Semyonov, Golden Khokhloma Factory

Semyonov is a small town about 50 miles north of Nizhny Novgorod. Founded in the late 17th century, the town was originally a settlement for “Old Believer” Orthodox Christians fleeing persecution. Why on earth would you want to visit this obscure town? The answer: the Golden Khokhloma Factory, specializing in selling beautifully hand-carved and painted wooden gifts. Khokhloma is a traditional Russian folk art widely known throughout Russia. The most common colors for the decorative paintings are red, black, and gold; which have been used since the beginning of craft. In order to create khokhloma one first starts with a wooden base. Next it is coated with an aluminum powder and painted with the red and black design. After an elaborate firing and glazing process, the end result is beautiful dishware that looks like the images above. Although famous for their spoons, the khokhloma factory in Semyonov creates anything from toys to furniture, in addition to dishware. The most identifiable of these other goods are the matryoshka dolls. Each piece is hand carved from wood before being sent to another building on the factory territory, where a team of artisans hand paints each one. Though the factory is now generally closed to tourists, the museum of its most impressive and historical works is still open and admission is relatively cheap. Perhaps the biggest draw to the museum is its gift shop, where one can buy a diverse range of khokhloma items directly from the factory at a comparatively low cost.

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Exterior of the museum. The first floor acts as a lobby and gift shop while the second floor houses the museum.

Exterior of the museum. The first floor acts as a lobby and gift shop while the second floor houses the museum.

Golden Khokhloma Museum Center.

Golden Khokhloma Museum Center.

Sign directing guest to the gift shop.

Sign directing guest to the gift shop.

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Inside the khokhloma wood-working factory! The raw materials!

Inside the khokhloma wood-working factory! The raw materials!

This lady was hand carving a matryoshka doll!

This lady was hand carving a matryoshka doll!

 The artisans at their desks, hand painting matryoshkas.


The artisans at their desks, hand painting matryoshkas.

An example of a non-traditional doll.

An example of a non-traditional doll.

A more traditional design.

A more traditional design.

The lawn next to the building was a magical place of recycling wonder. Two alligators and a giraffe are seen lurking in the grass.

The lawn next to the building was a magical place of recycling wonder. Two alligators and a giraffe are seen lurking in the grass.

The woodworking factory.

The woodworking factory.

The painting factory.

The painting factory.

An array of matryoshkas.

An array of matryoshkas.

A jovial Saint Nick.

A jovial Saint Nick.

Khokhloma phone?

Khokhloma phone?

Giant Sochi doll in preparation for the Winter Olympics.

Giant Sochi doll in preparation for the Winter Olympics.

Tiny Sochi doll nestled next to the large one.

Tiny Sochi doll nestled next to the large one.

 Icons and nontraditional colors. The red, gold, and black color scheme originated from the colors used to paint religious icons in the 17th century.


Icons and nontraditional colors. The red, gold, and black color scheme originated from the colors used to paint religious icons in the 17th century.

A swan bowl.

A swan bowl.

Khokhloma fish dish!

Khokhloma fish dish!

A different variant of the swan punch bowl. The swan is symbolizes prosperity.

A different variant of the swan punch bowl. The swan is symbolizes prosperity.

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