Russian Souvenirs In St Petersburg: Tour Of “Masters’ Line” Gallery

by Anna de Nord
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“Masters’ Line” Gallery offers a variety of Russian souvenirs in St Petersburg. The main part of the collection of the gallery consists of wooden souvenirs with traditional Russian paintings: Volkhov painting and Shugozero painting. Hand-painted dolls, boxes, plates, and home decorations amaze with their delicacy. Let’s make a tour of the gallery and explore masterpieces created by Russian artisans.

Painted wooden dolls, one of the most popular Russian souvenirs

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WHERE TO BUY HIGH-QUALITY RUSSIAN SOUVENIRS IN ST PETERSBURG

I would like to share with you a secret place that I discovered recently — this is a gallery where you can buy excellent Russian souvenirs. I mean, really nice souvenirs: authentic, made by Russians and according to ancient Russian traditions (no Chinese mass market).

This place is the gallery “Masters’ Line” situated in the historical centre of St Petersburg. Though there are many shops in the city where you can buy souvenirs and gifts, this gallery is a special area. Why so?

The main part of the collection of the gallery are wooden souvenirs with traditional Russian paintings: Volkhov painting and Shugozero painting. Volkhov and Shugozero are 2 villages in the Leningrad region that are famous for their handicrafts.

You will find plenty of wonderful items: roly-poly dolls, mirrors, plates, puzzles and such an unknown for contemporary people device as a distaff. Every single piece is hand made and hand-painted. And the quality of each item is just excellent.

Now let’s learn more about these two Russian traditional crafts. The more we know, the better we understand. I’m sure that you’ll find out why I recommend the “Masters’ Line” — just keep reading!


HISTORY OF VOLKHOV & SHUGOZERO PAINTINGS

Volkhov and Shugozero paintings appeared in Russia in the XIXth century. Primarily, the paintings were used for decorating such household items as distaffs, a device for spinning thread or yarn from fibres.

In the XIXth century, a distaff was considered the best gift for a girl from the groom & for a married woman from her husband. Usually, each woman had several distaffs/spinning wheels. Often, the distaffs were beautifully decorated with traditional Russian patterns.

At the beginning of the XXth century, due to a change in the way of life in the village, the tradition of making hand spinning wheels and decorating them with traditional paintings disappeared… Fortunately — it did not disappear forever.

In 2018, museums and experts in folk arts and crafts, leading painters and painting teachers united to bring Volkhov and Shugozero paintings back to life. During scientific research, traditional patterns of those paintings were recreated. Historians and painters picked the right “authentic” colours. Moreover, wooden dolls “wear” dresses that are historically accurate.

Thus, nowadays, we can admire traditional Russian paintings from Volkhov and Shugozero at their best.


Volkhov Painting

Volkhov and Shugozero are 2 villages in the Leningrad Region, Russia. As many Russian villages, Volkhov and Shugozero had their own artisans.

Volkhov painting appeared in the XIXth century. This painting style is bright and intricate. The main “brand” element of this painting is the Volkhov rose — a red and blue rose surrounded by green leaves.

A distinctive feature of Volkhov painting is an amazingly beautiful double-colour stroke, with a smooth transition from one colour to another. This fluid transition of colours is achieved by painting with two colours at the same time.

Artists paint the stroke in a special way: they take on the brush 2 colours at once. With a stroke, one colour smoothly passes into another, recreating the gentle play of paints. I have tried to paint those strokes by myself during a master class. I can confirm that Volkhov painting requires a lot of experience.

Volkhov painting, one of the traditional Russian crafts
Souvenirs with traditional Volkhov painting

Shugozero Painting & Legend

Shugozero painting appeared in the XIXth century. Its hometown is also the Leningrad region (more precisely — Tikhvin district). Shugozro painters used a lot of deep blue and red colours. In addition to buds and flowers, the craftswomen painted birds. The birds usually hold cranberry twigs in their beaks. The bluebird is the main character of Shugozero painting. According to legend, the bird is a symbol of good news and happiness.

Here is the legend about the bluebird:

Once a little boy was picking berries and got lost in a deep forest. He called for help, but no one responded. The poor child became desperate… Suddenly, he noticed a small bird with blue wings. The bird was flying in circles in front of the boy — as if she wanted to tell him something. The boy didn’t understand the bird’s language but offered her some berries.

The bird nibbled some berries, then took a whole twig and flew away, inviting the boy to follow her. The Blue Bird guided the child through the forest until he found his way home.

Since then, Shugozero artisans started to paint the bluebird on their products — as an emblem of good news.

Shugozero painting, a traditional Russian souvenir
Wooden magnet with traditional Shugozero pattern

Which Russian Souvenirs To Choose

Personally, I fell in love with mirrors in wooden frames with a long handle. I look at them and immediately imagine the magic mirror from the story about Snow White: “Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all?”

If you want to make a special gift to your wife or girlfriend, pay attention to painted distaffs. As I said, in Russian tradition, a distaff is a symbol of home, cosiness, and happy family life.

For a kid, I would choose a souvenir with a bluebird — kind of talisman.


VOLKHOV PAINTING MASTERCLASS

For those who speak Russian, the Gallery organized masterclasses. If you want to try to paint a Volkhov-style souvenir by your own hands, you can!

I took part in one of the masterclasses. We were painting the Volkhov rose on a wooden pendant.

I have to say that for me painting was not a simple task. At ht e1s sight, the patterns look quite easy to create. But in fact, it was a complicated task. The master-painter showed us every single step: which colours to use, which brush to choose, how to blend colours, etc.

Volkhov painting masterclass in Saint Petersburg
During the masterclass: it’s hard to be a painter…

Well, I admit that my rose is not at all a masterpiece. BUT the process of creating was much more important than the result. I had a lot of pleasure to take part in the masterclass. I highly advise you to experience this too!

Right now the masterclasses are available only in Russian. But the hosts of the gallery are thinking of organizing the same events for foreigners too. Let’s hope this will happen soon!


Souvenirs with Volkhov and Shugozero paintings are the prime collection of the “Masters’ Line”. However, in the gallery, you will also find other Russian artisanal items. Each of those crafts has its own long story. I let you admire some of those wonders:

Torzhok gold embroidery. Torzhok is a town in the Tver Region of Russia. It is famous for its gold embroidery. Goldwork masters create stunning items (purses, bags, pillows, etc.) By the way, golden embroideries of Torzhok are very often used as diplomatic gifts — this is the best proof of their highest quality.

Krestetsky embroidery. Krestetsky embroidery is a famous traditional Russian handicraft. This embroidery is often called Krestetsky guipure. Napkins and tablecloths with filigree embroidered patterns are world-known since the XIXth century.

souvenirs made of birch bark. In old Russia, craftsmen often used birch bark. They created boxes, baskets, and decorative items. Craftsmen usually embellish birch bark souvenirs with sophisticated carvings.

paintings by contemporary artists. The gallery offers paintings of contemporary Russian artists. For instance, you may find colourful paintings with fairy-tale birds. There are also works by Valentina Kozhevina, master of Arabic calligraphy.

I have to say that Russian souvenirs that you can find in the gallery “Masters’ Line” are high-quality souvenirs. Every single piece is a masterpiece.

Velvet pillow with Torzhok golden embroidery
Velvet pillow with Torzhok golden embroidery
Linen napkin with traditional Krestetsky embroidery
Linen napkin with traditional Krestetsky embroidery
Russian souvenirs in St Petersburg: art gallery "Masters' Line"
Russian souvenirs in St Petersburg: paintings of contemporary Russian artists
Traditional Russian souvenirs made of birch bark
Traditional Russian souvenirs made of birch bark

Address For Buying Russian Souvenirs In St Petersburg

Address of the “Masters’ Line” Gallery:
(“Liniya Masterov” in Russian)
1st Line of Vasilievsky Island, 10
Saint Petersburg, Russia

If you want to find high-quality Russian souvenirs in St Petersburg, stop by this newly-opened gallery. There you will find authentic souvenirs made by Russian artisans. I’m sure that you will be satisfied to know that the souvenir you bring from Russia has a historical value.

Pay attention: each of those artisanal crafts shown in the gallery has its own long story. The hosts of the gallery will gladly introduce you to the fascinating world of Russian traditions. Thus, not only you can find a good souvenir, but also you will find a souvenir with artistic value. Very classy!

Travel Tip:
Here is another important thing about those souvenirs: they are made of wood and tissues — hence they are light-weight and not extremely fragile. You can easily carry them in your suitcase without worrying to damage them.

The gallery opened recently, in 2020, and is not yet a higly-crowded place. So if you like travelling off the beaten path, this is a place to visit.


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A secret place for those who want to find high-quality Russian souvenirs in St Petersburg, Russia  | TravelCultura — Blog About Travelling In Russia
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