Folk art of the Belozersk district

Exhibitions dedicated to the folk applied art and handicrafts of the Belozersk district are placed in the spacious vaulted chambers of the monastery cook-house of the 16th century. An important place is occupied by wood-carving, ceramics, peasant embroidery, weaving, lace-making and a folk female costume of the 19th-early 20th centuries.

Numerous potteries of the Belozersk district producing wonderful black ceramics, “scalded” vessels and glazed stoneware, appeared in those settlements which were rich in clay. Village craftsmen made more than 60 different earthenware. Especially beautiful are large jugs (sometimes up to 1 metre high) with loop-shaped handles produced by potters from the village Pavlokovo.

First the surface of a shaped vessel was polished with bones or stones and in the process of baking birch-bark and resinous wood were thrown into the fire, so eventually it became blackened and glossy. Black ceramics were used for storing butter, honey, water and beer. An old Slavonic word “korchaga” (large earthenware pot) called a whole group of vessels serving for different purposes. After being baked these large pots were strengthened in the boiling mixture of potato peelings and flour. They were more often used to prepare wort and bread kvass. Potters in the Burakosvky and Ferapontovsky volosts of the Kirillov district learned to glaze earthenware in the late 19th century. Till the beginning of 1980-s Alexander Pavlovich Levashov worked in his workshop. His ceramics are being used by Kirillov inhabitants up to this day. Equipment of that pottery is kept in the museum.

Lace-making is known from the 18th century. It was originally mastered in the convents. Lace inserts and borders made by the nuns decorate priests’ festive vestments, covers for church vessels and icons which are preserved in the Kirillo-Belozersky museum.

Since 1860-s inhabitants of the whole settlements in the Kirillov district earned their living with lace-making which was developing under great influence of the Vologda masters. Second-hand dealers from Vologda and Zaozerye acted more often as customers. In autumn they distributed orders, patterns, pins and silk to the village lace-makers and in spring when the navigation started they returned to take finished articles. Children were also taught to make lace. In those villages where this handicraft was well developed schools became empty in spring. Mothers set both girls and boys to make lace. Quite often old men and lads made laces at the winter village gatherings. Quality of items was not very high, but everything was sold. Lace-making is one of the few kinds of the folk art which has come down to us.

In the region of forests wood was the main material used to build peasant log houses, to fill them with traditional furniture - benches, tables, chests, cupboards, to carve utensils, to prepare tools and vehicles – boats, sledges and carts.

Craftsmen from the villages Volokoslavino and Rukino were famous in the past. They brought their wares – ladles, duck-shaped salt-cellars, spoons, staves, knife hafts - to all large fairs of the country.

Village masters decorated their articles with carving. Multibeam rosettes, rhombuses, triangles, squares, carved on mangles, swingles, details of a weaving loom, form a narration about the world structure and a prayer against evil forces. Carved inscriptions about owners and dedications complete the ornament. A peculiar place among the objects of folk art was occupied by a distaff – a woman’s tool used for making threads. They carved sunny rosettes, painted bunches of flowers growing from fantastical vases and symbolic depictions of the universe on their huge blades. If vivid decoration of distaffs was usually made by local village painters, multicoloured paintings in the interiors were executed by invited professional craftsmen. Cobalt painting against a red-orange background on the panels of the two-tier cupboard, on the door and board from the Timoshinskaya village belongs to a master from Kostroma. Such painting filled a weakly alight peasant house with light and the flowers promised warmth and bright spring blossoming of the earth even in cold winter.

Having felled a tree the peasant tried to use everything – not only a trunk, but roots and bark as well. Thus fir roots were used to weave round funnel-shaped strainers to filter wort for kvass and beer; oval baskets with lids for girls’ trinkets – inexpensive adornments, silk bands, cosmetics; chests for storing clothes. They are distinguished by unusually densely twined bark, textured surface, beautiful colour.

As everywhere the main occupations of the peasants in the North was flax processing, spinning and weaving. Embroidery, lace-making and cloth-printing were developing on their base. Peasant embroidery has preserved plenty of subjects and motives of the Slavonic paganism. Towels, table-cloths and shirts with red patterns against a white background are very beautiful and festive. They played a great role in different rituals, especially the towel. A new-born baby was placed on it; a roadside cross and a birch on Whitsunday were decorated with the towel. They were hung out in the house for holidays. A particular towel was used for an icon in the red (beautiful) corner. A bride from Kirillov presented up to 70 towers at her wedding. Subjects of embroidery contained benevolent symbolism which was clear to everybody.

In the 19th – early 20th century people in some settlements of the Kirillov and Belozersk districts dyed and printed cloth. Fabrics dyed in blue were printed in two-three colours with floral patterns.

Printed cloth was used, first for all, for sewing sarafans, shirts, table-cloths, curtains, but also for church garments, shrouds and covers.

Weaving, embroidery, lace-making and printing joined in a female costume of the North. In the 19th century it consisted of a two-coloured shirt with rich embroidery, a round sarafan with narrow arm-holes sewn from coarse motley cotton fabric, printed cloth or bought silk, an embroidered apron and a woven or twined girdle. The head-dress of a married woman included a kokoshnik which was embroidered in gold and decorated with pearls and a bright kerchief. Girls wore bands embellished with golden-stitch embroidery or braid. Women of the Belozersk district were very beautiful and that was marked already by Ivan the Terrible.

People believed that beautiful didn’t mean expensive, something was beautiful for them if it was made skillfully. Thus they defined the most important feature of their art. The simplest materials given by nature – wood and clay, iron and cooper, flax and wool – turned into true works of art in the hands of skilled craftsmen.

leave comment