- A place to learn about the traditional craft 5. A special and recognizable design
- Strict rules to follow 6. Good for medical use
- The local crafts festival 7. Geographical location
- The origin of the name 8. A wide choice to offer
A. Gzhel is a famous type of Russian ceramics. It comes from the region with the same name, which is situated about sixty kilometers away from Moscow. Gzhel is not one place, to be exact. There are about 27 villages in the area which are involved in Gzhel ceramic production. The place can be easily reached by railroad and it is often visited by tourists.
B. It is believed that the place where Gzhel ceramics is produced, was named after the river Gzhelka, a small river flowing through the area. However, linguists still argue about where the word comes from. Some of them say it has Baltic roots. Others claim that the name is connected with the technological process. The word gzhel is similar to an old Russian word which means burn. Indeed, the clay should be burnt to become hard before it is good enough for pottery.
C. The clay production in Gzhel started to develop in the 17th century when the Russian monarch ordered the delivery of different sorts of clay to Moscow. Gzhel clay was found to be the best for making pots and containers for pharmacies. The doctors and pharmacists valued it a lot. They preferred to keep most of the medicine and herbs in ceramic pots to keep them fresh and effective for a long time.
D. By the 19th century, the Gzhel industry had become a profitable business. About twenty-five factories were producing all sorts of cups and plates, decorations and toys. Shiny white horses, birds and dolls became really famous. Dinner sets were popular with rich people and even with monarchs. Official sets contained up to eighty items. However, the largest dinner set was designed for a hundred and fifty people.
E. Gzhel ceramics can be easily identified by its beautiful white and blue coloured decoration. White means pure snow and moonlight. Light and dark blue symbolize the calm sky and rivers. Though the images on ceramics are usually flowers, they are all unique. Every item is a handmade picture with a unique combination of lines. Blue and white Gzhel ceramics are well-known all over the world.
F. You may think that Gzhel painters create their works freely, using their imagination. Although the talent of an artist and creativity are certainly important, the painter needs to follow a very strict technological scheme. Each ornament represents an image or a story that is given a code. All the codes are listed in catalogues and kept in the factory library. Technologists use catalogues to modernize production and organize training for new painters.
G. The Gzhel museum is a special attraction. The finest items from the 15th century to the present are displayed there. The collection of the museum contains about two thousand pieces and presents a great variety of bowls, vases, tea sets, toys and statutes. The place is good for a family day out – apart from enjoying the displays and buying souvenirs, you can watch the production process or take classes in sculpture or painting.