Gzhel is the name of the traditional Russian craft of production of porcelain and pottery items - dishes, tiles, other decorative elements and pieces. If to be more precise Gzhel is the name of the region close to Moscow which includes about 27 of villages and small towns. The region forms the so-called "Gzhel bush." Pottery production and then later porcelain manufacturing is based on presence of porcelain clay, perfectly suitable for these purposes.
Gzhel style porcelain
In about 1800 the artisans brothers Kulikovs found the secret of the white porcelain mass. Since that time the region became a center of porcelain craft. Kulikovs tried to keep the recipe and technology in secret but because of the thing, which now is known industrial espionage, the secrets could not kept long time and porcelain making tradition widely spread in the region. However, the region’s prosperity did not last long and with time fell into disrepair.
Great-grandfather of M. Kuznetsov, the owner of the famous porcelain making holding "Partnership of production of porcelain and pottery products of Kuznetsov", was exactly from the Gzhel region. He founded his small workshop in 1812 and started porcelain production. By the way, in 1917 plants of Kuznetsov produced 2/3 of all porcelain goods of Russia, the factory was the largest porcelain factory in Europe. In 1917 when the communism revolution took place the huge enterprise was nationalized.
Russian Gzhel tableware
When we hear the word Gzhel we imagine white porcelain goods with bright blue painting all around. Yes, this is the distinguishing feature of the Gzhel porcelain products. The crafters of Gzhel region produce a wide range of different utilitarian and decorative products - porcelain sculptures and figurines, boxes, vases, candlesticks, ashtrays and even clocks.
Painting is made by special cobalt paints which is put on the raw unglazed porcelain pieces. Then the painted products are burnt in the high-temperature ovens. As a result of burning the cobalt painting, almost black before burning, becomes bright and vivid blue. Then the products are coated with glaze and are burnt at second time. This technique allows to protect painting very well.
Gzhel style porcelain tea set
The artists of porcelain manufacturing use only one cobalt paint but in spite this they get live painting with many shades of blue. This is achieved by so called “brush technique” of painting when different brush pressure makes different thickness of the paint and to get varying degrees of transparency.
At the present time there are in the Gzhel region some relatively large enterprises - JSC "Gzhel Porcelain Factory", JSC "Combine Gzhel", factory "Insulator", “Gzhel experimental ceramic factory”. However the production of porcelain in the tradition Gzheli engages a lot of small workshops. It is mostly small workshops offer custom-built pieces, each their product is an original of its kind. Today, products made in style of Gzhel can be purchased in many places – in the shops at factories, in the specialized porcelain shops in some large cities, in the souvenir shops and stores.