This colorful cathedral from Poland is made from the wrappers of hard candies! It represents the Catholic faith predominant in Poland.
This masked figure from Bulgaria (with broom and cowbells) represents the kukeri or mummers who are found throughout the rural areas of Eastern Europe. They come at the end of winter to chase it and any lingering bad spirits away and to welcome the spring and the sun, inviting the fertile earth to yield a bountiful harvest. The kukeri may be playful and they may be scary, like masked dancers in many African and Southwestern Native American traditions. The masks and the cowbells will scare away evil and the broom sweeps away the old.
You may have heard the expression “the distaff side”, which means “women”. The distaff is a woman’s tool, made to hold raw wool, which she can spin as she walks or rides on her donkey, on her way to work in the fields and back home in the evening. Men skillfully carve distaffs for their wives and sweethearts. Since many men tended sheep and goats in mountain pastures for weeks and months at a time, they had time to create these beautiful pieces of folk art. These two distaffs come from Greece, and you will find cases of these pieces in the folk art museums of Balkan countries.
Pisanki are Easter eggs decorated with colorful designs in vegetable pigments and paints. Many of these designs date back to pre- Christian times, as does the custom of decorating and giving eggs to family and friends in early spring. There are many techniques for creating pisanki. In wax resist, also used for batik, a design is “painted” with wax (crayon works well at home) and then the egg is dipped into dye. The waxed areas “resist” the dye. When the wax is melted off the remaining area shows the original color of the egg. Another method involves using a fine stylus to scratch the design into the already colored surface of the egg: shkirabanki in Ukrainian.
This bread was given to David Blair and his colleague Katherine Stoessel after they completed a peace building training in Kharkov, eastern Ukraine, in 2005. We decided it was too beautiful to eat or even to cut in half, so we donated it to the museum.
The matryoshka or wooden nesting doll first appeared in 1899 in Sergiev Posad, a city about 50 kilometers north of Moscow known for its folk art traditions, especially brightly painted wooden toys of animals and people. Some say that the first nesting doll came to Russia with a merchant returning from Japan. Indeed, the shape resembles that of the Japanese papier-mâché daruma dolls and a Fukuruma, seven piece nesting doll, did appear at a toy workshop in Moscow in the late 1890s.