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MIL OSI Translation. Region: Russian Federation –

In the middle of the twentieth century, Christmas tree decorations – Emelya, Santa Clauses, cosmonauts and athletes – made of papier-mâché, cotton wool and glue were associated with a fairy tale, the New Year for most Soviet people. Nowadays, the craftswoman Svetlana Modnova has taken up the revival of this fairy tale. She not only recreates the technique of those times, but also teaches the craft of women in difficult life situations for free.

At the end of 2020, 123 non-profit organizations (NPOs) won the annual competition “Moscow is a kind city”… The winners will be able to spend this money on good deeds – helping the poor, the unemployed, the disabled, mothers with many children.

One of the projects that received support is the Russian Toy Manufactory. Now 30 volunteers from various social and charitable organizations are learning how to make cotton Christmas tree decorations in retro style. After master classes, they will be able to transfer knowledge to their wards. The manufactory is located in the Nikolo-Perervinsky monastery. How the learning process is organized and what is interesting about the cotton Christmas tree toy today – in the report.

Real fairy tale

The monastery cell turned out to be a good place for a toy workshop. White-pink-green temples with blue and gold domes seem to be made of cotton wool and are intended to decorate a festive Christmas tree.

“We wanted our students to get into a fairy tale. The atmosphere of this monastery is a fairy tale. Classes are held under the vaults of an 18th century cell – among ready-made magic toys, over a cup of tea. Very soulful, ”says the founder of the workshop, Svetlana Modnova, while women volunteers roll cotton wool on the tables and knead the starch paste.

Svetlana is beautiful, graceful, fashionable, in a turquoise dress that matches her eyes. According to the first diploma – a fashion designer, in fact – a public figure. Several years ago, after trying different types of handicraft, she was carried away by a cotton Christmas tree toy. She created a community of craftsmen, which was joined by people from all over Russia. Having learned about the organization, single mothers of children with special needs and large families from Moscow and the Moscow region began to contact Svetlana. They asked to be taught the craft.

“Dolls are easy to make from scrap materials that can be found in almost every home. Cotton wool, wire, paste and acrylic paints. Everything!” – Svetlana says. By the way, when the New Year celebration was revived in our country at the end of the 30s of the last century and Christmas tree decorations were needed, the craftsmen turned to the cotton technique, known since the 19th century, due to the availability of materials.

In 2019, the founder of the community submitted her first application for a presidential grant and won half a million rubles. The money went to materials for the master classes. And in 2020, mothers with special children from the regions wanted to study with Svetlana and her colleagues. Our interlocutor again took part in the presidential competition, this time for those affected by the pandemic. The project aroused interest, Svetlana received three million rubles and created the Russian Toy Manufactory.

“Manufactura courses are both psychotherapy and the opportunity to master a new profession, start a business. We teach not only how to make toys, but also to open shops on social networks, take pictures beautifully, write selling texts, and help to attach dolls to fairs. Several of our mothers have already applied for self-employment. One of the most successful is Larisa Yurtseva. An Italian bank bought her works for the New Year, ”says Svetlana.

A quality doll, especially a replica of an antique one, can be successfully sold. Despite the fact that the business is seasonal, two months feed the year: from October to the end of December, craftswomen usually sell all the goods.

“In the process of organizing our courses, we realized that, in addition to mothers, there are also women of pre-retirement age and those who have lost their jobs. They also need master classes to enter a new life. Then the idea arose to train volunteers from different districts of Moscow, and they would spread knowledge among their wards, ”Svetlana continues.

Having learned about the competition for non-profit organizations “Moscow is a good city”, Svetlana announced another project and won again. Now volunteers are taught by the best masters of cotton toys from all over Russia. Among them is the artist Lyudmila Komarova, whose works are ordered by the largest companies.

Holders of the Moscow Mayor’s grants for NGOs spoke about their projectsThe network of coworking centers of non-profit organizations will conduct a new training courseThe new season of the school of social volunteering begins

Robust frame

The students of Lyudmila Komarova diligently wrap cotton balls with threads so that the details do not crumble, then they coat them with paste – some with a brush, some with their hands. “It is necessary to squeeze with a napkin, remove excess glue … Now add more cotton wool, close the threads. If the piece is uneven, remove it and make another, even one … There should not be air in the cotton after impregnation with paste, ”instructs Lyudmila.

There will be a snowman. Toy without wire frame. Although just such a snowman has a particularly strong frame that can withstand various drops and even falls.

“We specially chose a frameless snowman for the workshop. In another lesson, they told how to make a frameless pear. The fact is that special children are often taken to a hospice or for surgery, this happens unexpectedly, and the mother goes with them, without taking anything with her. And when mom needs at least something to occupy herself, then cotton wool and threads are in any hospital, ”says Svetlana Modnova.

The snowman and the pear are the characters of the tsarist and Soviet trees. Teachers find images for master classes in antiques catalogs, in old photographs and retro postcards. Female volunteers make different snowman dolls. Big and small, in top hats and ladies’ hats, long-nosed and snub-nosed.

“I have been interested in the cotton craft for a long time and found out that everyone makes a toy that looks like themselves. Especially when children get down to business, ”says student Daria Sokolova, a representative of Mitina’s mothers society. After training, the girl hopes to join the Fund for Helping Children with Infantile Cerebral Palsy and conduct cotton wool modeling lessons for the wards of this organization.

“Wadded toys are warm, cozy, soulful, and return to childhood. This is what mothers with children need, ”says another student, Irina Emelyanova from the Konstantin Khabensky Charitable Foundation.

When the snowman is molded, it remains to dry it and tint it with acrylic paint, give color to the cotton nose-carrot and insert a broom from a toothpick and jute into your hands. In an oven or special dryer, the toy dries for several hours, and in the air for a couple of days. This is only the second lesson, but the students of “Manufactura” have already memorized some secrets. For example, if the doll is warm to the touch, then it is completely ready, and if it is cold, it is not dry.

The next master class will take place in two weeks. A total of 20 full-time lessons and 30 online lessons are planned. The recruitment of volunteers has not ended. According to Svetlana Modnova, out of the 90 pre-selected applicants, the 30 most active and sociable, who are fired up by the craft, will remain.

“I hope to stay here. Once I attended a master class, learned how to make angels, and then at home I made several cotton toys myself from memory. Here, the peasant blinded. True, he came out crooked. I believe that they will help me to correct mistakes. The plans include characters from the fairy tale “Twelve Months” and a wadded boy with donuts. I will learn and teach my veterans, ”laughs Elena Lukinova, Deputy Chairman of the Council of Veterans of the Basmanny District.

How Christmas was celebrated in Soviet times

More cotton wool

This year, Svetlana Modnova is going to take part in the Moscow is a good city competition again and hopes to win a sum that would be enough for training both volunteers and mothers with special children.

“We are also thinking of cooperating with the My Career employment center. This will make it easier to help students start a business, ”she says.

Some mothers may go to work at the new cotton toy museum: this is another project by Svetlana and her colleagues, scheduled to open on February 8th. The exhibits of the museum will be Christmas tree dolls made from 1920 to 1940. The organizers bought them from collectors, and some were donated by the parishioners of the monastery.

“Our goal is to create a team of experts in a kind, warm, Christmas craft that turns life into a fairy tale,” sums up Svetlana Modnova.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article is a translation. Apologies should the grammar and or sentence structure not be perfect.

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