Russian Matryoshka dolls

These dolls can be bought all over Russia, and just like this amazing country, you can keep on exploring to find even more within.

The first Russian nested doll set was made in 1890 by Vasily Zvyozdochkin from a design by Sergey Malyutin, who was a folk crafts painter at Abramtsevo. Usually the outer layer is a woman, dressed in a sarafan, a long and shapeless traditional Russian peasant jumper dress. The figures inside may be of either gender; the smallest, innermost doll is typically a baby turned from a single piece of wood. Much of the artistry is in the painting of each doll, which can be very elaborate. The dolls often follow a theme; the themes may vary, from fairy tale characters to Soviet leaders.

The dolls are made from one block of wood in order to create a proper fit; different pieces of wood would have unique expansion-contraction characteristics and moisture content.They are made on a turning lathe, using woodcarving knives and chisels. The smallest doll is made first, and its size and shape will determine that of the larger dolls. Then, the bottom and top halves of the next doll are made separately, with a ring on the bottom made to fit into an inset on the top portion. The upper part is placed on the lower half and allowed to dry, which tightens the ring to its upper fitting to ensure the halves will close securely. No measurements are made during this process; sizing is done by eye. When all the dolls are ready, they are treated, painted, and coated.

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