Tricks of the Trade


Burning with gold and blazing with vermillion, Khokhloma painting has no rivals. A piece of wood is transformed into a work of art as a result of a long and difficult process. First one has to harvest the wood and strip the bark from the logs. Then the wood is seasoned in the open air for over a year, and only after that it is brought to the production facilities where its new life begins.


The materials used in making Khokhloma pieces are safe and unique. All items are made of hardwood timber, mainly linden. A special clay mixture is used for priming. Items are saturated with a boiled flax-seed oil varnish. The metallic tinting of the items is obtained by rubbing aluminum powder into the surface. Natural pigments are applied during the painting: soot, chrome yellow, cinnabar, and sienna. The pigments are milled and prepared for use on-site using recipes that have been passed down the generations. The painting itself is carried out using special squirrel-tail brushes, made by the artists themselves. Specially formulated lacquer, suitable for contact with food, is applied to the painted surfaces. The multiple high-temperature treatments make the items functional, durable, and safe in everyday use.

With precise movements, the craftsman uses a chisel to remove excess wood, step by step carving the wooden blank into the desired shape.
The unpainted surface is so tempting! It would seem so easy just to take a paintbrush and to apply a pattern to this surface, but this is far from the true artwork. To ensure that the paint spreads evenly and will retain its brightness for a long time, our skilled artists first coat any shaped surfaces of the workpieces with a clay primer. It is important to polish the workpiece thoroughly to obtain a perfectly smooth surface!
Oil varnishing
After that the workpiece has to be soaked with boiled flax-seed oil three or four times, just as it was in olden days - manually using a calfskin pad.
How is the famous Khokhloma gold born? It turns out, that this starts with “silvering” - silvery aluminum powder is rubbed into the surface of every workpiece. The task of the craftsman is to obtain a dense but thin coating.
This is when the magic starts - a layer of oil varnish is applied and the piece is placed in an oven! The utensil gains its golden color as a result of this baking ready for a tsar’s feast.
The blank may now be golden, but it is still cold and soulless. Our artists use their magic paints to breathe life into the workpieces. For each piece, the whole painting process is the responsibility of a single artist. Each of them has his/her favorite patterns and individual style. Each pattern appears to be born with amazing ease, naturally as by itself. This is artistic improvisation; no underdrawing is required here.
No matter how impressive it looks, this painting is not yet ‘Khokhloma’. We need to lacquer the item to make the painting shine and sparkle, preserving its looks for decades. The workpiece is coated not with one, but with three or four layers of lacquer, while taking care to remove even the finest particles of dust from the surface. It is then tempered in a high temperature oven at 130 degrees Celsius.