During the 1800s, various manufacturing centers developed in western Russia. Many of these centers became known for a single item which they continue to produce today. One example is the metalworks at Tula, manufacturing home of the Russian version of the samovar. Another popular and more practical favorite among foreigners are the shawls of Pavlovsky Posad. Since the 1860s, these large (ca. 146 cm square) woolen shawls have been best known for their vibrant colors and bold designs. From a land not known for high fashion and which many Westerners think is filled with gray clad babushkas, the Pavlovsky Posad shawls come as quite a surprise. The shawls are worn by women of all ages.
The designs are reminiscent of traditional peasant costume but urban and rural women alike enjoy the benefits of this light-weight, cozy accessory.
Pavlovsky Posad is an ancient Russian town about sixty kilometers from Moscow, widely known as the home of hereditary textile workers. The Textile Finishing Factory has been creating shawls since 1795. The secret dye formulas were created by various artisans and have been passed down through generations of textile craftsmen at Pavlovsky.
The Pavlovsky designs are so distinctive and popular that they have been mimiced or outright copied throughout the world. A true Pavlovsky shawl is of such artistic quality that the flower, vegetable and ornamental patterns are quite realistic and take on a three-dimensional effect. The deep, rich and vibrant colors are almost impossible to duplicate and, when compared side by side, the true Pavlovsky shawl is easy to identify.
Every year the Pavlovsky textile plant produces 200 types of shawls made from all natural fibers such as wool, cotton and silk. In the world of Russian folkart, these shawls are prized for the artistic and cultural value.
Each shawl begins with a design created by a team of artists and approved by the company's Art Council. This council is made up of the factory's top artisans and experts from the regional Ministry of Culture and Moscow's council on folk arts. Once a design is approved, it is turned over to the colourists who select and create the dyes which will be unique to this design. Dye, like paint, does not present its true color until it applied to whatever material is to be used, processed and dried. The colourist must make several test shawls before finding the perfect combination of dyes for any given design.
Next, the design is transferred to the fabric. The popular woolen shawls are woven from fine fleece wool by the factory's weavers. The result is a soft, light-weight product that is durable and a welcome shield against the cool night air. Originally, designs were hand printed onto the shawl fabric using wooden blocks. Today, the Pavlovsky factory makes use of an automated screen print process. The charm of the Pavlovsky shawl is its generous hand tied fringe which will never be done by machine.
The Pavlovsky factory is unique because it carefully maintains cultural traditions while utilizing the most modern technical and scientific processes. It was the first in the world to use the ecologically conscious plasma chemical treatment on its fabrics prior to printing instead of chlorination.
Pavlovsky shawls are available through a variety of shops and on-line merchants. Better still, you can obtain your shawl(s) directly from the Pavlovsky Posad Shawl factory without leaving home.
Russian Life is a publication of a 30-year-young, award-winning publishing house that creates a bimonthly magazine, books, maps, and other products for Russophiles the world over.
PO Box 567
Montpelier VT 05601-0567