Mission: Colorful Dymkovo figurines, whistles among them, represent the most famous and one of the oldest clay handicrafts of Russia.
The brand name of these peculiar toys comes from the Dymkovo Settlement, today a district of the city of Vyatka (Kirov). It appeared out of love for the pottering tradition in Vyatka lands in antiquity. According to many researchers, the development of the Dymkovo clay toy was related to the ritual spring holiday of Svistoplyaska (i.e. whistle-dance) celebrating the Sun. To take part in the festivity, one needed a clay whistle to make sounds with and a painted clay ball to throw to each other.
The whistles were made in shape of various totem animals, such as the bear, the goat, the sheep, the deer, but as a matter of fact were quite simple, their function being magic rather than decorative. In spite of the ritual meaning of the clay whistles, one can notice certain irony, with which masters designed them. Thus, a whistle bear could be playing some music instrument, and a goat could be wearing funny trousers. Such clay whistles were made exclusively by women and girls preparing for the holiday in advance.
In the 19th century the holiday turned into a boisterous fair, necessarily with whistling. The magic meaning of the festivity was lost. The whistles remained and acquired more fanciful decorative features. Whereas formerly animals had been the main subject, the 19th century saw the appearance of toys that depicted dressed-up women holding babies, or baskets with pies, or bucket yokes, sitting on benches or in boats. Later Dymkovo toy masters turned to town plots, with stylish ladies, townsfolk, officers, tradeswomen and skomorokhi (wandering minstrel-cum-clowns).
Whatever a Dymkovo toy depicts, it is always distinctive due to its unparallel ornate coloring. The dark and light blue, green, yellow, orange and raspberry colors look very cheerful on the white background. There might be up to ten colors together. The ornament is always rather simple, with checks, stripes, circles, dots, diamonds, and zigzags in various combinations. These simple geometrical patterns, however, bear certain information. Thus, for instance, a wavy blue line stands for water, crossed stripes denote a curb, and a circle with a star in the middle symbolizes the Sun or other celestial bodies.
The method of producing the Dymkovo toys seems also quite simple: a toy is hand molded of the local red clay mixed with river sand. The whistles are pierced with a special stick. The figurine is made by parts. Separate parts are fastened together with liquid clay, the joints smoothed away with a wet cloth. The toy is dried and baked, and then whitewashed with chalk diluted in milk. Afterwards it is painted.
Every Dymkovo toy is handmade and unique, existing as the only copy. Every master brings in her own manner and coloring. The Dymkovo toy handicraft still has no serial production, which makes it different from other folk arts and crafts.
Presently Russian culture experiences tendencies similar to those in the West, with ethnic motifs becoming an integral part of creativity among sculptors, artists, designers and fashion-designers. There is a hope that the Dymkovo toy will not be forgotten, but, on the contrary, will be developed, reconsidered and interpreted on a new level. Rooted in ancient pagan outlook, it can serve as an inexhaustible source of inspiration for a creative person.
Today anyone, a kid or a grown-up, can try and make a Dymkovo toy. The main things you need are clay and fancy. Otherwise, a bright whistle brought from Russia might become a stunning souvenir and present.
Location: Originated in Russia