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Russian Tradition of Birch-Bark Craft, Part 3
April 29, 2015 09:43


 I. A. Veprev was the most well-known expert in the Shemogod birch bark craft. His works enjoyed wide popularity and gained fame to Shemogod birch bark. The master won ten medals and diplomas of various exhibitions and fairs, including a medal of the World Fair in Paris of 1900. His items were awarded and all purchased by the Imperial Yard at the All-Russian Industrial Exhibition in 1882. 

A country craft school was opened in the village of Pogorelovo on November 21, 1908. Its pro-carved birch bark items were generally exported. Caskets for gloves and automatic machines for cigarettes were fashionable in the USA. France and Germany also estimated Shemogod items. The October Revolution of 1917 had little impact on the handymen’s work. The Soviet Republic needed hard currency for rising national economy. At the initiative of A. V. Veprev handicraftsmen of the Kirovo-Navolok Village integrated into the Shemogod cooperative and production artel in 1918. The list of products was rich, varying from caskets for gloves and kerchiefs, snuffboxes and tea caddies to work boxes, boxes with sliding covers and automatic machines for cigarettes, as well as book-shaped, octagonal and pyramidal boxes. In 1928 the State Trade planned to export birch bark products for 5000 rubles in gold to Germany. In 1930 the All Russian Producers' Co-operative Society undertook to provide for export birch bark items in the value of 10000 gold rubles.
 
In the early 1930s the need for gold currency started falling thanks to the rise of national economy in the country. Export activities of folk crafts were reduced considerably, and they switched to working for the domestic market. Production of the Shemogod birch bark brand was carried on till elimination of the Producers' Co-operative Society in 1960. Nowadays the Veliky Ustyug Patterns Factory goes on working with birch bark.
 
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Other Birch Bark Crafts
 
Various regions of Russia developed specific birch bark crafts. The craft of birch bark cylinder containers existed both in the Vologda Province and the Vyatka Province. Vyatka containers yielded in many respects to Vologda containers, especially in terms of decoration. However, the Vyatka Province boasted its birch bark canes, which enjoyed popularity among townsfolk in the 19th century. Birch bark canes were light and strong had perfect looks. Round birch bark workpieces were strung on a metal rod and ground.
 
Birch bark trade of the Perm Region was known for containers richly decorated with embossing. Embossed ornaments covered the whole birch bark container from top to bottom. Geometric ornaments made of rhombs, daggers, diagonal and vertical strips, asterisks, and zigzags embellished birch bark containers without breaking the integrity of the material. The best birch bark containers with embossing were made by handymen from the town of Chusovoy. Perm Province Registers of 1865recorded that peasants of Chusovoy make up to 100000 birch bark containers per winter. Painted containers were made along with embossed containers in the neighborhoods of Nizhni Tagil.
 
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The Tobolsk and Tomsk Provinces excelled in manufacturing birch bark containers and sort of peculiar carpets (2-2.5 by 1 m large) used for protection from rain. Ryazan, Mogilyov, and Nizhny Novgorod Provinces were into birch bark handicrafts as well.
 
Folk crafts were widely spread in Russia and secured considerable earnings to the population. According to some sources, 115 thousand people were engaged in birch bark trade in Russia. It was one of the leading handicrafts in this country.
 
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Author: Vera Ivanova

Tags: Folk Arts Arts and Crafts Birch Bark   

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