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Bulgarian Geppetto

December 9, 2009 by · No comments

An interview with Pavel Harapov by Natalia Nikolaeva
Translation: Ellie Ivanova Ponti

Pavel Harapov

Remember that good-natured woodcarver Geppetto who carved a marionette out of pine wood? And then a miracle happens: Pinocchio comes alive. Are these just children’s stories?

If you think so, then come to Prague. Beyond the magnificent Old Town Square with the medieval astronomical clock, in a tiny cozy workshop on 7 Tynska Street, I met a real Geppetto. The story about Pnocchio is real: I met Peter Harapov, surrounded by unusual marionettes, fairy tale characters that do come alive.

His blindfolded Pinocchio paints with real paints and a real brush on a marionette-sized canvass, on a small improvised stage. Flowers in vases, portraits and many different images appear under his brush, inspired and directed by Pavel Harapov, who operates the strings.


A scene between reality and fantasy appears before the fascinated spectator, amidst sawdust and the smell of freshly painted wood. This Bulgarian Geppetto hardly realizes, engrossed in his work with a smile, that his passion and hard work are what real art is.

Pavel Harapov is just a person who carves out his creations with love. He dances around his unique marionettes, talks to them as if they were his children and they come alive. I met him in Prague, home of the country’s National Marionette Theater and an international marionette center where wooden puppets sold everywhere. I stumbled across something unique and unforgettable: the talent of a Bulgarian Geppetto, whose creations are inimitable and unique.

Let’s touch the pieces of art and life created by Peter Harapov, as well as his inspiration, through the interview I took of him.

Pavel Harapov

How are your creations different from all others?

Tancuvashti kukli

In the classic marionette theater, the puppeteer needs to prove something. In my art, the opposite is true: the marionette needs to prove something. A marionette is a person, with its own biography and personality. For me, presenting an interesting movement through the marionette, an action, an event, a situation, even a confrontation, is of paramount importance. For example, St. George fighting the dragon or a basketball player shooting baskets, a Native American drawing his bow, a male and female marionette dancing flamenco.


How would you define your art creations?

My goal is to make sculptures that can be mechanically put into action and also carry a certain sense of humor. It’s a mix of woodcarving art and mechanics, so everything has to be both functional and beautiful. My highest pleasure is creating ensembles of marionettes, which is like the game of chess as it needs two players. The soccer theme is interesting in this respect since it has two players: one would be the goal keeper, while the other is a penalty kicker just like Stoichkov. One keeps the goal, the other tries to score a shootout.


How does a wooden figurine come to be?

They represent different situations of life, nature, sports. I try to instill as much humor in them as possible. For example, a small wooden plane with a wooden Pinocchio parachuting from it. A person drawing water from a well, a chimney sweeper cleaning a chimney, a dentist pulling a tooth, a boxer boxing, a weightlifter lifting weights. The marionette most difficult to operate is the one that can light a match: it can open the matchbox, close it and then light the match.

How did you start making wooden figurines?

Tancuvasta kukla

I do all of this for my own pleasure first of all. I graduated with a degree in restoration from the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague. I have a long experience restoring wooden figurines and altar sculptures, as well as baroque wooden ceilings in the Czech Republic. That was my encounter with many amazing artists.

There have been many changes in life and art in the last two decades. It has become much more electronic and hi-tech, with new computer games coming out constantly. I love working on these wooden figurines, even though it’s not nearly as profitable as the restoration work.

Would you tell us about your Pinocchio, which is the largest painter Pinocchio in the world?

Naj-golemiat Pinoccio v sveta

I never thought this creation of mine would be inscribed in the Guinness book of records in 2004. I was just following my inspiration and the desire to make a marionette that just like all the other ones would do something – in this case, paint. This wooden Pinocchio rises to a height of more than two meters (7 feet); it weighs more than 60 kg (132 lb) and is made of lime wood. It consists of more than 50 moving parts: fingers, closing/opening eyes and mouth and, of course, a growing nose. This colossal Pinocchio paints with the help of pedals and driving mechanisms. There is no other marionette in the world that can paint portraits, still life and different other images.

What future do you wish for your own art?

I have only 8 marionettes in this studio, where I have spent the last 15 years, out of 20 I have created. All the rest are scattered around the world. My wooden drummer is in Hollywood; an American film director wanted him for one of his movies. Some of my wooden puppet figurines are in Spain, the Netherlands, Australia. Four of them are in the Lanzarote Zoo, one of the Canary Islands. My smallest painter Pinocchio is in Bulgaria right now, where my art is not as popular.

My dream is to get all my creations together in a museum or in a gallery so that they are all in the same place.

igra s kukli

We leave this Bulgarian Geppetto’s studio wishing him inspiration and the opportunity to make his dream happen. What stays with me is the memory of Pavel Harapov’s unique talent and his masterful hands that give life to his wooden figurines and joy to children of all ages. Touched by this world of fantasy, I take with me a piece of enthusiasm, children’s curiosity and the magic feeling that life can become art.

Categories: Frontpage · Visual Arts



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