can see how they began to respond, and money is not a problem. Actually 5 thousand it’s not big enough. I have not enough time to post or register on all these sites. I’m not a dreamer who has nothing to do to raise money. I have a big Studio, a lot of children, students. Today I found out that children were held in “Ukraine’s Got Talent”! We must prepare! And New Year and corporate events, and family, so I do in fact have very little time…

-Life in a mode Non-stop. Have you got enough time to sleep?

-Yes! Sleeping less than 8 hours it not enough. Time management is a serious thing.

Are you planning third kid?

-No, not yet.

-You have a lot of creative children. How many of them are studying at the Studio now?

-Now there 120 pupils at the Central Studio.

-Not a few, but how many teachers?

— Six and I am the seventh.


Clearly, the children grow up. Sometimes they create their own Studios. How do you feel about the fact that they grow up and start their own small business?

-Fine, if the person continues to do it. Sister worked with me. She owns her business. She has worked for six months under the contract in Tunisia. A lot of my colleagues opened their studios in Kharkov.

—  Your work really has a big impact on our society. We congratulate you with the fact that you have a lot of followers and I wish you that your dream to go to Los Angeles came true, and even if you don’t take first place, it will be a great contribution to the development of Ukraine at the international level.

-Thank you.



Interwiev by Vera DG



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