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29 Dec, 2009 07:09

Vladimir – paradise for crafts of tradition

A city of Russia’s Golden Ring, Vladimir stuns its visitors with its unique architecture, dating back to as early as the 12th Century. It also offers a curious tourist a chance to try a hand at traditional crafts.

Architectural works of art – such as the ones found on Cathedral square and the Golden Gate – attract visitors from Russia and beyond to the medieval capital Vladimir.

The city’s residents and authorities are keen to preserve the unique atmosphere of the place. Some love the mix of ancient and modern designs in the city.

“The city is being improved, but at the same we try to preserve our history and try to preserve what is so unique and historical about the city, what is so precious and charming,” local resident Viktoria Danivola told RT.

Local artists are not only concerned with preserving the look of Vladimir, but also with reviving traditional crafts.

For 30 years, Yuri Borodin restored churches and old merchant homes. Now he owns his own blacksmith shop where he and his son are turning the former trade into an art.

Although Borodin admits that the work has not been profitable lately, he says that he continues to do it for his own sake.

“When birds sing, they don’t think about whether somebody listens to them or not, or what those around think. They sing for themselves – that is how it goes for them by nature. I am like them. I do what I do for the sake of my soul,” Borodin said.

Father Andrey Davydov is in the business of saving souls and reviving the medieval art of encaustic, or hot wax, painting to create religious icons.

“An icon is just a kind of space between a praying person who stands in front of it and the character depicted on this icon,” Father said.

“The entire tradition of icon-painting, the entire composition of an icon was intended to make this meeting as open as possible, to make it very close and personal,” he added.

With the encaustic technique, pigment is mixed with beeswax and then heated. The wax works as a preservative and gives artists more flexibility in creating either realistic or abstract pieces.

You can have an earthy artistic experience molding clay at the Dymov ceramic workshop. Here workers also use traditional techniques which include putting hot pottery into a saw dust filled barrel.

Heat from the pottery burns saw dust and creates a charcoal appearance. The pieces are polished with beeswax and decorated with eco-friendly paint.

You can not only buy a hand-made product, but also try your hand at it.

Workshop co-owner Evgenia Zelenskaya said that many people are so involved in the process that they come here to study for one week or even two weeks.

Traditional crafts help sustain not only high spirits, but also economy of the Vladimir region, also home to another historical marvel city, Suzdal.

Every month, the local administration organizes markets, which attracts visitors from all over the country, who come to see and buy icons, ornate glass and other traditional crafts.

Apart from the officially arranged ones, there are numerous open-air markets both in Vladimir and Suzdal, where you can see Russian babushkas (old ladies) selling their hand-made goods, such as knitted shawls and mittens, and craftsmen offering their artworks.

Local resident and hotel employee Irina Morkovkina said that different festivals held in Suzdal attract visitors from all over the world.

”People from Europe, mostly of Italy and France and Spain come to the town,” she said. “Most of them come to special events.”

Some of the visitors love to celebrate their own national holidays in the city, like Christmas and even Thanksgiving, she added.

Every year, Suzdal sees the so-called Cucumber Festival, where people bring their agricultural produce. Tour guide Nadezhda Galagan says that farming is a very big part of the people’s lives in the region.

”For many centuries, the main occupation of the inhabitants was arable farming. The Suzdalians were not only satisfying their own grain requirements, but traded with it in many Russian cities,”
Galagan said.