The Folk Art Russia
Folk art may tell a lot about the Russian national character and history, giving insight into the Russian people's ideals of beauty and happiness. There are dozens of various types of folk art, including woodcarving, lace-making, beading, wood and metal painting, ceramics, prints, coloured fabrics and items made of leather and fur. Many of the Russian styles of folk art are world-renowned, such as matryoshkas, Gzhel ceramics, Zhostovo trays, the shawls of Pavlovsky Posad, Volgda lace-making, Dymkovo toys and the iron-founding of Kasli, as well as the painting and decorating techniques of Palekh, Khokhloma and Gorodets. Folk art crafts can be found in all tourists centres, and it would be hard for one to leave Russia without taking a colourful souvenir or two back home. Lush flowers, exquisite paintings, dainty face artifacts and funny toys will keep alive the memories of our vast country and its kind, generous, talented people.
The Toys of Dymkovo
Hand decorated clay figures of people and animals, often made in the form of pennywhistles, have been produced since days of old in the village of Dymkovo near the city of Kirov (formely Vyatka) and are also known as Kirovskaya or vyatskaya igrushka. In the old days, figurines of horses, horsemen and birds were carried as talisman for luck, but now the pennywhistles are best known as children's toys. Up until the 20th century, the toys were made in time for traditional spring fairs. Today’s Dymkovo toys reflect both ancient and contemporary subjects (19th -20th centuries), such as figurines of noble women, nurses, water bearers and others.
The Lace-making ov Vologda
It has been done throughout the Vologda Region since the 16th or 17th centuries Lace-making was already a very popular folk art by the beginning of the 19th century, and its fame spread due to European exhibitions where it was shown. The lace of Vologda is netted on Koklyushkas, special devices made of linen threads, which look like a wavy braid on the background of openwork patterns. The technique of Vologda lace-making is used for napkins, coverlets, lace decorations and unique works of art made especially for exhibitions and based on artists sketches.
The Toys of Bogorodskoye
Toy - and sculpture-making in Bogorodskoye grew upon the basic principles of old Russian art whose cultural sources have their roots in the Trinity Monastery of St. Sergius (Moscow Region), a large centre of national arts and crafts.
The detailed hand-decorated figurines of people and animals either painted or unadorned, are based on fairytale characters or legendary heroes. Local craftsmen do their work with much imagination, humour and extraordinary attention to detail. Many museums in Russia have their own collections of toys in this style, called bogorodskaya igrushka.
The Painting Technique of Khokhloma
This technique emerged in the 17th century Nizhny Novgorod Region, near the trading village of Khokhloma, to which it owes its name. The art of Khokhloma painting has hardly changed to this day; fine cut articles made of teil or aspen tree are covered with a special soil, smeared with aluminium powder and painted with heat proof dyes. After the lacquering process is finished, the patterns drawn in silver are transformed into gold. The traditional motif is of entwined grass and flowers painted in fiery cinnabar, black and sparkling gold hues is imprinted upon and decorates mugs, serving spoons, ladies and small barrels. These wooden articles are resistant to both water and organic acids. The khokhloma technique is used not only for decorating pottery but for souvenirs, furniture and household items as well.
Matryoshkas (Nesting Dolls)
The most popular souvenir from Russia has only been made in this country for a little over a century. Matryoshkas are a set of various sized wooden painted dolls that can be fit one inside the other. The idea came from Japan, where a Buddhist wise man named Fukurumu had the original idea of fitting identical doll figures together. The first matryoshkas were made in the village (now the town) of Serghiyev Posad (Moscow Region), and today they are made in many cities throughout Russia. In just several years after their inception, matryoshkas were presented at the World Exhibition in Paris where they won a gold medal and world fame. Traditionally, a matryoshka depicts a red-cheeked peasant woman wearing a shawl, but nowadays one can find many different styles of these dolls, decorated both in the styles of Gzhel or Khokhloma or as figurine sets of famous Russian politicians from Vladimir Lenin to Vladimir Putin.
The Enamel of Rostov the Great
The centre of national production of enamel for painting, also known as finift, is in the city of Rostov the Great (Yaroslavl Region). This folk art has existed here since the 18th century. Earlier, enamel inserts were most often used to decorate church artifacts, from icon crowns to sacred book covers. Today the finift of Rostov the Great is used in decorative painting on enamel for household items and other finery, such as small mirrors, powder-boxes, ear-rings and bracelets - brooches with filigreed portraits made in this style are especially valued. Amazing pieces of jewellery created by the masters of Rostov finift make for excellent Russian souvenirs.
The Trays of Zhostovo
The metal lacquerware of the small village of Zhostovo, located in the Moscow vicinity near the city of Mytishchi, has existed in Russia for two centuries. These metal trays of various sizes and forms, decorated with vivid images on a red-and-black background, are very popular Russian souvenirs. Though flowers arranged in various patterns are the most famous motif, other decorative images, such as ornaments and fruits, may be depicted on the trays, as well as natural landscapes, fairytale characters and nature morte compositions.
The Painting Technique of Gorodets
This folk decorative art of tempera painting on wood has existed in the city of Gorodets (Nizhny Novgorod Region) since the middle of the 19th century, which gave the technique its name. Figurines of rooster, horses and other surreal animals and birds, as well as scenes of promenades and tea-parties, are decorated in vivid colours executed with broad brushstrokes and encircled with decorations which are outlined in black-and-white. People used to decorate furniture, doors, window sills, gates and other parts of their houses with such painting creating an inimitably bright world. Today, various kinds of toys and souvenirs continue to be painted in this style.
The Painted Miniatures of Palekh
The village of Palekh (Ivanovo Region) near the city of Kostroma (Upper Volga area) is famous for its unique folk crafted miniatures on which bright tempera paint is used to decorate a black background of papier-mache lacquerware (small boxes, cases, cigarette holders,powder and pill boxes, etc.). Though the creation of Palekh miniatures began in the 1920s, their decorative style is reminiscent of icon-painting techniques. The images depicted on the ideally smooth black surface of the miniatures show colourful scenes from everyday life and heroic events in Russian history, as well as scenes from popular legends and fairy tales.
Items Made of Birch bark
This old type of folk art was born in the town of Veliky Ustyug as early as the 13th century and is a typical decorative style in Russia’s northern areas. Fold craftsmen make small boxes, cooking utensils and boxes from birch bark, as well as cylindrical thermos-type bottles with the lids attached and various kinds of toys all decorated with carvings, embossment and paintings. Basket work is especially popular among them. The most famous centres for producing items from birch bark are located in the cities of Valiky Ustyug (Vologda Region), Tomsk (Western Siberia) and Syktyvkar (Republic of Komi).