Cotton ornaments belong to the rarest and most collectable of the Russian Christmas ornaments.
They were produced since the beginning of XX century till the end of 1950s.
Cotton being a pliant and convenient in work material allows producing complex and detailed ornaments.
In the beginning of XX century about 90% of Christmas tree ornaments were imported to Russia from other countries, mainly from Germany. In this period cotton ornaments were produced in Russia similarly to the German ones. The typical characters of this period are animals and birds, angels and ballerinas.
After the Revolution of 1917 communists began to fight against religion and church rites. Since 1920s all church public celebrations was practically prohibited and production of Christmas ornaments was completely stopped. Only at 1936 it was allowed to celebrate New Year.
The problems with raw materials, lack of form for blowing glass ornaments limited the assortment of glass ornaments. Unlike glass ornaments, cotton ones used cheap and widely available fabrics and were fully handmade.
The first soviet cotton ornaments reflected new reality. At the end of 30s - beginning of 40s ornaments of paratroopers, pilots, pioneers (soviet boy-scouts), frontier guards and polar explorers were popular.
Soviet cotton ornaments were created through the experience of masters who produced ornaments before revolution of 1917.
The base for cotton people figures was the wire carcass wrapped by cotton. The head or face (in the shape of a mask) was produced from porcelain, composition material, paper mashe, gum, wax and at the late 50s from plastic. The suit was cut out from white or colored cotton, sometimes pieces of cloth were used for additional decoration. On the last stage master painted the figure, and finally it was covered by glue (commonly by starch glue), and powdered by glass snow that made cotton looking like sparkling blanket of snow.
As it was fully handmade ornament, artistic level and complexity of ornaments depended on skills of their author.
The biggest manufacturers of cotton ornaments were cooperatives "Red Army", "Gigrovata", "All for child", "New Year tree ornaments" and some other manufactures mainly located in Moscow and Leningrad (now St. Petersburg).
In spite of attempts to mechanize the production of cotton ornaments, they remained practically fully handmade. Because of it labour-intensiveness its production was interrupted at 50s.
Cotton ornaments were most expensive soviet ornaments and thus they are rather rare today.
Last years there appeared a lot of fake newly made ornaments, beware!