June 03, 2000

Golden Khokhloma


Golden Khokhloma

Along the banks of the Volga River, there is a village called Khokhloma (pronounced: HOK-la-ma). It is surrounded by forests of aspen and birch trees. Over 300 years ago, the villagers found that their growing community could not sustain itself with the limited crops they were able to grow. Rather than cut down their beautiful forests to make room for more farm land, they came up with a way for the trees to provide them with an exportable product. This export was, then, traded for food and other goods. The product was wooden utensils crafted from the local trees.

Khokhloma became a trading center in the Transvolga region. It became quickly known for its unique, hand crafted wooden items. It is said that Boyar B.I. Morozov ordered large quantities of Khokhloma's cups and eating utensils and had them shipped to Moscow in the 17th century.

As the residents of Khokhloma were developing their wood working skills, nearby painters discovered a new way to process beautiful, yet permanent, painting techniques. By using tin, extreme heat and lacquer, they were able to create the appearance of a gilded gold finish. The painters and wood crafters joined their talents to produce Golden Khokhloma.

The craft is still practiced today, using the original techniques and elements. First, seasoned soft wood is hand carved to create spoons, bowls, cups, vases, small pieces of furniture and ornaments. Next, the pieces are dried in a kiln, then covered with clay and placed in the kiln, again. Each piece is hand rubbed and polished using three coats of oil which forms a sticky surface. Tin, or modern powdered aluminum, covers the pieces before their third trip to the kiln. The result is a bright silverish color.

Now, the painters go to work. Each piece is hand decorated and no two are ever alike. The charm of Khokhloma is in the creative patterns of the individual artisans. Typically, only four colors are used; green, black, gold and red. Patterns usually include leaves, berries and flowers. The entire piece is not painted. The idea is to leave a good deal of the silver metal cover exposed. After the painting is done, the piece gets a generous coating of lacquer and a fourth trip to the kiln. It is during this firing that the lacquer covered tin turns to a vibrant gold. Due to the intense heat of the kiln, the painted decoration is literally baked into the wood and cannot peel or wear off.

Golden Khokhloma is still produced today and is a favorite among folk art collectors, worldwide.

Golden Khokhloma
Gift Shop and Gallery

Like this post? Get a weekly email digest + member-only deals

Some of Our Books

Life Stories: Original Fiction By Russian Authors

Life Stories: Original Fiction By Russian Authors

The Life Stories collection is a nice introduction to contemporary Russian fiction: many of the 19 authors featured here have won major Russian literary prizes and/or become bestsellers. These are life-affirming stories of love, family, hope, rebirth, mystery and imagination, masterfully translated by some of the best Russian-English translators working today. The selections reassert the power of Russian literature to affect readers of all cultures in profound and lasting ways. Best of all, 100% of the profits from the sale of this book are going to benefit Russian hospice—not-for-profit care for fellow human beings who are nearing the end of their own life stories.
Fearful Majesty

Fearful Majesty

This acclaimed biography of one of Russia’s most important and tyrannical rulers is not only a rich, readable biography, it is also surprisingly timely, revealing how many of the issues Russia faces today have their roots in Ivan’s reign.
At the Circus (bilingual)

At the Circus (bilingual)

This wonderful novella by Alexander Kuprin tells the story of the wrestler Arbuzov and his battle against a renowned American wrestler. Rich in detail and characterization, At the Circus brims with excitement and life. You can smell the sawdust in the big top, see the vivid and colorful characters, sense the tension build as Arbuzov readies to face off against the American.
93 Untranslatable Russian Words

93 Untranslatable Russian Words

Every language has concepts, ideas, words and idioms that are nearly impossible to translate into another language. This book looks at nearly 100 such Russian words and offers paths to their understanding and translation by way of examples from literature and everyday life. Difficult to translate words and concepts are introduced with dictionary definitions, then elucidated with citations from literature, speech and prose, helping the student of Russian comprehend the word/concept in context.
Chekhov Bilingual

Chekhov Bilingual

Some of Chekhov's most beloved stories, with English and accented Russian on facing pages throughout. 
The Pet Hawk of the House of Abbas

The Pet Hawk of the House of Abbas

This exciting new trilogy by a Russian author – who has been compared to Orhan Pamuk and Umberto Eco – vividly recreates a lost world, yet its passions and characters are entirely relevant to the present day. Full of mystery, memorable characters, and non-stop adventure, The Pet Hawk of the House of Abbas is a must read for lovers of historical fiction and international thrillers.  
Maria's War: A Soldier's Autobiography

Maria's War: A Soldier's Autobiography

This astonishingly gripping autobiography by the founder of the Russian Women’s Death Battallion in World War I is an eye-opening documentary of life before, during and after the Bolshevik Revolution.
Faith & Humor: Notes from Muscovy

Faith & Humor: Notes from Muscovy

A book that dares to explore the humanity of priests and pilgrims, saints and sinners, Faith & Humor has been both a runaway bestseller in Russia and the focus of heated controversy – as often happens when a thoughtful writer takes on sacred cows. The stories, aphorisms, anecdotes, dialogues and adventures in this volume comprise an encyclopedia of modern Russian Orthodoxy, and thereby of Russian life.
Stargorod: A Novel in Many Voices

Stargorod: A Novel in Many Voices

Stargorod is a mid-sized provincial city that exists only in Russian metaphorical space. It has its roots in Gogol, and Ilf and Petrov, and is a place far from Moscow, but close to Russian hearts. It is a place of mystery and normality, of provincial innocence and Black Earth wisdom. Strange, inexplicable things happen in Stargorod. So do good things. And bad things. A lot like life everywhere, one might say. Only with a heavy dose of vodka, longing and mystery.

About Us

Russian Life is a publication of a 30-year-young, award-winning publishing house that creates a bimonthly magazine, books, maps, and other products for Russophiles the world over.

Latest Posts

Our Contacts

Russian Life
73 Main Street, Suite 402
Montpelier VT 05602

802-223-4955