Contemporary Russian designers are drawing inspiration from traditional motifs and techniques to create bold new crafts.
An artist journeying into the practice of the Palekh painting technique, where long-lasting tempera paints are applied onto varnished items made from papier-mâché, has to endure years of study before attempting their own compositions. Russian fairy-tale imagery – of the Gray Wolf and Zhar-ptitsa, or Firebird, for example – is a particularly prominent motif.
1. Ulyana Sergeenko wooden bag with fairy tale paintings
2. HALF&HALF Hohloma plates
3. Ulyana Sergeenko traditional red leather boot
4. Imperial Porcelain cup
5. Ulyana Sergeenko wooden bag with fairy tale paintings
Produced from fossilised tree resin, this organic gem has existed for millions of years. More than 90% of the world’s amber is sourced from Russia, with the largest deposit found in Kaliningrad, which faces the Baltic Sea. Because they are naturally formed, each gem is unique, varying in size, colour and shape, and can be incredibly valuable. Older gems and those containing fossilised insect specimens can fetch hefty prices. Spectacular amber artworks can be viewed at the Kaliningrad Regional Amber Museum.
1. Alena Akhmadullina amber bag
2. Liza Borzaya bracelet
3. Axenoff Russian doll earrings
4. Verbilki porcelain rooster
5. Yanina Couture kokoshnik
6. Ulyana Sergeenko headpiece
Named after the region located just east of Moscow, this form of traditional paintings on ceramics can be recognised by its trademark blue and white colours – created by unique cobalt paints applied onto unglazed porcelain. The porcelain pieces are subsequently burnt, giving the paint an even more vibrant blue hue. Created since the early 19th century, it’s been applied on everything from sculptures and vases to tea sets and clocks. Small, local Gzheli enterprises continue to make custom pieces.
1. Axenoff tiara
2. Alena Akhmadullina pearl earring
3. HALF&HALF Hohloma plates
4. Axenoff Samovarchik earring
5. M_U_R gloves
6. Alena Akhmadullina pearls
It’ll be hard to find lacework that is more artistic or that showcases more impeccable workmanship than that produced in the Vologda region, situated about 500km north of Moscow. Entirely handmade, it is characterised by its delicate symmetry and commonly includes floral ornaments, decorating anything from everyday tablecloths to wedding outfits. In the past, women had to make their own lace for their dowries.
1. Ruban wooden earrings
2. Ruban wooden bag
3. Vologda linen lace shawl
4. Yanina Couture brooch
5. Yanina Couture mittens
6. A LA RUSSE by Anastasia Romantsova knitted ushanka hat
Places to find Russian specialties in Moscow
This old factory building, located a short distance from Dmitrovskaya metro station sees new life as a hip venue brimming with local and global designers.
Opened in 1901, this is Moscow’s most famous general store, yet it has the air of a gilt-edged royal palace with its dazzling chandeliers and mahogany-rich interiors. Expect Russian specialities like caviar and handmade chocolates.
Tverskaya St, 14
Located north of Partizanskaya metro station this streetside craft and flea market is where you’ll find unique Russian handicrafts and even old furniture.
Set design by Ekaterina Starostina
Styling by Maria Pepelova
Singapore Airlines flies to Moscow five times a week. To book a flight, visit singaporeair.com
This article was originally published in the February 2020 issue of SilverKris magazine