Another innovation in toy making made by
S. Ulasevich was to start shaping a wooden figurine by turning
and to finish it with subsequent hand carving. In this approach
many of the forgotten skills of the Sergiev craftsmen were revived.
Initially the Bogorodskaya toy makers intensely deplored the
innovating techniques introduced by Berkutov and Ulasevich to
painting of wooden toys. The toys designed by the contemporary
toy craftsmen, such as the "Toy-maker" figurine made
by S.A. Pautov, successfully incorporate the traditions of wood
carving and painting typical of the Bogorodskaya toy style and
the Sergiev style.
In the Soviet period
the traditional matryoshka doll was the primary product of
the Toy Factory No. 1 in the town of Zagorsk (Sergiev Posad
carried this name between 1930 and 1992). The painting styles
and the color schemes of the matryoshka dolls were increasingly
standardized by the state-owned factory compared to the wide
variety of dolls produced by the many private workshops in
Sergiev Posad in the recent past. The standardization was
a gradual process, however, and in the first years of the
Soviet period many original doll styles were still preserved.
The matryoshka dolls from Sergiev Posad were
always exhibited at the widely attended annual
fairs in Nizhni Novgorod. That was where the wood turner A.
Mayorov purchased a doll. When he returned to his home village
Merinovo near the town of Semenov in the Nizhni Novgorod region
he manufactured a copy of it, primed the surface with starch
and used a goose feather to paint it with aniline dyes. He
continued making the dolls and charged his daughters with
painting them. When a prominent painter P. Kuznetsov was passing
through Merinovo he was interested in a new doll type. He
designed a rose-like flower ornament for decorating the doll
and many matryoshka dolls manufactured near Semenov still
carry this ornament.
In addition to dolls, the main articles manufactured
by the Semenov Souvenir Factory are wooden mushrooms, balls,
pyramids, and rattles decorated with multicolored stripes
or check work and coated with colorless varnish. The most
popular matryoshka dolls from Semenov are the "Yaroslavl
boys" and the "Russian lads" series. The Semonov
toys are typically painted in bright red, crimson, purple,
and cornflower blue hues.
The Semonov matryoshka dolls were first exhibited
abroad in 1953. Soon they earned international fame as model
articles of the Russian folk art. The Semonov matryoshka dolls
were regarded as trend setters in the matryoshka trade as
they differed from the classic Sergiev Posad dolls in that
their style was more ornamental and abstract.
The long established workshops manufacturing
wooden toys in the villages of Babenki and Kuznetsovo in the
Moscow region were merged with the wooden toys factory at
Naro-Fominsk in 1959. Unfortunately, the merger resulted in
deterioration of the general workmanship and quality in comparison
with the period before nationalization of the industry.
The factory-made toys were cheaper and faster
to manufacture than the hand-made toys but their quality was
well below that of the toys made by the skilled craftsmen
working independently or in cooperative workshops in the past.
Factory workers could no longer produce that special "silky"
finish of the wooden toy surface obtained by careful processing
and polishing by hand. However, the Babenki toys were still
in a great demand in the foreign markets because of their
attractive ornamentation featuring spots of bright colors.
In the Russian North the toy trade practically
disappeared in the Soviet period though in the early 20th
century wooden toys were still manufactured there. In the
Arkhangelsk region it was only N.A. Sidorov and E.M. Shishkin,
craftsmen from the old toy-making families, who continued
to manufacture traditional toy "pigeons" from wood
chips and "skimmer" rattles.
The tradition of the earthenware toys survived
better in the 20th century than the traditions of other hand-made
Russian toys. The village of Grinevo of the Kargopol district
in the Olonets region of Northern Russia was the birthplace
of the Kargopol toys distinguished by their archaic style.
These toys are typical incidental products of the pottery
trade. The manufacturing process remains the same for many
centuries - figurines are shaped from clay and then dried
for a day or two indoors. The toys are fired for 6-8 hours
and painted with tempera paints in two-three colors without
any priming with white. The Kargopol toys are distinguished
by their fantastic motifs. Typical range of toys includes
figurines of centaurs, two-headed horses, and deer. Usually,
they are stand-alone figurines or simple groups of two-three
items sculpted and arranged for a frontal view.
The stocky figurines with disproportionately
large heads look strikingly inert and are typically rather
small (between 8 and 14 cm in height).
A toy is shaped in parts; the base (the torso)
is fixed upon the skirt in the female figurines upon separately
shaped legs in the male figurines. The bent arms , hats, bags,
and other accessories are attached to the torso.
The Dymkovo settlement near the city of Kirov (formerly known
as Vyatka) is the best known center of earthenware toy production.
The settlement was established in the 15th century by the
citizens of the Northern town of Veliky Ustyug who rebelled
against Moscow domination and were exiled by the Tsar Ivan
III to the remote regions. Some of them including many skilled
craftsmen and toy makers moved to the place that was known
as the town of Khlynov at the time.
The toys-making trade was primarily promoted
by the needs of the local festival known as the "whistling
celebration". There was a great demand during the festival
for various whistles manufactured by the local craftsmen and
shaped as figurines of birds, horses, and lambs. The festival
is rooted in the pagan worship of Yarilo, the Slavic solar
deity. Another ancient local festival stimulating the demand
for toys included all kinds of popular entertainment such
as community contests for fist fighters and making snowmen.
In the 19th century such rural festivals were quite big affairs,
they coincided with fairs and other trade events and continued
for several days.
The Dymkovo toys were shaped of the local red
clay mixed with fine river sand to prevent cracking during
firing. First the massive base of a toy was shaped and then
smaller fragments were attached to it (chest, arms, head,
dress fringes, hair plaits, or head dresses). The finished
toys were dried for several days, fired for three-four hours,
primed with chalk dissolved in buttermilk, and painted with
tempera paints over the white background. (It was only the
Dymkovo toy makers who "whitened" their products
by immersing them into a suspension of chalk powder in milk.)
When the primed toy was drying in a draught a casein film
appeared on the surface and fixed the chalk coating.
The most ancient motifs of the Dymkovo
toys are the animals and birds. However, the Dymkovo toy trade
is famous primarily for the colorful figurines of proud noble
ladies, fat merchant wives, elegant gentlemen, valiant hussars,
and groups of figurines depicting scenes from the circus life
and open-air markets. The charmingly lively and often funny
characters of the toys graphically represent the everyday
life of a small Russian town in the 19th century.