Dolls were a prominent part of the Quilt Festival in Suzdal. There was a separate competition category for dolls, and there were also several doll making classes during the week.
The dolls exhibition and classes took place in the library building, an interesting sight in itself.
I loved the two quilts fitted into the arcs in the upstairs room. The large angel wings, put together from lots of individual wings made by children, was a popular selfie spot.
Old doll making traditions seem to have survived and are very much alive and kicking in this country, – maybe because dolls were not seen only as toys for little children, but were also part of traditions connected with adult life. Linda Walsh has an interesting article on her blog about Russian folk art dolls and their use.
According to tradition, rag dolls should be without facial features so that evil spirits would not mistakenly recognize them as humans and inhabit the dolls, – thus it would be safe for little children to play with. This old belief implies that dolls at some time must have been regarded as something more than just the sum of the fabric scraps they were made of.
There were a few faceless dolls in the exhibition, but most had facial features of some kind.
Anyway, regardless of face or not, the dolls were highly individual creations, – not two of them were alike.
The amount of work and attention to details were impressive.
People could enter works related to the terms “Urban Fashionista”, and also “Birds”, “Fish”, “Bears”, and “Bunnies”. Hence, there was a collection of imaginative, stuffed, animals, and, not surprising perhaps, – also cats.
“Angels Everywhere” was another subcategory of the dolls competition. And there were lots of angels and angel wings in many variations. One could also see the main theme for the festival, “Love”, reflected in many of the creations.
This charming doll carried a big heart on her back.
And even more angels:
The artist Nata Shulepina had created a special project called “Pray for me”:
Svetlana Minina taught classes on doll making at the festival. What she can express through a plain piece of cloth is truly amazing. Her small sculptures are really works of art.
I also loved the bird-woman sculptures, also made by Nata Shulepina . According to Wikipedia, these are mythical creatures, some telling the future, and some akin to the Greek sirens.
Not all dolls were as esoteric as the ones above, though. Some were engaged in down-to-earth, practical, activities:
Dolls could also be seen in other venues. In the vendors’ area there were two life size dolls:
I loved the doll with three pairs of arms and hands. That could sure come in handy on many occasions.
Linda Walsh writes in her article about dolls with many arms:
“Ten-handed doll is a ceremonial multihanded doll. This doll was a common gift for weddings or for young hostess wishing everything to be well. It was considered the doll to help a woman to do all the housework , needlework, weaving, sewing, embroidery, knitting. The doll was made of bast fiber or straw. The doll can be put in the place, where woman spends her time working.”
The tradition of giving dolls as gifts with accompanying good wishes, has certainly not been abandoned. I have received such gifts on previous visits to Russia, and again on this trip.
This lovely doll was thrust into my hands by a fellow quilter on the opening night of the festival. Just like that, for no reason I can think of, other than that we had just been introduced. She is an amazing quilt artist, and the doll now sits right next to my sewing machine.
I bought this colourful, small, mat from a lady in a stall on one of the first days. On our last day we ran into each other at the Apple Festival inside one of the monasteries, and she gave me this small doll. We had no language in common other than body and facial expressions, but I understood this was meant for good luck.
According to this site, it seems this kind of doll is for wishing good health to the receiver.
Thank you! 🙂
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