Our day began early. We left the Kovcheg guest house in Palekh
at 8.30am and drove to Kholui in our mini-bus. Although it was
early the weather looked very promising and so it proved to be
throughout the day. Here we were, a group of ten ?Friends?
visiting Kholui to take part in and enjoy the celebrations of 125
years since the founding of the Art School.
We drove across the bridge which has been re-sited since our
first visit in 1997. We continued our journey along the road and
were greeted warmly on arrival by Mikhail Pechkin (Director of the
School) together with Zhenya Grachov (President of the Kholui
Master Artists Union) with other members of staff.
The entrance hall was bright and fresh. We were
introduced to Zhivnostka who had been Director of the Art School
for 43 years before Mikhail Pechkin’s appointment. The Gallery on
the first floor sported beautiful murals on one wall and opposite
was a large plaster cameo of the founder of the School,
Kharlamov. We toured the studio where students were
painting their boxes and then we went across to the machine
embroiderers’ and dressmaking studio. We were then ushered into
Mikhail Pechkin’s office for coffee/tea and sweetmeats. Zhenya
was there smiling happily and so was Konstantin Strunin who is
the President of the Mstera union of Master Artists. Mikhail
presented us with a wallet containing a programme for the
celebratory day, a pen, notebook and a book (in Russian)
about the history of the Kholui Art School. This book has many
pictures in black and white. Even as a non- Russian speaker I can
identify a number of famous Kholui artists and it has given me
We then moved off to the display room where the Friends of
Kholui award winners had their works on display. All too soon we
were whisked off to view the new School building which is sited
to the side and rear of the current School. It is a major project
and hopefully will be completed in 2009. The outer walls, first
floor, stairs and roof are in place but time available for
building is much shorter than here in the UK because of the
After the site viewing we hastened to the Museum where, with
Ludmilla’s guiding hand, Gerry Kriekenbeek and I were to have the
honour of presenting the prizes the Friends were giving to the
winning students. On entering the Museum we found it packed
with artists, dignitaries, students, parents of students and
teachers all waiting to celebrate Kholui Art School’s 125th
Anniversary. I spotted Andrei and Valya Petrov, Pyotr and Olga
Mityashin, Nikolai Baburin and other familiar faces.
The Director of the Museum introduced Mikhail Pechkin, who
welcomed all the guests. Mikhail spoke of the Friends’ book.
Joanna had sent a sample copy with our group so that Mikhail
could see how it was progressing and he displayed it to the
assembled company. He was very pleased to be able to show it and
explained that the text will be in Russian, English, French and
Ludmilla, our lovely trusty mentor, interpreted where she
could, while Gerry and I presented the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd prizes
to the winners. Two charming, pretty girls and a handsome boy
were the recipients of our art materials. Speeches were made in
honour of Mikhail Pechkin and the School and we were all
introduced to the new Director of the Studio Workshop, in days
passed referred to as the Factory.
We then had a complete change, because crowded though the
Museum was, the Embroiderers/Dressmakers put on a fashion show.
The students modelled their own creations. This part of the
proceedings deserves more than a mention here and I hope to
expand on this in our Summer 2009 Newsletter with photographs.
Sticking as much as possible to our schedule we departed from the
Museum with hardly time to exchange greetings with Pyotr and
The next part of the proceedings was planned to take place
in the Hall in Yuzha. On the forecourt of the Hall was a choir of
babushkas. dressed in national costume, accompanied by an
accordionist, singing traditional Russian songs. No two patterns
of their dress were the same. After some minutes we entered the
darkened hall and were invited to sit in the front rows.
The stage, which was large, had “125” on the back drop with
modest flower arrangements either side of the stage. It was very
apparent that Mikhail Pechkin, representing the Art School, was
the Guest of Honour. He received many accolades in the form of
long speeches, citations, gifts and medals.
Between presentations and speeches there were displays of
dancing and singing. Andrei Petrov as President of the Union of
Palekh Master Artists paid tribute, as did Konstantin Strunin
[for Mstera], the Director of the Rostov Enamel Studio, and
Ludmila Pirigova of the Moscow Publishing House. Mikhail Pechkin
was presented with a flag complete with a symbolic Firebird and a
gold medal, which was pinned on the Flag and positioned at the
back of the stage.
A senior police officer, fully uniformed, complete with
uniformed aide very formally presented Mikhail with a cased sabre
which was removed from the case and solemnly given,
Cossack-style, to Mikhail. Ludmilla had requested that Ray
Lawler, as a Friend of Kholui, thank Mikhail and everyone for
inviting us to their Celebrations. He did this splendidly because
he learnt his speech written in Russian, schooled by Ludmilla. He
stood up in front of that large hall full of people and delivered
it faultlessly. We were delighted and so were our hosts - because
it was a short speech - and they liked the content, of course!
Flowers were given and there was more singing from the ladies in
their fantastic national dress.
The proceedings came to an end and we departed by bus to a new
restaurant still in Yuzha for a party with tables laden with food
and drink. I think by this time we were all pretty hungry. The
food was delicious. Many toasts were drunk and whilst we ate we
were entertained by yet more graceful dancers. Much to our
delight we met Ludmila Pirogova who drank a toast to the Friends
of Kholui for our constant support for miniature lacquer art,
particularly in our early years and their times of
We left quite late in the afternoon a bit reluctantly
because the party was just getting going. However, we had an
appointment with Zhenya and Lena Grachov to keep. We had a superb
display of boxes to look at and buy, and a super picnic in their
garden with Andrei, Valya, and other wonderful people.
What a memorable day and I feel so privileged to have