No child’s play: hand-made Russian dolls fetch fortunes

A staple of girls’ childhoods all around the planet, dolls can be much more than a traditional play-thing. Join RT on a trip into the world of Russian doll art.

Doll artist Tatyana Bayeva got hooked 43 years ago, when Russia was still part of the USSR and exclusive handmade dolls were alien to the country.

Now her unique pieces are snapped up by collectors across the globe – for example, Hollywood star Demi Moore is among Tatyana’s clients.

Making dolls is certainly no child’s play. A small piece may take up to a month to finish. Tatyana says once you have made your first doll, it becomes addictive.

“It’s a chance to create your own world,” Tatyana Bayeva, from the Gallery of Elena Gromova, explained. “But sometimes I feel like the doll is ruling. It’s not me creating it – it creates itself.”

In Russia, the craft nearly disappeared during 70 years of Soviet rule.

The first art dolls came to Russia from Europe in the 17th century. It is said to have begun with French fashion dolls used, as their name suggests, to showcase the couture of the day.

Soon, Russian artists started creating their own versions. The beauties, however, were not welcome in the USSR, deemed a bad bourgeois influence and replaced by mass-produced children’s toys.

As the Soviet Union collapsed, the art of doll-making saw its rebirth . When the Wachtanoff Doll Gallery opened in 1997, it had some 20 dolls on display. Now it boasts more than 300.

Dolls at the gallery come in all shapes and sizes – made from fabric, porcelain, wool and felt, from the abstract to the incredibly life-like, and from high fashion to fantasy.

“Dolls do have a life of their own,” Vera Fedotova, from the Wachtanoff Doll Gallery, told RT. “We once had an exhibition opening here, and there was one work representing three musicians. As we closed for the night, they were on their shelf. But the next morning we found them on the floor, instruments scattered around. I’m absolutely certain that they simply continued partying after we had gone.”

Art dolls demand a wide range of skills, from sculpting and painting to costuming. No wonder some of the most deluxe dolls have a price tag of up to $7,000.

Whether a doll becomes a priceless family treasure, serves as a beautiful decoration or takes you on a trip to a magical wonderland, this is one kind of art you would want to play with.

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