A Traditional Form of Russian Wood Painting
● Most visitors to Russia enjoy buying handicrafts of some kind, such as matryoshka dolls. In early times most of such items were crafted from wood by skilled village craftsmen. A traditional form of wood painting is called khokhloma.
For centuries Russians ate from meticulously carved and painted bowls, and they used spoons, cups, and other vessels made of wood. The designs appearing on these were usually of plant or animal life. Entire villages might be devoted to making wooden objects of one kind or another.
Villagers would work on these projects during long, cold winters, when there was little farmwork to do. Producing such handicrafts became very profitable in some towns and villages two hundred or more years ago. For example, at one time, the entire population of Semënov stopped farming and produced nearly two million wooden bowls, platters, cups, and spoons in a single year.
Villagers near the town of Nizhniy Novgorod invented a technique for producing a hard, gilded finish for their painted vessels. Heat-resistant paints and varnishes were developed, and prepared objects were fired in a kiln. High temperatures gave the silver-colored surface an even, golden tone. The process is still used today in khokhloma factories around Nizhniy Novgorod.
Khokhloma designs include flowers and plants found in Russian forests and meadows, as well as birds and fish. Often featured are curling tendrils of grass and leaves mixed with fruits, such as berries of various kinds. The colors are usually red, black, gold, and green. Today, through khokhloma handicrafts, dining tables of people in many places around the world are decorated with pretty colors of the Russian countryside.