On special occasions, my mother and my Gran served cakes and biscuits on doilys. I discovered an unopened packet of these spectacular gold doilys in one of Gran’s kitchen drawers; one of those drawers stuffed full of everything imaginable, and unimaginable.

It made me think of ornamentation, gold leaf and Russian Orthodox churches and I recalled my sister’s set of matryoshka dolls which she was given as a child.


This is the first set of matryoshka dolls (image from Wikipedia), carved in 1890 by Vasily Petrovich Zvyozdochkin and designed and painted by Sergey Vasilyevich Malyutin. It can be seen in the Sergiev Posad Museum of Toys. Malyutin’s idea for a set of nesting dolls was inspired by the daruma dolls of Japan. There is also a long history of nesting dolls in China.

Daruma_doll,_cut_out,_03daruma doll (image from Wikipedia)

The word matryoshka literally means ‘little matron’ and stems from the old Russian female name ‘matryona’ from the latin root ‘mater’ or mother. These feminine forms seemed to lend themselves to thinking back through the matriarchal line – or choosing not to. I started playing around with the archetypal matryoshka shape and labyrinthine forms, one inside the other.