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Guide to Russian Lacquer Boxes

History of Lacquer Art The Making of a Lacquer Box Lacquer Box Guide

A Word About Authenticity

All Russian lacquer boxes are not necessarily created equal. There are different "levels" of lacquer art, with various degrees of quality and value.

Factory Boxes

Each of the four villages has an officially recognized organization, where the box itself is created and assembled. These organizations can be referred to as "factories". The factories employ fully credentialed artists who have been trained at the village schools. Boxes from these organizations are made out of papier-mache, and are almost always very high quality. They come with certificates of authenticity along with the village's trademark imprinted on the box itself.

Boxes by Independent Artists

Many talented Russian lacquer artists, however, do some or all of their work outside these village organizations. These artists are quite likely to be fully credentialed, just like their colleagues working in the "factories", but for creative and financial reasons they have broken away, at least to some extent, from the factories. With complete creative freedom, these independent artists produce some of the best and most original lacquer art. Usually boxes in this category do not come with a certificate because the artist is working independently. The material of the box can vary quite a bit, usually depending on the quality of the artwork. Many artists are often able to obtain top-quality papier-mache boxes from the factories or from independent workshops. Sometimes independent artists work on boxes made of newer less traditional materials, like orgalite (a fine-grain particle board, similar to masonite), and in most cases, these boxes will be sound for many decades.

"Assembly Line" Boxes

There is a third group of lacquer box artists - those that do many drawings each week in an assembly-line type operation. Each box is still individually drawn by hand and done in the style of one of the villages, but the drawings are usually of lower quality and the boxes themselves are rarely made out of papier-mache. These boxes make charming and inexpensive souvenirs, and are typically priced considerably lower than works from village organizations or independent officially trained artists.

Decoupage Boxes

Lastly, there is a category of boxes known as decoupage boxes. These works are not hand-painted, but instead have a printed image pasted on the surface of the box, covered with a thin layer of lacquer. The borders on these boxes are usually rather dull and simplistic, and might look more like it was drawn on with a gold ink pen. These works typically made from inexpensive materials instead of papier-mache, and their lower quality is reflected in a very low price. Any decoupage boxes at are clearly marked as such, so there is no confusion with original, hand-painted lacquer art.

Our Lacquer Boxes

Every lacquer box sold by Tradestone Gallery is an authentic item from Russia. We have strong ties with the villages and individual artists, and use these ties to bring our customers an excellent selection of lacquer art at the lowest possible price. Most of the boxes we sell come from independent artists or the village organizations and the prices on our website reflect the quality of each individual box.

Travelling to Baltimore or Washington, DC? Come see and purchase
from our collection in person. We have a special section for these items
inside our main store The Book Escape at 925 S. Charles Street in Baltimore.

For friendly assistance, call 443-738-5246

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