Abashev toys

Okarinas made of clay, depicting animals and people in a funny fairy tale form

Gorodovye (19th century policemen in the Russian Empire)
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Abashevskaya toy is a Russian art craft, formed in  Spassky district of Penza region.

Dog with puppy
pinterest button Dog with puppy Russian Handicrafts Guide, CC BY-SA 3.0

Emergence of Abashev Toys

Manufacturing of Abashev toys started in the XIX century in the local pottery. The displacement of handicrafts at the beginning of the 20th century by factory utensils caused the gradual extinction of pottery and the allocation of toys making to independent craft.

The village of Abashevo of  Penza region is an ancient Russian village with deep historical, religious and artistic roots. Particularly glorified village craftspeople were potters and pipers. More than half of the villagers circled all sorts of pottery utensils on the potter's wheels and molded a toy-whistles and ocarinas. Unlike most toy centers, mostly men worked here.

In the 19-20 centuries Abashevo was the leading pottery center in Russia. Toys made of clay of Abashev craftsmen were exhibited in Moscow, London and Paris.

pinterest button Сockerel Svetlana Vorobyova, CC BY-SA 3.0

They are deeply traditional, from generation to generation the images of domestic animals, birds, deer, horsemen, ladies are repeated, each craftsman passes these images through himself, his soul, resulting in the birth of unique spiritualized humanized images.

Ram – gold horns
pinterest button Ram – gold horns Russian Handicrafts Guide, CC BY-SA 3.0

Секреты лепки и обжига передавали в семьях из поколения в поколение, от отца к сыну. Обучать начинали с 8 лет. Таким образом образовались целые династии гончаров и дудочников.

The secrets of molding and baking were passed on to the families from generation to generation, from father to son. Teaching began at the age of 8. In this way dynasties of potters and pipers were formed.

Craftsman Larion Zotkin

Larion Zotkin, a talented craftsman from Abashevo, the creator of many interesting toys: fairy lions, quaint dogs, funny bears. Thanks to him,  Abashev toy acquired its own unique style, known to us now.

Features of the Abashev Toy

These are ocarinas  depict animals, often taking phantasmagoric fabulous appearance.

Deer and ram
pinterest button Deer and ram Russian Handicrafts Guide, CC BY-SA 3.0

Figures have an elongated bodies with short, widely spaced legs and a long, elegant neck. On a small, carefully molded head, deeply scratched eyes stand out.

The heads of goats, deer, rams are crowned with curved, sometimes multi-tiered horns.

Prophetic Bird
pinterest button Prophetic Bird Russian Handicrafts Guide, CC BY-SA 3.0

Lush bangs, curly beards and manes are clearly modeled, their contours, outlined by the modeling stick, have a strict pattern and high relief.

Wonder deer
pinterest button Wonder deer Russian Handicrafts Guide, CC BY-SA 3.0

Toys are painted with bright colors – blue, green, red, in the most unexpected combinations. Separate details, for example, horns, can be painted with silver or gold.

Hen with chicken
pinterest button Hen with chicken Russian Handicrafts Guide, CC BY-SA 3.0

Occasionally, parts of the figures remain unpainted and contrast sharply with the bright spots of the enamel.

Useful Information

Abashev toys
Abashevskaya toy
Russian: Аба́шевская игру́шка
Translit: Abashevskaya igrushka

Modern craftsmen

The craft of the Abashev toys is continued by modern masters - T.N. Zotkin, I.L. Zyuzenkov, A.I. Es'kin.

Some artists began to cover their ocarinas with colorless glaze, which makes the figures more streamlined and less bright.

Manufacturing techniques

In the old days, clay products in Abashevo were baked in the hearths - round or oval shaped structures lined with fire-resistant bricks 1.5 meters wide and 2 meters high.

The craftsman climbed into the kiln, and his wife gave him jugs and pots from above. At the top of the product lay 'kalanchik' (shards of broken utensils). The baked clay products with birch or oak firewood. After the end of baking toys, they traditionally baked potatoes.

The therapeutic clay used for modeling the Abashevskaya toy, and the kindness, introduced by the craftsman's hands, relieves anxiety, stress, and protects the family from evil and dark forces.

A wonderful Abashev toy does not leave anyone indifferent.