Today I’d like to introduce you to my friend, good person and a great master of his craft. A man, thanks to whom I had stayed in the movement and met most of my current friends.
Vyacheslav Perepelitsa (Emris) is a founder, owner and one of the leading craftsmen of the ArmorySmith Workshop. His workshop makes historical as well as sports armor and his works are well-known far beyond Ukraine. Like many others in this field he came to it from “movement” – hobby, dedicated to live action role-playing games. This movement includes a great deal of various aspects: starting from well-known tolkeinism to reconstruction of armor, clothing and everyday life of multiple historical periods.
Armor for sports. Its main purpose is protection and convenience
Breastplate “Leeds” (reconstruction based on the artifact from the “Leeds” museum) with the “Tristan” set (sports stilyzation)
So, my first question, naturally, would be “Why”? Why this profession in particular? Why this type of life? As I understand, one is a result of another.
Maybe, it was some sort of predisposition to the medieval times. Most likely, from some movies or books about knights. Such things stay in subconsciousness and some times it is hard to understand what exactly jump-started the process. Although, if you look from aside, I fall within category “running from reality” to the fullest extent. Drinking mother, lack of money… one might run to the world’s edge, let alone computer games or tolkienism. The question is, where will you run to in the end.
You ran quite nicely! Why do you think it is?
Armor “Kunst Schott von Hellingen”. Complicated project. Finishing touches on the helmet.
Armor “Kunst Schott von Hellingen”. Finished product
I would say that I was lucky to meet significant people for me. Despite to my mother’s way of life, she loved to hike, walk around museums or just wander for a while in interesting places.
One time we were taking a walk around Andriyivskyy Descent in Kyiv and there was this tournament or an event organized by Serafim Sobko (one of the founders of the historical reenactment and role-playing movement in Ukraine). I was around eleven years old. What was happening fascinated me, but I never thought that I would be capable of doing the same. That was the first time I saw people who loved the Medieval so much that they had sewn the costumes and started fencing.
After some time, half a year, maybe, I saw Tolkienists on the Lysa Hora (near Vydubychi metro station). This time it was not a performance, but small groups of the teens and adults, which were training, hanging out and talking in the hills and meadows on this mountain. I was constantly thinking about these people and how cool it would be to do the same things as them. I even crafted a gauntlet from tin.
Memorable gauntlet was not found, but instead – gauntlets which are now produced in the workshop. Nod bad for an evolution, right?
In other words, it was your first product?
If you could say so. I used pliers, hammer and a hole in the floor. One piece of parquet was missing. Actually at first it wasn’t but it didn’t stand much chance as I had not come up with something smarter than to rip out the piece of parquet. Our chandelier was doomed as well. I’ve made me a wooden sword too.
After that one guy told me he was involved in Tolkienist movement. I don’t remember his name now, but I do know his nickname: Tinagil. He was 17, older than me. I learned from him, that there are games in the woods where people build fortresses, armies are led by kings, at nights scouts make acts of sabotage and mages weave plots… I also hear a lot of tales like: prisoner was brought to a camp, he was just started to being tortured as he screams: “I’m a forester, I’ll tell you everything!”
Heck, I’m telling all of this and feel bad that I don’t have that enthusiasm for tolkienism anymore.
“Watcher in the Water” club, role polygon game “The ring of darkness”, 2007.
How old were you?
12-13 years. It was not a bad time. Tinagil suggested that we go to a theatrical fencing class. Although it could not even be called a class, as everything took place in half-built one-storey building. But it was free and my mother took me there once a week.
After that I started to go to another class which was supervised by Serafim Sobko (now deceased) himself. Once he invited us to go to Sudak on the “Genova Fortress” festival. There I saw buhurt for the first time.
Buhurt, role polygone game based on tv-show “Game of Thrones”, 2012
Did that impress you?
You bet it did!
Imagine a bright sunny day, you are inside of the fortress. At first on the tiltyard one half of the fighters line up, roughly 50 people. The steel of the harness is shining on the sun, colorful flags are fluttering in the wind… suddenly the other troop enters through the main gate. A standard-bearer is walking at the front with couple of knights in beautiful harnesses. The next thing you know Rammstein’s “Du Hast” starts to play. Attacking group makes a powerful run towards the others and crash into their opponents with deafening clang. The dust goes up under their feet, sounds of hitting and weapon clang are almost louder than the music…
My first emotion was fright. These men were fighting not in pretense, but with all the strength with real steel swords.
What else do you remember from this first trip? Sea, freedom, first festival…
At least there was another incredible meet. I already said that people that affected my life appeared in the right time. Acquaintance with Serhiy Leschenko – a talanted artist and one of the best masters in Ukraine – was very significant for me.
I’ll start from the beginning.
Except pleasant rest by the sea and spectacular events me and my mother also had to earn some money for the ride back. The situation was that we had tickets only for one way. One of the options was to take pictures in medieval suits with tourists. Serafim gave me scale made from spoonbait for fishing and chainmail coif. Also there was some medieval clothing and on the train I had sewn the amice with a black cross. As if I was crusader. So, we were sitting at the place where there is a lot of tourists and tried to make some money. We weren’t very successful, but Serhiy came by.
When he discovered what our plan was a lost case, he suggested to feed us with dumplings with sour cream. I didn’t refuse any food back then. He told me about “Watcher in the Water” club and that they are doing historical fencing. So, when I came back to Kyiv I ask my mother to go there as well.
“Watcher in the Water” club, historical polygon game “The Third Crusade”, 2006
So I joined the team which was seriously involved in the Medieval. And my friend from this club, Andriy Yakovenko suggested a job at the armor workshop. I said that I have no skill but he replied that I don’t need to. They will teach me everything. So I ended up in Yuriy Zinchenko workshop “Steel Mastery”.
Wasn’t it hard? You were only 14 years old and in the group full of adults!
In some way it was easier for me. When you are 14 years old it is easier not to know something, than when you are 30. So the lack of skill was compensated by the wish to show myself and earn the praise from adults. Considering my financial situation, I could use some money. So the bloody blisters were guaranteed. I tried my best to work as good as the others, and I can say that I learned very fast. Basically I was the understudy of Serhiy Leschenko, who at that moment worked both at that workshop and on Mykhail Ragulin who is the captain of the “Watcher in the Water” club.
How long were you working there?
From 2002 till 2009. Although first two years I was working not so much and with breaks, as I still was going to school. Ha, they even kicked me out from the workshop so that I didn’t miss the school!
However, they were concerned by my studying at the school as well. So much that they even sent the committee to my home to see how I live. When they discovered practically empty apartment and a drunken mother, the principal figured out where my father works and gave him a call. He was on the trip at that time but his wife was at home. The principal arranged a meeting. She took me to my mother in law. I was treated well; they took me as a part of the family, suggested even that I moved. Later on I agreed. To be honest, that was a dream come true…
What became a push for further development? Why did you leave previous workshop?
At some moment I realized that I was lacking growth. Once at the “Watcher in the Water” club I saw the video of how Eric Dube works. I believe his video became some kind of a bible for every beginner armorer of CIS. Generally, after learning some basic skill of armory I realized that I want to study some work at the blacksmith’s shop. The craft of an armorer is different from basic blacksmithing, even though they are connected directly. That is why in 2009 I came to work in the blacksmith’s shop “Svadar” to Oleg Leschuk. After working for two years there I went on to work in my own workshop in 2011.
By then I was 24 years old and had practically ten years of experience of working with steel.
«Armory Smith Workshop»
Was it hard?
Yes, it was. Turned out I still had to learn a lot, so I take as a given the fact that the process of learning and educating is not supposed to stop. My father and my father in law helped me with the money for building my own workshop. But even with their help it was a small building with no floors. I have been working by myself for two years; I had not a lot of tools. Before the producing of armor I had to make new appliances and it slowed down the process. Also I did not know how to put a price on my work and earned not so much, as I did make an accent on quality so had to work longer than I expected. But the customers valued me and I noticed that the queue for my armor is usually 6-9 month long. In 2013 I decided to hire an assistant and came upon another difficulty: I had to teach the person who has never made armor to make them on the same level as I do. First it seemed impossible, because I have been making armor for so long and my understudy was a beginner. But the thing is that my knowledge and skills in general I searched by myself, even developed some methods of producing. It was a long process. But now with knowledge acquired I can quickly enough teach how to make armor on the high level. On condition that the student has the talent for handwork, of course.
“Iron” waits for new owners
Who do you think can follow your path? What would you recommend for those craftsmen who only start to think about choosing their profession?
Well, everyone has different way of living. It is an entity, which one cannot choose. But you could try and change it. I would like to give advice not to craftsmen but just to young people entering adult life.
First of all, try to choose a profession as soon as you can. Learn the craft from different sides. That means how it wokrs, how do you make money with it, which branches is this job connected to and so on.
Second, try to choose realistic option. You have to be self-critical and properly assess your abilities and chances to earn with the craft you choose. If you decide to be an IT-specialist, you have to be good at science and technology. If you want to be an artist you should have a good ability to judge by eye and feel proportion. One wish is not enough.
Third, you should aspire to the highest professionalism and skill. It doesn’t matter what your job is, you should be enthused about your work. Attitude like “work stays at work” and waiting for the working day to be over is not an option. You should ALWAYS be willing to improve your skills.
Fourth, learn how to asses and value yourself. Learn how to sell yourself. To be a great professional but to work for nothing is barely the dream.
Fifth, be in the circle. You should know the specialists in your field and they should know you. It can help to be informed about the news in your theme and help you to understand the developing direction of your branch.
And now here is small selection of pictures of where and in what circumstance you can see the works of the «Armory Smith Workshop»: