Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Nesting dolls

This started out as a Facebook album. By the time I finished the last description, I had enough text that it looked like a little blog post, I even had those questions at the end, so I figured... why not? I have many things in my to-do list and I'm in the middle of a language course but I'll take this chance to write a short post about my nesting dolls.

I was just reading Emily's Easter post and it inspired me to take some pictures of my own matryoshka dolls. I was in love with the concept since I found out about their existence (at about 3 years old), but we didn't have money for this kind of luxury. My sister had to console me with a flat paper version she made for me. Finally, last year I got not one, but two matryoshkas, and they are both authentic, handmade in Russia! In spite of their size difference, both sets contain 5 dolls. By a happy coincidence, their outfits match nicely on my shelf.

To give you a size comparison, I'm introducing a recent acquisition, my first non-standard Barbie. This is a tall one. She has soft hair with no glue! I only washed it of the gel and changed her outfit.

The dolls were both gifts, but I got to pick one of them. I picked the small one from a museum gift shop. Although it's painted by hand like the bigger one, it was made in a factory.
This is the label. It was made in the Nizhegorod region.

The big one comes from a city on Volga with many artists specialized in matryoshkas. The name escapes me. The first doll has beautiful emerald eyes.

The next ones have a much simpler design. The factory-made doll is pretty much consistent.

The first and fifth dolls of both sets. The last dolls aren't nearly as tiny as Emily's, but they were a lot cheaper, too.

I pulled out some more pictures I took last year when I had just got them. The small doll was my first. I liked her colour scheme with lots of rich gold varnish, a staple of traditional Russian woodwork.

Sorry about the clutter... it just shows how excited I was to open them and take pictures!

The large one uses higher quality blanks that close more smoothly with a little click when the halves are matched. I prefer the shape and the painting on the other one though.

I'm quite pleased with this two sets, especially because they were gifts from hubby's side of the family and souvenirs of my first trip to Russia. I need one more for a complete collection, one I'd paint myself. Maybe two, one done in a traditional style, and one cat-style, like what I saw in a very expensive shop in Strasbourg. I haven't decided what to do yet, I keep putting blanks and cheap matryoshkas in my aliexpress wishlist. I like the chubbier shapes, but they are more expensive. I'd like one that has many dolls inside, but I don't know if I'm up for such a big project. I have too many things on my plate, so this one is at the end of the queue, but I'd surely love to paint a matryoshka one day.

Cat matryoshkas in a shop in Strasbourg, France

Do you like nesting dolls? Do you have any in your collection? Did you ever paint one? Let's see links in the comments!

Have a happy spring!
The Black Kitty


  1. I have a set of nesting dolls. I don't remember where I bought them, but there is a piece of paper in the biggest doll with lots of words in Russian, so it must have been originally made there. The dolls look very similar to your two sets, except I find it difficult to get the two separate pieces of my dolls back together.

    1. That's cool, a lot of the nesting dolls sold outside Russia are mass-produced in China. Do you still have the paper? I could translate it for you. Have you tried sanding the joint a bit? That should help closing the dolls.

    2. I just put up a post about my dolls, including the paper. If you could translate it for me, that would be great!

    3. A lot of matryoshkas seem to come from around the upper course of Volga. Yours too! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nolinsk

  2. No I don't have nesting dolls, (only a very ornate wooden egg--a gift from a Russian professor) but I do enjoy looking at the photos of yours, BlackKitty. A number of years ago, there was a Russian store in my neighborhood (in Paris) in selling all sorts of tchotchkes including nesting dolls. They were quite pretty. Great seeing a post from you!

    1. Thank you! Does the egg open? I've seen some nesting doll types of toys that are egg-shaped. To me, most of the appeal is in opening and putting the halves back together. And of course, the cheerful babushka fashion :)

  3. Ohh, those are so cute! I never saw a Matryoshka in person, only Matryoshka themed items (such as cups, clothing pieces, etc) and even a dress up game: http://www.agame.com/game/my-russian-doll-dress-up I didn't know about the blank ones, sounds like a super fun project, I'd say go for it ^^
    (Loooove the cat ones too!)

    1. I have a "themed" magnet aside from the dolls, some kitchen items and a very battered old pencil case that are painted with the same golden varnish, black and red paint on wood. The dress-up game is cute for inspiration, I wasn't super creative but I loved the fruit motifs!
      I'll see about those blanks when I figure ot my globe project, that's what's hot right now... I have almost everything figured out and ready for it :)

    2. Oh, yours is super cute and colorful! ^^ For mine I just had to use the leopard prints xD
      Great news about the globe project, I know you've been wanting to make this one some time now ^^

    3. Oh, a kitty matryoshka! That may come in handy. I ordered a set of blanks :)

  4. I love nesting dolls! I always have, ever since I was a little girl. I love the one you have with the gold varish. I've never painted one before, but I'm sure it would be a pretty cool craft to try! You've inspired me to do a post about mine. :)

    1. Awesome! It looks like Emily started a chain reaction with her matryoshka post :) My blanks are on the way, I couldn't resist and ordered the cheapest set I could find.


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