Khokhloma: Red and Black, and Gold All Over.

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Anton, 11

I guess I know why people in Russia love bright and colorful decorations. You have to spend one year there to see that winter lasts long, long time and you wear a heavy coat and many layers under it; summer is when you wear a light padded jacket and the beginning of September might mark a start of putting on a hat and a winter coat again. Ok, I was exaggerating about summer but everything else is true. Tired of seeing gray landscape out of the window people turned to art to brighten their days and Khokhloma became a well recognized and popular ornament for tableware and furniture.

Khokhloma is the name of a Russian wood painting style widely recognized for its vibrant colors and complex motif.
Growing up I remember seeing Khokhloma everywhere I looked: bowls and trays in the store windows, cutting boards in the kitchen. My friend even had a telephone decorated in that style and a beautiful display of Khokhloma tableware in the living room.

The photo is borrowed from a website

Khokhloma painting started long time ago in the 17th century in Nizhniy Novgorod, a town not too far from Moscow. Since not many people could afford metal tableware, craftsmen found a way to make wooden bowls look like they were made out of gold without using any actual gold. They lacquered them, smeared them with tin powder and painted with heat proof paints.

The motifs are usually flowers, vines, berries and leafs. Something that people saw around them and wished to depict what they loved.


As you see elaborate design needs a lot of effort and skill to accomplish. Do you think it has stopped us? Never!

For the project you will need:

Do not forget to turn on the Russian folk music because its a necessary part of the process. My students loved the music so much they jumped off to dance a little. I did not mind if that happened while the layers were drying.

First step is to cover the surface with black paint. Traditionally Khokhloma was painted with golden and red colors over black background. Black color meant purity of the soul, red represented the beauty and gold was something spiritual.

Using charcoal pencil make a design that you will paint with acrylic paints after you are done.

Anton’s work in process

The kids surpassed my expectations. See why for yourself:


Emma, 7
Ali, 7
Anna, 6
Maria, 11
Mark, 8
Mia, 7

After the works are completely dry, spray them generously with a fixative and let them dry again.

If you need to find more information about Khokhloma, follow this link.

Have a great class!



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