There were a few handicraft lessons in our Russian summer school. Everyone agreed that the worst one was the valenki lesson.
Valenki, not to be confused with delicious vereniki, are boots made out of wool felt. We made tiny little valenki, perfect for shoving in a drawer and forgetting about.
A more interesting workshop was the DIY matryoshka doll event. Inspired after a bottle of lemonade-flavored beer, Allison and I did our best to paint nesting dolls that didn't terrify at first glance. I'm not going to include a photo here, because we failed. Horrendously. Others, though, left with pretty amazing matryoshkas.
The best arts & craft workshop was a visit to a local glass ornament factory. We started with a guided tour, saw at artists at work, and then decorated our own Christmas ornaments.
Here's what it's like to visit the Ariel Factory of Glass Christmas Ornaments in Nizhny Novgorod...
The factory is only open for excursions on certain days, and it's best to contact them ahead of time. You can take a peek at different excursions and master classes on their website.
Outside it may have been a hot July afternoon, but inside was a different story. Christmas everywhere!
We started off with a lecture on the history of the factory.
Lecture notes: the factory is 80 years old... and I forgot everything else by now, sorry.
Next we watched a glassbower creating the ornaments.
Everyone with a camera out in this picture is from Singapore. I take a lot of pictures for this blog, of course, but they even made me look like a slacker :p And then the tables got turned when this guy showed up to film us.
Nobody ever introduced him or said what he was doing, so we figure he was there to take a promotional video for the factory. Later, after seeing him again fifty times, we realized he was making a promotional video for the university. It was just funny, because I'm so used to waivers and all that stuff. In Russia it was just like "hey, guess what, we're using your face".
Then the tour took us upstairs, where the artists were painting rows and rows of the same designs.
The ladies in the room were doing their absolute best to ignore us completely as we oohed and ahhed over everything.
There were several rooms with artists at work. We were only allowed in one room so the other artists could work in peace.
A few more foto sessiyas with miscellaneous Christmas decorations...
and we were ready for the master class!
Before starting, an artist gave us some tips on how to paint the ornament properly. Demos were on each table and hung up around the room as well, showing how to paint a snowman, a елка, a penguin, etc.
I went with Easter bread, since D and I don't usually get a Christmas tree. Also, it was super cute- check it out!
Then we had about 30 minutes to create the ornament of our dreams (or, depending on skill level, another thing to hide in a drawer with the valenki from the previous week).
|At this table- one French guy and three Russian girls. Lucky guy, huh? ;)|
And the little Easter bread turned out pretty well too!
On the way out, we had a chance to shop for the ornaments made at the factory. They had all kinds of absolutely beautiful designs- snowy scenes, cathedrals, bears, pretzels- for just a few dollars, but I don't know how anyone could pack away these glass pieces in their luggage. I wasn't even sure my Easter bread would survive the trip back. (It did!)
Have you ever been to a Christmas ornament factory?
What's your favorite kind of handmade art?