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Gzhel Ceramics
August 28, 2009 13:39


Gzhel is the name of the picturesque district situated some 60 kilometers south east of Moscow, where the famous Gzhel ceramics is produced. Gzhel ceramics can be described as faience or majolica, a sort of pottery made of burnt white clay, covered with painted glaze. Its traditionally blue and dark blue ornaments and floral designs against the background of white glaze make gzhel easily recognizable.

Gzhel follows old Russian traditions of folk arts and crafts. Gzhel masters paint every item exclusively by hand. The painting is made with cobalt, which acquires the characteristic blue colour in the technological process.

The word “gzhel” is extremely popular nowadays, associating with beauty and harmony, fairy tale and reality. The distinctive Russian chinaware with ornate blue painting and multicolored majolica are now well known not in Russia only, but abroad as well. Gzhel artworks attract lovers of beauty due to rich fancy and high craftsmanship of their creators. Gzhel is considered to be the cradle and the main centre of Russian ceramics. This is where its best features took shape and the highest achievements of folk art developed.

So how old is this Russian folk handicraft?

Archeological studies on the territory of Gzhel District confirm the existence of pottery there from the early 14th century. That is not surprising, since Gzhel land was always rich in woods, rivers, and high-quality clays. From them on Gzhel underwent various periods in its 6-centuries long history.

Throughout centuries Gzhel peasants made household pottery, izrazets and tiles. From the second half of the 18th century Gzhel became famous for production of majolica earthenware. These were items of colour clays with bright multicolored painting over white glaze. In the 19th century Gzhel masters developed material and technology new for them: first they manufactured semi-faience, then faience, and, finally, porcelain. Of special interest were works with one-colour painting: blue underglaze paint was applied with a brush, with detailed graphic representation of details. Numerous small manufactures and big enterprises were into production of porcelain and faience ceramics.

The late 19th and the early 20th cc became the period of deep crisis for Gzhel arts and crafts. It seemed to have died forever.

However, the post-war time saw the revival of this handicraft and search for its new imagery and figured language. It took years of laborious task and upbringing of new masters. It came to be a success after all.

In 1972 the Gzhel Association was established on the basis of six minor manufactures located in several villages. Creative teams developed new samples. Absolutely new forms of items were created. The painting became richer and more up-to-date artistically.

Today the Gzhel Association is a modern enterprise, consisting of 6 factories with the overall staff of about 1500 highly skilled specialists: artists, sculptors and technologists. They produce Gzhel vases, statuettes, toys, interior items, such as fireplaces, and chandeliers, and other chinaware. Products of Gzhel are in steady demand in the Russian market and abroad.

Gzhel nowadays has an entire circle of gzhel ceramics education, starting from kindergarten and school, and finishing with Gzhel Art College and post-graduate courses in Moscow.

Sources:
    russia.rin.ru
    xydo.ru
    arthania.ru


Tags: Russian Arts and Crafts Gzhel Ceramics    

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