Back to the craft page

Wood painting. Vladimir patterns

Crafts associated with wood processing were often accompanied by painting of wooden items – dishes, toys, household articles. Masters sought to enrich their goods with color, to make them beautiful. Wood painting became part of everyday life and the original culture of the people long ago.

In the 20th century wood painting crafts faced great difficulties. Many of them were forced to reduce production due to the outflow of young people to large cities. Traditional painting techniques and methods were preserved mainly in the work of individual masters. In 1971 single craftsmen united and founded the "Vladimir patterns" factory which was located in the very center of Vladimir. Thanks to the activities of 6 enthusiastic masters the folk art craft of painting of wooden products began to revive.  From the first days, the products of Vladimir masters received well-deserved recognition, both among tourists and true connoisseurs of Russian art. The tourist boom of the 1970s due to the popularity of the Golden Ring of Russia route increased the demand for souvenirs reflecting the local flavor. This stimulated the development of the "Vladimir patterns" factory. By 1980, 100 craftsmen were already employed at it, and the volume of production increased significantly. Among the veterans of the factory are wood turner Alexander Shishkin, chief artist, student of the Mstera's school Yevgeny Noskov, artists Lilia Golubeva, Tatyana Filippova and others.

Unfortunately, the works of folk art of wood painting, as it was in the ancient Vladimir land, have not survived to our days. The masters began to search for their writing style which was based on in-depth studying the white stone carvings of Vladimir cathedrals, the traditions of folk crafts – carved decoration of old wooden houses by arguns and yakushas, fanciful ornaments of Mstera embroidery. On this basis a new field in the technique of painting wooden utensils appeared – it was Vladimir painting. The predominant colors of the painting were yellow, beige, black, red, green, and the elements of the picture included berry-fruit ornaments (Vladimir cherry, gooseberry, barberry, apple, pear, etc.). However, the rowan brush became the most recognizable element of the "Vladimir patterns". 

A distinctive feature of Vladimir painting can be presented by several subtle nuances in technology that create products unlike any others. Masters try to show the beauty of the natural texture of linden, alder, birch and other tree species used by them, painting on the background of wood fragments left unpainted. The sponge painting technique ("poke" and "revival") characteristic only of Vladimir masters is used which allows them to reveal the volume against the background of the overlaid drawing. This is an original painting, when the paint is applied not with a brush, but with a foam rubber swab or just an artist’s finger, forming a light cloud and giving the picture volume and naturalness. In 1991, the wares of the factory were classified as products of Folk Art Crafts.

The difficult economic situation of the 1990s virtually undermined the trade. Since 2007, the factory received a rebirth on the basis of the woodworking industry in Suzdal (director V.E. Kekhter) and resumed its work as "Vladimir-Suzdal patterns".

Both masters with many years of experience (S. Lavrentieva, N. Pukhova, S. Polikarpova, etc.) and young promising artists (Yu. Konovalova, M. Lavrova, etc.)  work at the art enterprise today. Wooden blanks are hand-made by a talented turner D. Gryaznov. Each artist improves his or her art, introduces new features into it. For example, in the painting of products, alongside with floral ornaments, one can find elements of the Old Russian architecture of the “Golden Ring”, images of famous Suzdal folk holidays, etc.

The factory produces more than 400 items of painted wooden products that can be widely used in everyday life (spoons, sweets dishes, vases, plates, barrels, shtoffs, etc.). Wooden utensils from "Vladimir Patterns" have been awarded numerous diplomas at Russian and regional craft fairs and exhibitions. Under the guidance of professional artists, the factory holds master classes in wood painting.

Nowadays the Regional Center of Folk Art (RCFA) and its municipal branches with their arts and crafts studios are engaged in the propaganda of traditional types of wood painting. The Master of Arts and Crafts S.A. Savelyeva (RCFA) has developed an author's methodology for teaching children painting on wood. In the framework of the program "Secrets of folk craftsmanship", she holds master classes on various painting techniques, including "Vladimir patterns", for schoolchildren and students, as well as for people with disabilities.

Author: V. Korolkova