Thursday, October 13, 2011

Art Project: Buryat Peg Doll

From 1993-96 I called the Siberian city of Ulan-Ude home. (And, yes, I was there voluntarily and happily!) Ulan-Ude is the capital of an autonomous republic within the Russian Federation called Buryatia. While Buryatia has a large Russian population and is highly influenced by Russian culture, it is of course the home of the Buryats, who were the original inhabitants of this part of Siberia.

My family will visiting Ulan-Ude on an upcoming trip, and if you have been reading my recent posts, you know I have been doing everything possible to prepare my children for the people they will meet and cultures they will experience. Since some of my dearest friends in the world are Buryats, I really want my kids to be familiar with this beautiful people group as well.

Art is one of my favorite mediums for teaching about other cultures. Since I had some extra wooden peg dolls left over from a Godly Play project, I had the idea to create a Buryat peg doll as an art project.

This is the Buryat peg doll that I created.

This is a map of Russia and the Republic of Buryatia is in red.
Before we began the peg doll project, I helped my children locate Russia on our wooden
Montessori map and then showed them Buryatia on the map above.
We also looked at pictures like this one of Buryats in their traditional costumes.
You want see any Buryats these days walking down the street dressed like this,
but they do pull them out on special occasions.

My peg doll was inspired by wooden Buryat dolls that I saw often in Ulan-Ude.
In fact, I have some that I bought when I lived there, but they are packed away somewhere
 at my parents' home in the States. I found this picture on-line of a Mongolian doll from the company
Face Music that close resembles the dolls I had.
Step 1: Choose paints and several sizes of paint brushes for your doll.

Step 2: Paint the body of the doll. When my daughter painted hers, I used masking tape to cover the neck  and feet, because painting the edges can be tricky for little hands.

Step 3: After looking at pictures of traditional Buryat hats, make a hat out of clay. I used regular modeling clay, but you could use air-hardening clay as well. You can do this while the body is drying.

Step 4: Paint the hat with Mod Podge or some sort of varnish that will give it a shiny coat and help hold its form. The varnish will act as an adhesive to glue the hat to the doll. 

Step 5: Paint the facial features. I had my daughter practice a little on a separate sheet of paper. 

Step 6: Paint any decorations on the body after the first coat of paint has dried. 

Step 7: Paint the back of the doll. 

Here is my daughter's beautiful doll! Her peg doll was slightly larger than mine to make it easier for her. Also, I was pleased that she chose a different decorative motif for the doll's dress.
We only had two meltdowns during this project and they were over faster than the one during the Matryoshka project! (For more on that topic, see this post.) My 8-year-old son, while very interested in the Buryats, opted to paint pictures of the X-men instead of doing a peg doll.: ) But I couldn't have asked for a better afternoon with all of us sitting around the table together doing art.

And the Buryat peg dolls have now joined the Acorn family and the Chestnut family on our autumn nature table. So much fun to be a child, create and play!

Linked to The Magic Onions


  1. Sheila - what a delight to discover you have Buryatia connections. We adopted our daughter from Ulan Ude almost exactly two years ago. She is 4 now. We found Buryatia and its people and culture fascinating, and we hope she will always have a love for her place of origin. I follow your blog because I'm a Godly Play teacher too, in Texas. And because I've lived in several places overseas in my past. It's fun seeing how Godly Play translates isn't it? I love your blog. Thank you for posting.

  2. Hi Jennings, What a small world! That's wonderful that your little girl is from Ulan-Ude. I'm also glad to know that you loved Buryatia and are seeking to cultivate a love for it in your daughter. I'll be sharing Godly Play at a church in U-U in November, so I will let you know how it goes. Thanks for journeying with me!

  3. Beautiful doll. I love that you teach about other cultures through art. I think that is a great way too. I am going to get some peg dolls and let my oldest see this post. I know she would love to replicate it in her own way. Thanks for sharing on Monday Madness. Hope you come back again tomorrow!

  4. Love these - What a beautiful art project. Thanks for linking it up!