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Traditional Khokhloma

Posted by The Russian Gift Shop on Jul 12th 2018

Traditional Khokhloma


Khokhloma ware is also known as "treen", which is a generic name for small and hand made functional household items made of wood.Khokhloma (pronounced Hoh-low-ma) derives from the name of an ancient village deep in the forests of the Volga region. The secrets of production were passed from yesteryear's grandfathers and grandmothers to yesterday's fathers and mothers to today's sons and daughters. For over 300 years, skilled artisans would gather once a year during Easter, at trade fairs held in Nizhni-Novgorod, to sell their wares. Khokhloma ware is also known as "treen", a term for small and functional household items that are hand made from wood. During the 19th century wooden utensils such as spoons and bowls for porridge and soup were in everyday use. Antique Khokhloma in better than good condition is not commonly found. Khokhloma painting was neglected in the early 20th century, but revived in the 1920s and early 1930s, as master craftsmen formed artels, or workshops. In the 1960s, the Khokhlomskoi Khudozhnik Factory in Khokhloma and the Khokhlomskaia Rospis’ Production Association (Хохломская роспись) in the city of Semenov were founded, and became established as centers of commercial Khokhloma manufacture for the burgeoning tourist market. Thus, pieces made before the 1960s preceded the dawn of mass production. In the 60's, diplomatic relations had stabilized for the time being (Cuba notwithstanding) and the Soviet government sought "hard" (as opposed to their own "soft") currency. 

Antique Khokhloma is uncommon as compared to antique lacquer boxes, icons, samovars or other similar Russian folk and handicrafts. During the 19th century wooden spoons and bowls were in everyday use. These pieces were made before the dawn of mass production for tourists from the West in the 1970s. Diplomatic relations had stabilized and the Soviet need for hard currency expanded.

The Soviet Union was founded in 1922. We have not been able to learn why some items were marked "Made in the Soviet Union" vs "Made in the USSR". Goods marked in English were intended for export to countries where English was spoken. In our experience, it seems as if MITSU is an earlier designation than MITUSSR. Of course, "Made in Russia" on old items indicate pre-1922 production as the export of Khokhloma products had begun in earnest at the beginning of the 20th century.