The first time I ever saw Russian nesting dolls, or "matryoshkas", I fell in love with them. Maybe because they look so motherly. In fact, the word matryoshka is literally "little matron". The doll was originally made to symbolize motherhood - specifically the mothers of large peasant families who are well fed - leading to the portly figure of the doll and her "family" inside of her!
|Shop full of matryoshkas at Izmaylovo Market, Moscow|
Nesting dolls were first made in China in the early 1800's (traditional Chinese nesting boxes had been started there hundreds of years earlier). In the 1890's, when a group of Russian artists began reviving native culture and folk traditions, the idea found its way to Russia. Artist Sergei Malyutin designed the first set of Russian nesting dolls, probably inspired by a Japanese example. He made the largest doll a peasant girl with a babushka (kerchief) on her head. The dolls, carved and turned on a lathe by a master wood-carver, were then painted in bright colors. Many regions of Russia - each developing its own particular style - took up the art, inspired by Malyutin's first matryoshka. Most of the dolls are maidens, but some sets have families, animals, or characters (like St. Nicholas).
PICTURE BOOKS ABOUT MATRYOSHKAS:
The Littlest Matryoshka, by Corinne Demas Bliss, illustrations by Kathryn Brown. Click HERE to read all about the making of this book on Corinne's website. If you order the book from Hearthsong, you can also purchase a set of nesting dolls that look very like the ones featured in the book! (ages 3-7)
The Magic Nesting Doll by Jacqueline K. Ogburn, illustrations by Laurel Long. Katya is given a magical nesting doll by her dying grandmother but is told that she can only use its magic three times. After entering a land of eternal winter, the young woman discovers a prince who has been turned into "living ice" through an enchantment. Aided in turn by a bear, wolf, and firebird that appear from inside the doll, Katya is able to restore the prince to his former self and destroy the villainous Grand Vizier. Gorgeous illustrations, reminiscent of Russian iconography! (Kindergarten - 3rd grade)
The Art of the Russian Matryoshka, by Rett Ertl, Rick Hibberd. (Mainly for parents, but if you have a child who's interested in these dolls, they'll love the photos!) A MUST have for the obsessed, like me.
MORE MATRYOSHKAS (to make yourself!)...
|Click here for a Bigu Handmade "How To" for Matryoshka bookmarks.|
|Want to learn to make a Maytroshka fold-out CARD, found at Zakka Life?|
|I bet you can't resist crafting these mini-matroyshkas!|
Sew to Speak has step-by-step instructions.
FUN MATRYOSHKAS FOR YOU & YOUR KIDS:
I gave these cute FRED AND FRIENDS Measuring Cups to my goddaughters for Christmas last year...
|Available on AMAZON|
|Sippy cups and plates available on AMAZON|
|Find them on AMAZON|
|Fun fabric choices on ETSY|