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Vologda Lace

Vologda Lace Vologda region is known as a breeding ground of arts and crafts in the Russian North. In XIX-XX centuries there were highly developed such handicrafts as carving and painting of wood and birch bark, fancy weaving and needlework, niello and ceramics. But what became really world famous was Vologda lace. Since the end of XVIII century lace making developed both in Vologda-town and region. Vologda laces were always notable for their characteristic ornaments. Their lines are smooth and flowing. Even geometrical patterns become rounded. Their design is generalized, it often has just a hint of a real prototype. The main feature of those laces is delicacy. Local lace makers created lots of transparent nets that served as ground and types of laces that looked like a frosty window or blossoming garden, or a meadow full of flowers. But they are not spider web like. Made of firm flax or cotton threads, Vologoda lace are strong and weighty. in the 19th century the Vologodians exhibited their works in Europe.

According to old documents from the Vologda Record Office the lace was exported to some European cities. The merchants from Vologda took part in different foreign fairs, e.g. in Philadelphia (1876), Chicago (1893), Berlin (1909), Paris (1925). Numerous invitations, which are kept now in the Vologda Record Office, testify to the popularity of the Vologda applied art.

Lace making was considered to be respectable and profitable. Even members of wealthy families were involved in trades. Nobles and prosperous mechants trained their daughters in lace making as in a sort of fine arts. Women from impoverished gentry families and widows worked long hours around the year. But the majority of lace makers was represented by inhabitants of garrets and basements. Flax has always been favored in this tradition. Either brown (unbleached) of snow-white it has silk resiliency and luster - so it is often called "northern silk". Flax laces are beautiful and durable. Nowadays Vologda laces are also made of cotton or, rarely silk, sometimes with metal threads as metanit or lurex. Since olden times in Vologda province they used to make both multipair laces and guipure. In each region not only patterns were peculiar but even methods and tools.

At the end of XlX century a huge number of scarfs and kerchiefs, pelerines and head-dresses of black and golden silk were produced in Vologda province. Even members of wealthy families were involved in trades. Nobles and prosperous mechants trained their daughters in lace making as in a sort of fine arts. Women from impoverished gentry families and widows worked long hours around the year. But the majority of lace makers was represented by inhabitants of garrets and basements. In peasant families girls earned money by lace making to buy fashionable dresses. At the end of XIX century writers note "excessive foppishness" of peasant women's garments, their yearning for townsfolk's clothes - silk and wool stylish dresses, coats with fur collars.

At the same time in many districts of Vologda province women wore ancient folk costumes: shirts with decorated hems, skirts with laces and woven ornaments. Snow-white multipair laces were supplemented with bright colored threads that called over the bright colors of ornamented cloth. Women often put on shirts with decorated hems in haymaking time and for other kinds of collective labor. An expert in vologodsky laces S. A. Davydova describes one of the local customs. Soon after her marriage, the bride put on her best dress and countless shirts with decorated hems and went to show herself. Older women examined delicacy of her dress to see how skillful she was in needlework and lace making. But it's hard to put on too many shirts. So brides often prepared just lavishly adorned hems and put them on like underskirts. One young woman came to having on 17 skirts.

In the Vologda museum can see wonderful albums containing samples of laces. Refined patterns marked by the obvious influence of modernist style - variations of flower bows, butterflies and dragon-flies as well as especially delicate exact laces, braids of handkerchiefs and serviettes were probably accepted by Vologda lace makers, with the help of practical school graduates. Along with the designer's patterns a thick stratum of real folk art existed. Thousands of lace makers used those traditional ornaments, transforming them for changing times and fashions.

Lace making is one of the most laborious and time-consuming handicrafts. Though the process of weaving looks like 'a sort of fun it requires extreme patience, accuracy and good taste. And those who do not copy samples, but create them, often spend months searching after fresh idea. They produce mountings of drafts and sketches of the whole thing and all its parts. Each detail, every figure, curl and flower then are woven to try different ways, colors, materials. When the whole picture is ready on a big list of paper, the designer has to work on technology to find the right place for each pin. When this is over, lace makers start weaving itself. Big articles are made by teams and need weeks and months of hard work. Lace making tradition in Vologda survived through hard times. Now it's still alive and developing

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