Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Ashes Doll - Зольная кукла

Hi all,

You have already seen a picture with Ashes dolls in my very first blog entry, I will tell you a bit more about this doll.

All in all the Traditional Russian Dolls can be split in three large groups:
  • the Ward dolls (обереги) - the dolls made for protection of a person or a household, made eventually on specific occasion. 
  • the Rite dolls - dolls made and/or used for special occasions, especially linked to the seasonal rites
  • the Play dolls - playing dolls
 Of course, the line between all three can sometimes be fairly fine.

So, Ashes doll is an archaic ward doll and linked to the ancient cult of ashes.
Back to early Iron Age, sort of 3000 years ago, the household aches were not dispersed anywhere but collected in a single Ashes pile of the village or a house.
The Ashes pile became with time a symbol of the household. Hard to disagree that the bigger and richer and older is the household, the bigger Ashes pile shall be.

Making a doll with ashes from the Ashes pile had indeed a ritual and mystical meaning.

These are the heads of the Doll and the Baby (funnily called гусеничка or "a small caterpillar") made of ashes, humidified and dried, so they become stone hard. This doll is a rare, if not the only one of Traditional Dolls, that does not have any head cover, neither hair nor clothes. This "boldness" gives the doll a strong specific energy, sort of saying that there are other more important things than dressing conventions.

Ashes doll was given to the just married with the wishes of prosperity (which is counted not that much by the material richness but rather by the number of children).

Calling for the blessing and protective force of the home fire, a mother would give this doll to her marrying daughter, when she was leaving to the new husband's house and family. Such doll with home ashes were a blessing and support in a far, not always friendly place. Similarly, a woman would make an Ashes doll as a protection charm to her husband, when he was leaving the house for busiess or war.

Ashes doll could also be made with ashes from a rite fire, for example on St John's day on Midsummer Day on Summer solstice.

Finally, using ashes as a hard material was accessible to any family and plenty of Play dolls could be made on the same principle as Ashes doll. The Play ashes dolls could be made as the fantasy calls: simple or decorated, with accessories or without.


Monday, 16 April 2012

Few lines about Russian Easter

Христос Воскресе! - Во Истину Воскресе!
Christ Resurrected! - Truly Resurrected!

These exclamations followed by three kisses are exchanged  by Russians on the Easter Day.

Easter feast and traditions are really important and survived staying quite spread even during the Soviet time. Even today, you do not have to go to church or to be practising believer, to have coloured eggs and have something special baked for Easter Sunday.

So what about egg colouring traditions?
The most common way of colouring eggs is with onionskin. Just boil your eggs in a casserole with a handful or two of onionskin. The more onionskin you take and the longer you cook (plan half an hour and keep an eye on water level), the deeper the egg colour will be. After cooking, rinse eggs in cold running water for few minutes to fix the colour.
For a spotted effect, brush the eggs with paper or sponge before placing them in cold water.
Once cold, polish eggs with vegetable oil to make them shine.

The result will be the most common Russian Easter eggs:

The dark eggs on picture, coloured with red onion skin,  come from my mom who came for Easter breakfast.  This is part of tradition to exchange eggs on Easter Sunday.

And last, you do not simply peel an egg to eat it. You suppose to break it against someone else's. And luckily if you loose the fight, you can eat yours :)

Христос Воскресе!


Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Russian Dolls - Kouvadka

Hello everybody,

It looks that these are the shiny days that make me want to blog :) With this I risk to give you a wrong image of Belgian weather.

Today I tell you about Kouvadka, or Кувадка in Russian.
This is one of the basic Russian Traditional dolls. By "basic" I mean both its meaning and its making.

It is one of the first dolls of the childhood and it is tightly linked to the birth.

Before the birth, a future mother would make several Kouvadki out of her old clothes to be put in the cradle to warm it up for the future baby.

Kouvadki would be placed around the place where the birth has to happen. This served to attract the attention of bad spirits away from the birth giving mother and the just born baby.

And finally, when the baby is already here, Kouvadki would be suspended in the cradle not only to to attract the attention of bad spirits away from child but also to distract the child himself, a sort of ancient traditional version of modern mobiles.

It is known now that the just born babies have a very strong sense of smell, so imagine how much a set of Kouvadki made of mother's clothes should reassure her child. Isn't it how the science confirms the people's wisdom?

It is simple yet it demonstrates all the essential elements of the protective dolls making techniques: no scissors or needles are used , the tissues are not cut but torn by hand, no nodes are made on the doll's body.

This is a first doll I show kids during the workshops. It is simple to make and yet it requires a dose on patience, hand ability and taste.

And my curiosity makes me seek for new not-so-traditional applications of Kouvadki.
Still today put them in a cradle, a buggy or ... a car (depending on your age) in a bunch or as a garland, they make a fancy mobile. They are so nice to decorate the kid's room too.

I like to attach them to anything, would it be a baby play mat, a bag, a hat or a pullover, or even a hair ring. The last one is especially popular with my daughter and her girl friends.


Sunday, 1 April 2012

April First

Hello all,

today is a special day, it is a birthday of my beloved grandmother. I will never say enough how wise, knowledgeable, soft and tolerant she is. We are living few hours by plane and clearly do not see each other often enough. But I hope that our relation is just a proof that love does not have a distance, either you love in time ans space, or do not. I know, we do.

For her, I share today the work we did together... with participation of other family women. So truly collective, cross-border and cross-generation work.

It starter with grandma's complaint three or four years ago about too many tissue pieces in her room that she feels sorry to throw away. To keep her busy, I suggested that she makes a patchwork base the way she feels. So she did.

 I loved this authentic "grandmother's" approach to patchwork. Without thoughts of aesthetics, but because of that so natural and so ... her :)

I decided to make a kid's cover with this nice base. More, to keep this authentic original recycling approach, I asked my mother-in-low to find in her attic or in a cave an old woollen cover.
(Those two places in her house is just a paradise for flea-market lovers as I am. And I definitely should tell one day you about few findings I've got here )

To fit the cover nicely, I had to make small additions of my pieces, that my grandma has immediately spotted even through poor Skype resolution!

My mom helped me to assemble together cover and patchwork piece and it has ended like this:

 Finally, I quilted the cover lightly by hand.
Indeed it does not have this "finesse" of the modern well-thought quilts, but for me it smells family history and roots.

С днем рождения, бабушка!

Yours Kukliki