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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Crafts Bloom Near Bay of Joy

For MT
On a map, the Moscow region's reservoirs are islands of blue above the sprawling octopus of the city. Most of them were created in the 1930s, together with the Moscow Canal. While hundreds of local villages were flooded in the course of Stalin's canal and reservoir projects, fortunately little Zhostovo met a different fate.

Located just a couple kilometers away from Bukhta Radosti -- a popular Pirogovskoye Reservoir recreation spot with a name that translates as "Bay of Joy" -- Zhostovo is a historical producer of distinctive painted metal trays. The Vishnyakov merchants popularized the craft in the 19th century: The two brothers were serfs who bought their freedom in 1825 and started a business producing papier-mache trays with a floral theme. In just a few years they rapidly expanded and switched to metal, selling their product to tavern and tearoom owners in Moscow and Nizhny Novgorod. Buyers would pour boiling water over a tray to test its quality.

Everyone in Zhostovo is connected with the craft in one way or another. The drab factory building sits among little houses like a sore thumb, yet this is where all the Zhostovo trays were produced in the Soviet Union. After experiencing rough times and even filing for bankruptcy three years ago, the factory is now under new management and painters are back under its roof. Some artists choose to work from home, as do smiths who form sheets of iron into intricate trays with a wooden hammer.

In trying to keep up with the times and tastes of new Russia, Zhostovo artists will take orders to decorate anything from mobile phones to drum sets and kitchen range hoods. Somewhere in a Moscow garage there is even a car decorated with lush Zhostovo flowers, commissioned two years ago. But these are special orders that you won't find in the factory shop, which sells exclusively trays, priced from 200 to several-thousand rubles.

It is possible to watch the artists at work in the upstairs workshop and even take a master class, trying to make petals and leaves appear on the black backdrop as effortlessly as the Zhostovo painters. Today most painters are women who grew up in the village, and whose parents and grandparents were also involved in tray-making. From generation to generation, artists have been drawing inspiration from the nature surrounding the village, as well as from their own meticulously tended gardens.

Factory director Natalya Logvinova said that at some point Zhostovo tray production was attempted in Krasnoyarsk and some northern cities: "They sent artists over there, but nothing worked. Zhostovo is impossible anywhere but here."

Maria Antonova / For MT
For generations, Zhostovo artists have been drawing inspiration from local nature.
A trip to Zhostovo can easily be combined with a visit to the Pirogovskoye or Klyazma reservoir, which was once dubbed the "health resort of Moscow" for its industry-free surroundings, clean air, and dozens of sanatoriums that brought prominent party figures back to their senses.

Bukhta Radosti remains a popular lakeside escape to this day, with its sandy beach, pine trees, outdoor cafes and barbecue stands. It's recommended to go earlier in the day to beat the crowds, especially on a weekend. There is also a paintball club nearby that works year-round.

How to Get There

By bus: Route 438 from Medvedkovo metro station takes you in the right direction. The bus will only go to Bukhta Radosti (bus stop "Pansionat," then walk to the beach), while the marshrutka minibus follows the road to Zhostovo. From the minibus stop, follow the tray signs to the factory.

By car: Take Ostashkovskoye Shosse around Pirogovskoye Reservoir. The turn to Bukhta Radosti is at the 18-kilometer mark, and Zhostovo is a couple of kilometers farther. There is a fee of 150 rubles per car entering the Bukhta Radosti territory.

By boat: Cruises to Bukhta Radosti take two hours each way with two hours left for swimming and barbecuing. Unfortunately, this arrangement doesn't leave much time to visit Zhostovo, and one-way boat trips are not available.


Zhostovo Decorative Artwork factory, Zhostovo village, Mytishchinsky district of Moscow region, (495) 981-3988/9,

Painted trays: 200 rubles and up.

Master classes: Adult groups of 10 and more, 250 rubles to paint on black cardboard, 500 rubles on a metal tray. The tray will be lacquered and dried in a special oven for you to pick up the next day.

Individual master classes cost 1,000 rubles.