Kargopol toys (Kargopolskaya igrushka)
are moulded painted clay figures of people and animals.
It is one of the old Russian Folk Art Handicrafts,
which is produced in and around the town of
Kargopol, Arkhangelsk Oblast,
in the north of Russia.Kargopol is older than Moscow as its history dates back as far as the eleventh century.
It started in 19th century in the areas west of Kargopol.
During long winter of Russian North majority of population produced ceramics.
Area of Kargopol is known for it good quality clays.
So ceramics pots and bowls was produced throughout winter and sold at many places of Russian North.
The potters were not professionals, but just peasants who made toys in their spare time.
They call it “peasant art” – potters used to make clay dishes and used leftover clay to make toys for children.
Masters produced toys for fun, so that toys was cheap. The themes used was usually Russian fairy tales characters.
A notable toy-maker in the beginning of 20th century was Ivan Druzhinin (1887-1949).
The handicraft almost became extinct in 1930s. In 1950s only one artist, Ulyana Babkina (1889-1977), was making the toys.
Eventually, Babkina's toys received all-Russian recognition,
were noticed by the Russian Artist Union, and the handicraft was revived.
To make a toy one needs red clay.
The figurines are made a bit coarse, stocky, heads grow straight from shoulders, legs are short.
Animals are ‘humanised’, they are busy with the same things as people are:
bears, goats and ram play musical instruments, bring plates, smoke.
The toys are dried, and then in a few weeks they were fired, then white-washed.
The painting of the toys is very simple – lines, strokes, diamonds, specks.
The colours are blue, terra-cotta, green, black, ochre.
Sometimes gold and bronze colours are added.