Designers offer twists on everyday objects

Ask any Russian designer over the age of 40, and he or she will tell you about a time when an American magazine or book of prints was a treasure to be coveted. Not so much because of the text, but because of the typeface, the pictures, the cover. These gave a tantalizing glimpse at design trends outside the Soviet Union.

The deprivation lasted so long that when the floodgates finally opened in the 1990s, many Russians could only gape at the new styles saturating the culture. Design icons that seem mundane to us now, like Versace, pop art and Barbie, were a revelation -especially for people who had no context in which to place them. But Russia is nothing if not a quick study. A new generation of artists has imbibed the styles of the last few decades and is now responding to them with creativity and a distinctly Russian sense of humor. In the four examples below, these designers offer twists on everyday objects like pillows and keyboards.

Optimus Maximus
The technology freak who thinks he has everything will have his world shattered when he finds out about the Optimus Maximus. The keyboard, designed by Art Lebedev Studio, has 113 keys, each with its very own LED display. The keys can be adjusted to any configuration- languages, symbols and images. Their functions, including shortcut keys, can be changed at whim. The icons will change accordingly, glowing bashfully as you type away. Discounting some Swarovski-encrusted abomination sure to be on sale somewhere, the Optimus Maximus is currently the most expensive keyboard in the world at $1,564. The initial batch of 200, however, sold out in twelve hours. Early next year, the Art Lebedev Studio will ship another 600 units.
www.artlebedev.com




Mooqla Dolls
These silicone-encased plastic dolls are nothing like their famed Mattel counterpart, physically or emotionally. The six beauties in this collection have moving joints, reminiscent of old-time porcelain dolls, and bear rather tragic expressions. Don't expect a Hollywood smile from any of these girls, and play at your own risk: a Mooqla doll does not make a good flight attendant, mermaid or tea-party host, and she doesn't drive a pink convertible. We're thinking more along the lines of tearful sessions with a shrink, half-hearted cry-for-help suicide attempts and repeated viewings of "Carrie". Designed and produced in Moscow by Polina Voloshina, the dolls are sold at the Galleries Lafayette in Paris, and cost about $350.
www.mooqla.com



The cat house by Chapurin Casa
Moscow is the most expensive city in the world this year, so don't dream of getting a luxury apartment here: that ship has sailed. Your cat, on the other hand, can enjoy Rublyovka-style surroundings in a luxury dwelling created by ChapurinCasa.


Prominent Russian fashion designer Igor Chapurin has also created sets for the Bolshoi, Kremlin Guard uniforms and stage costumes for Beyoncй. The cat house, inspired by the Red Army uniform from World War II, includes a bed made of Black Sea pebbles.
www.chapurin.ru



Speech Bubble Pillows
After pop art deprivation in the Soviet era, here comes a Lichtenstein- inspired treat: classic comic book-style speech bubbles rendered as three-dimensional pillows. Blurring the line between art and comfort, preeminent design studio Ostengruppe has made it easy to fill the bubble with a personalized message, so couples sleeping next to each other become living graphic novels. Ostengruppe, a RUSSIA! contributor, has also developed posters for the Russian Film Museum and the uniforms for the 2006 Russian Olympic team.
www.boys-toys.ru/vslukh/eng

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