Despite the trend for shiny glass baubles, skilled artisans still create intricate cotton wool dolls to decorate New Year trees.
Cotton wool toys decorate a New Year tree.
Cute figures inspired by fairytales and more modern movies.
The tradition of cotton wool toys was brought into Russia in the 19th century from Germany.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union the tradition was lost, but now it's slowly coming back to life.
In Moscow artisans are busy preparing for the winter festivities.
Today the toys are much in demand, as nostalgia takes hold says Svetlana Modnova of the Russian Cotton Toy Factory
"For the last five years or so, the cotton toy as a value is gaining momentum. On the one hand it is a collectable item, there are collector who buy them, making up collections starting from the pre-revolutionary toys. On the other hand, this is after all family traditions, the traditions that we are reviving now, because whoever you talk to, out of ten people, nine would definitely say that in their childhood, in their family there was a cotton Father Frost," says Modnova.
In Soviet times the style became more primitive, but the ornaments were still found in every Soviet house.
"The history of our state could be traced by cotton toys. At the time of Gagarin's flight, there were cosmonauts, at the time of jubilee dates of Aleksandr Pushkin there were Pushkin's fairy tales and various Golden Fishes and Swan Princesses. That is, one could see the history of our state by the figurines that were made by Soviet artists and were on sale," says Modnova.
In the future, the centre plans to open a museum of cotton wool toys, the first exhibits are here already – replicas of real Soviet and pre-revolutionary toys.
Among them a frog reading the famous Soviet newspaper Pravda, which means Truth.
The Russian Cotton Wool Toy Factory opened in Moscow in November this year.
Located in the 17th century Nikolo-Perervinsky Monastery it aims to revive the traditions of Russian cotton wool toys.
The idea is to unite individual craftspeople scattered around Russia and set up a mass production unit.
"When we started to get to know the women, the artisans who were making cotton wool toys, we realised that there were no any unions or teams of masters, that is masters work at homes, at some arts and crafts centres, but there is no union where one can come to get advice, to create together, to develop collections, to share experience, there was no such thing. So, we created one" says Modnova.
To start, one doesn't need expensive materials or complicated tools: cotton wool, wire, a piece of clay, glue and acrylic paints.
"It's easy to go into a shop and buy as much cotton wool as you need, buy glue, and start making up something. Other materials require set up, certain knowledge, purchase of these materials, which is not always affordable for people. Cotton wool is very affordable," says cotton wool toy master Anastasia Leonova.
Elaborate collectible items created by individual masters can take a month or two or three to make.
Here at the factory, different artisans undertake different stages of the process and can they can make upto one thousand toys per month.
First cotton wool is soaked with glue and moulded around the wire frame.
After the clothes is shaped, the toy is dried and painted; sometimes the cotton wool is dyed, not painted, which makes it lighter.
Lyudmila Komarova, cotton wool toy master, explains:
"The paste is brewed. Some people boil it, some do it with hot water. cotton wool and toy blank are taken, the base is made out of white cotton wool on the wire carcass, and then slowly the toy gets clothes."
The centre delivers free master classes to socially vulnerable people such as mothers of children with disabilities or unemployed women.
After training they can join the company.
Marina Fredova used to work as an economist making different types of toys as a hobby for more than twenty years.
Now her hobby has turned into a profession and provides a source of income.
"It's very kind, very warm material, it makes very lovable toys that recall our past, to our grandmothers, grandfathers, fathers and mothers," says Fredova.
A month before the New Year is a high season – hundreds of toys are waiting to be delivered to buyers, mainly corporate clients.
The cost of the toy is between 1,000 and 2,500 Roubles ($14 and $34).