The story of the cotton wool toys
Cotton wool toys appeared in Russia at the same time as other Christmas tree decorations – in the 19th century. It was an alternative to expensive glass balls. They were made for sale by a master in artels, but they could be made by ourselves. Ladies’ magazines published detailed descriptions of how this is done, and in stores they sold cut sheets with images of the faces of angels, children, Santa Claus – these images could be cut and glued onto a handmade cotton toy.
In Moscow, two artels were organized – “Art Toy” and “Everything for a Child”. Wadded toys in these artels were made of rolled pressed cotton. There were special frames – “skeletons” for the manufacture of men and animals. The realistically painted figurine was covered with starch paste with mica, which made it stiff, and sprinkled with glass snow, which made the cotton wool look like a shimmering sparkling snow cover. To obtain such artificial snow, a ball with the thinnest walls was blown out and dropped into a special box, where it crumbled into small scales. A face in the form of a mask was made of mastic, papier-mâché or wax, then primed, painted and the eyes, eyebrows, lips were painted with a brush, and the cheeks were blushed with a cotton swab.
The costume was cut out of white or pre-dyed cotton wool. The pliable, easy-to-use material made it possible to produce a large number of figured, plot toys that reflected the Soviet theme. Healthy, ruddy skiers and skaters, border guards, polar explorers, pioneers, animal figurines and characters from favorite children’s fairy tales. Models of these toys, along with professional artists and sculptors T. Gidirimskaya, V Gromchevskaya, O. Trauber, were also created by the best workers – production masters. Such an opportunity was given by the regularly held competitions of new designs.
However, the 20th century is the century of the assembly line and mass production. And the technology of making a cotton toy was not mechanized. Therefore, in the 1950s, the cotton toy disappeared from store shelves. There are very few wadded toys made in the 30s and 40s of the last century. This was facilitated by the fact that such decorations were usually placed on the lower branches of the Christmas tree so that children could touch them and even play with them. As a result, the lifespan of wadded toys was sharply reduced. But in recent years, when more and more people turn to the old traditions of needlework, a wadded toy is returning to us again – so cozy, cute and homely, reminiscent of a winter fairy tale with white fluffy snowdrifts!