Golden Khokhloma Factory, Semyonov

Golden Khokhloma Factory in Semyonov, Russia is an unassuming attraction which churns out the world’s most recognizable wooden spoons and some of Russia’s most popular souvenirs.

In the 17th century, regional artists began to embellish wooden spoons with unique paintings distinguished by lurid golden backdrops interlaced with colorful depictions of foliage, animals and mythical characters. Initially designed by former icon masters, the unmistakable painted patterns soon came to be known as Khokhoma, a reference to the village where the art form began. As Khokhloma spoons were sold along local trade routes, their ornate detail caught the eye of many and demand for the product soared, even reaching international fame at the turn of the 20th century. Yet in the coming years demand for the product began to decline, and were it not for the efforts of a group of Semyenov artists, this unique national art form may have died out altogether.

In order to keep the Khokhloma tradition alive, a school for artistic woodworkers opened in Semyonov in 1916 with the aim of training skilled artisans. In 1931, graduates from the school created an artel which in time developed into the Golden Khokhloma Factory, whose establishment allowed for the patenting and large-scale production of the national product. Today, Golden Khokhloma Factory (sometimes called Khokhloma Painting Factory) continues to produce Semyonov’s famous spoons as well as decorative tableware, candlesticks, vases, toys and furniture, all of which are painted with bright and unusual Khokhloma designs.

On a visit to Golden Khokhloma Factory, you will be greeted by statues of Semyon Lozhkar, one of the region’s original wooden spoon makers, and George Matveev, founder of the modern school of Khokhloma painting. The factory itself is permeated with the smell of wood and varnish, the sound of whirring machines and a cheerful conglomerate of bright colors and glittering gold. A tour of the factory includes a visit to the workshops where woodcutters and skilled artists are hard at work, giving you the unique opportunity to watch as spoons, stacked matryoshka dolls and other products are created. Learn little-known historical facts along the way and even interact with some of the skilled woodworkers and painters. While on the campus, be sure to visit the accompanying Golden Khokhloma Museum to admire the colorful displays of historic and modern Khokhloma products.

Those who wish to dig deeper into this unique Russian art form can time their visit to Golden Khokhloma Factory in Semyonov to coincide with the Golden Khokhloma International Festival of Folk Art Crafts, held annually on the second Saturday in June.