Monday, February 23, 2015

The History Of Faceless Dolls - Updated February 2015 - Part V - Russian Folk Rag Dolls

There are several "faceless" dolls in ancient Russian history. Most were made of fabric and cloth and were made rag dolls for children to play with. The dresses and costumes were always brightly colored and sometimes embroidered with various symbols. According to old Slavic superstition it was believed that if the doll remained faceless that the doll would be viewed as an inanimate object and therefore could not be possessed by evil spirits. Thus, the doll was deemed harmless and children could safely play with the doll without worry that harm might befall them.

In Russian peasant families young girls were encouraged to make dolls and play with them as teaching aides for being mothers. Plus, creating the dolls provided them with some of the sewing, knitting, and weaving skills they would need.

Also, in ancient Russian tradition a "faceless" bride and groom sewn together were given as a wedding gift with the hopes of preserving wealth and health to the newlywed's home.

On the Ecologia Youth Trust website you can see pictures of the faceless Prosperity Angels, faceless Swimmer Dolls, and faceless Traditional rag dolls the children of Kitezh Children’s Community in Russia make and sell with the proceeds going to help support the children of their community.

The website has a wonderful article on Traditional Russian Folk Dolls like the faceless amulet doll pictured to the right.

In Russia folk dolls played a big part in conveying sacred values and beliefs to new generations.  The folk dolls fell into three basic categories: amulet, playing, and ritual dolls.

Amulet dolls were faceless because in olden times they believed that the absence of a face showed that the doll was an inanimate thing and could not be accessed by evil spirits. The doll dresses were always clothed in bright-colors and embroidered with magic symbols.

If you would like to read more of the article about the various kinds of  Traditional Russian Folk dolls please click here.

On the Crafts For Kids Blog by Kalyani there is a wonderful How To Make Russian Dolls tutorial showing how to make the faceless rag doll shown in the picture to the left.

According to Kalyani, "Our ancestors gave such dolls to each other, wishing to be always young, charming and attractive. They were the guardians of youth and beauty!"

"Traditional rag-doll has no face, it is white, blank.  So evil spirits could not settle in these dolls. It is safe for children and can bring only joy, health and prosperity. Doll in ancient times was considered a talisman, it protected the owner or the house from harm and misfortune and evil spirits. It helped to heal, to find the husband, helped during travelling, birth. Each doll has its own value and it is incredibly important to do it with love, with clean and bright thoughts, with an open heart. It’s a miracle of rags, which, by the way, was not cut with a knife, just was torn with hands, without needles. And the doll was born with its own character and a great value."

Vera Yarilina is a gifted doll artist who makes a wide variety of different traditional faceless Russian folk rag dolls and crafts. Vera fell in love with Russian rag dolls after attending a workshop on traditional Russian crafts.

According to Vera, "I was working as a childhood psychologist, and when I happened to attend this workshop the wisdom, logic and beauty of the rag doll tradition inspired me," she says, "These doll designs have been part of our culture for centuries, and we still need them. Each doll has a story to tell. And each tradition can teach us something. You just need to listen."

For more information on Vera Yarilina please click here.

The faceless handmade doll shown in the picture to the right is one of the faceless dolls made by Vera Yarilina.  It's purpose is "for happiness."

According to Vera, "Mischievous little girl was found in diggings of ancient city of Rzhev in layer dated 10th century. It was made of flax. The main part of this doll is hair. The hair is the power and beauty of women. A braid is twisted up and helps to support the doll making it steady. It reminds women about their hidden energy and strength. "

If you would like  to read more about this doll please click here.

The faceless handmade doll shown in the picture to the left is one of the faceless dolls made by Vera Yarilina. It's purpose is "beauty."

According to Vera:, A bride made this doll before a wedding, using skills in embroidery, weaving, tatting and braiding. Skills of a future wife were apprised by the doll's clothes. The doll was placed at a tray with wedding round loaf, which was baked by the bride's mother. A complex composition was created on the tray: the center of the composition was a "Beauty" doll, the tray was decorated with ears of wheat and objects of fancywork made by the bride. After tasting a loaf and apprising skills of a bride guests left money on the tray and gifts for newlyweds. The doll was carefully stored after the wedding."

If you would like  to read more about this doll please click here.

The faceless handmade doll Desyatiruchka (ten-handed doll) shown in the picture to the right is one of the faceless dolls made by Vera Yarilina.

According to Vera, "Ten-handed doll is a ceremonial multihanded doll. This doll was a common gift for weddings or for young hostess wishing everything to be well. It was considered the doll to help a woman to do all the housework , needlework, weaving, sewing, embroidery, knitting. The doll was made of bast fiber or straw. The doll can be put in the place, where woman spends her time working."

If you would like  to read more about this doll please click here.

The faceless handmade couple shown in the picture to the left were made by Vera Yarilina and symbolize "together-forever."

According to Vera, "«Together- forever» is a symbol of love and family unity, a reminder that lovers do not have to look at each other, but in the same direction. This doll was presented to the newlyweds to help them realize that now they will go through life hand in hand and together will overcome all difficulties on its way."

If you would like to read more about this doll please click here. 

The faceless doll shown in the picture to the right was also made by Vera Yarilina. It's purpose is Seven-“I”s (Family).

According to Vera, "This doll is an embodiment of maternal love and care of every member of a family. The doll itself symbolizes unity of man and woman. A dense twisted column of cloth, birch bark and stick is the basis of this doll. It is dresses as a married woman, with six little children tied to it’s belt. And we get Seven-“I”s – a family – seven same “I”s, who need the same love and care from others. This doll was made as a symbol of motherhood and kept hidden away."

If you would like to read more about this doll please click here.

Vera makes many, many types of traditional faceless Russian folk rag dolls, all with their own story and purpose. If you would like to read more about Vera and see more of her faceless dolls please click here.

On the EXLinguo website there is a wonderful article entitled "The Traditional Russian Art of Rag Doll Making" by Exlinguo Novosibirsk.

The article is about a workshop and video of that workshop that students attended where they learned about the Russian tradition of faceless doll making and how to make the faceless Russian rag doll shown in the picture to the left.

If you would like to watch the video and learn more about Russian doll making and how to make this doll please click here.

On the Zapovedik website there is a wonderful page about the House of Crafts - Crafts Workshops - Russian Folk Doll.

The leader of Studio - Larisa Orlova and she teaches this workshop about the different kinds of faceless Russian rag dolls.

According to Larisa, "The doll was dressed, but her face was not painted. According to folk belief, a doll without a face was considered without animation and thus inaccessible to evil spirits and angry powers. Made this way, it was harmless for the child. That is why a faceless doll was a toy and, at the same time, a talisman.  The dolls had special meaning for adults. Even in the 20th century the doll kept its original looks and purpose: it assisted bountiful harvests, animal yield, lucky marriage and childbirth. The fact that children were making a lot of rag-dolls, predicted a new child for the family. However, if the dolls were treated carelessly, it forebode illness."

"The doll was supposed to ensure that many children were born, so dolls were  participants at the wedding ceremony. They were given to the bride to hold during the wedding feast and later given to the newly-wed as a present, as a wish for luck and lots of children. Even today we see wedding processions decorated with festive dolls, an echo of the ancient traditions associated to family longevity."

If you would like to read more about Larisa's workshop and Russian rag dolls please click here.

On the HM Handmade website there is a pictorial on making the Krupenichka shown in the picture to the left.

According to the website, "Krupenichka is guardian of fullness and richness in the house. "

The faceless doll was made and filled with grain poured from the new harvest. If the owners were hungry they could take the grain from the doll. If they didn't need to take the grain from the doll it was thanked and the grain was sown. When the new crop was harvested the doll was filled again. A thin or plum doll was indicative of the harshness of the winter.

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