The History of Balin's Manufacture

Ivanovo region since reign of Nicholas I is considered to be a symbol of Russian textile production. In 1840 in the province were 65 factories and 2 plants, in 1842 – 86 factories, despite the fact that region has only 15-20 large cities.

By 1879 in Ivanovo-Voznesensk were 49 enterprises, and in Shuya – 38. At that time, home textiles were produced in many areas. There was a proverb in Russia about inhabitants of Ivanovo: "Rich and boastful, as man from Ivanovo" or "The linen longer, the more income". Former serfs acquired their wealth, working in the textile production.

In the mid-19th century, flax was the main export good of Russia. Only England bought for export about 10 million poods of flax seeds annually. Our main trading partner used linen fibers to produce sail, ropes, nets, flags, even sailor uniforms. Almost three centuries ago, Russian merchants made a decisive contribution to the formation of England as a leading maritime country, without analyzing historical consequences of their transactions.
Germany, Holland and other European countries were also interested in linen fiber. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, the best Ivanovo fabrics were exhibited in Paris and other cities of the world.

In the national pavilions, artisans from Russia traditionally represented linen products, embroidery and decorative items. But the industrial revolution like an electric train has replaced manual labor and primitive technologies. Textile factories remained in business, where was used advanced western equipment.

In 1868 Asigkrit Y. Balin bought unprofitable factory in Yuzha, a cozy little town in Ivanovo region. The enterprise was modernized, mechanical machines were purchased, and the factory began to bring three times more profit than during rule of the previous owner. Natural fabrics were made at this manufacture. Russian people have always used natural fiber in everyday life.

«The longer linen, the more income»

« During long winter evenings, women spun in the light of the splinter. Men drank alcohol, honey, composed and sang songs. Making shoes in a peasant family has traditionally been a man's business, but clothes have always been made by women. They cultivated flax, spun thin, soft threads. Under their strong and deft hands, flax could become white cloth and tough canvas, and fine lace. The harder woman worked, the thinner and whiter were shirts for the whole family, the more intricate were their patterns »
Training in women's work started in childhood. Little girls from six to seven years already helped adults in the field to dry flax, and in the winter tried to spin threads. It was impossible to postpone this training until adolescence: girl from twelve-thirteen years began to prepare herself a dowry. She weaved canvas and kept it for a wedding. Then she sewed shirts and underwear for future husband and herself. Men's shirt was decorated with embroidery on the bottom, a narrow embroidery on the collar, and sometimes on the chest. According to her work she was judged if she will be a good wife, housekeeper and worker. After the wedding, as usual, only wife had to sew and wash husband's shirts, if she doesn't want another woman to take his love. The women's wedding shirt was also richly decorated with embroidery on the sleeves and shoulders. Welfare of the family depended on tireless women's hands, they knew how to run the household. Therefore, women's shirts were decorated with skillfully embroidered sleeves. Flax was highly appreciated also abroad, it was well-known, that flax is valuable for its features. Flax seeds were used as a medicine for many diseases due to rich content of vitamins and minerals. Fabrics made of linen fiber were valued for such unique qualities as breathability, hygroscopicity – the ability to absorb moisture, as well as bactericidal features - indispensable characteristics for using in everyday life and clothing.
Laconic fabric with an amazing fine texture was considered to be a luxury in England and France two centuries ago. In the 19th century, flax was very expensive. During London world fair in 1851, a lace handkerchief that weighed only 56 grams was sold for 725 grams of gold! That's why people said: "if you sow flax, you will reap gold".

English lords of "Gallant century" knew a lot about textiles. Thanks to them hosiery made of linen became a fashion trend in Europe of the 18th century. Of course, only wealthy people could afford them. Products of this design and texture were in demand, and it's understandable: it's unusual, elegant and in a good sense old-fashioned.
Ivanovo textile factory, Balin Manufacture, meanwhile rapidly increased production. Wise entrepreneurs have created a micro-town with schools, library, hospitals, sobriety societies, moral circles, dormitories and houses.
« You suddenly feel that from wild forest, what you pass all the way, you immediately find yourself in a cultural area. Large stone buildings, properly located streets, electric and telegraph wires remind you of a big city », recalls the employee who came to the factory in 1910.
The news about work of Balin weaving manufacture spread to different parts of Russia, and every year more than a thousand people began to move to Yuzha to live and work there. By 1914, enterprises of the Ivanovo region had population of 156 thousand workers. The population of the region was 1 million 100 thousand people.

Balina's patrons built the people's house for the factory's anniversary as a gift to the workers. The theatre hall, stage, orchestra pit were created with the latest technologies. Curtains and decorations were produced at the factory. Workers and theatre guests admired the artistic images, boyars mansion and forests. "Visiting artists" were invited to the performances. Of course, amateur actors among the workers were unforgettable. The popularity of the performances was so great that there was lack of seats in the auditorium. Therefore, instead of free access, a small entrance fee was made– from 5 to 50 cents.
Costumes for Balin's Theatre
Elena Alekseevna is an outstanding woman of the Balin family. She appreciated a secular lifestyle and was fond of theater. She had friendly relations with Evgeny Vakhtangov, Vera Petrova-Zvantseva, an Opera singer. In her Moscow house, she spent "philosophical Fridays", famous philosopher Ivan Ilyin visited them. Once Elena Balina wanted to surprise her husband and asked Valentin Serov to draw her portrait, an artist, as we know, worked only with those who were interesting to him. Serov agreed.

He felt sympathy to noble Balina and helped her come up with an unusual outfit in art nouveau style. This dress, according to the artist, might show the inner world of Elena.
In 1912, Elena Balina started to build a free school of cutting and sewing for training daughters of workers. Gellrich, master of Moscow art nouveau style, created its design. Augusta Kapustina, an artist from St. Petersburg made an interior design. She was also a sister of scientist Popov, inventor of the radio.
Popov family archive
Artist's favorite trend was the image of family life; with great care she traced the textiles-table setting, beds. Russian house has always been famous for the abundance of textiles, due to our national culture and harsh climate. Its almost always cold, people want to wrap up in warm blankets and rugs, surround themselves with cozy and beautiful objects. Therefore, the main occupation of women was needlework – yarn, weaving, embroidery.
Portrait of Kapustina
In the upper room of the Old Russian house Apollinarius Vasnetsov
Popov family archive
At the end of the 19th century, when the West had already finished industrial revolution, the Europeans began to complain about "consumer goods", created in the same style. To tell the truth, not all, mostly sophisticated elite, the aristocrats. Unknowingly they gave impetus to a new trend in European art and crafts.

The arts and crafts trend found ideological inspirers
in British art theorist John Ruskin and William Morris, artist and writer. Ruskin saw superiority of the craft to the products of factory production, and believed that the mechanization kills aesthetics of the item.

The philosophy of Ruskin isn't groundless: he criticized machine, because it replaced healthy physical exercises and skills of hand and eye. It's difficult to argue with this statement.
Portrait of William Morris
Morris saw the main problem of the machine age - death of manual labor. He urged to abandon mass production with tasteless imitation of hand decor and return back to expressive work of artisans. Being poet and artist he saw ideal in the Middle Ages, in a harmonious combination of manual, physical and intellectual labor of artisans at the manufactories. In 1861, William Morris and his associates found company "Morris, Marshall, Faulkner and Co.", which created manual production of interior decoration with floral patterns – fabrics, wallpaper, tapestries, furniture and ceramics. Today, Morris is considered to be a founder of English design.


The Interior of the Morris&Co
« The history of Soviet art of the 20-30s can be studied according to light industry products. Implementing the plan of Lenin's monumental propaganda, Soviet designers enthusiastically began to create propaganda textiles »

(From the article "Propaganda textiles: politics and art", TV channel Russia Culture, 2009)

In Russia Arts & Crafts ideas were popular in the activities of the workshops in Abramtsevo and Talashkino. Victor Vasnetsov, Mikhail Vrubel, Vasily Polenov and other artists took part in work of these workshops. They studied Russian national style, preserved in ornaments of embroideries, folk costumes, patterns and products' shapes made by village artisans.

Artists perceived this as a national wealth of Russia. These acts contributed to an unprecedented surge in the development of Russian art; expeditions, fairs and museums were held.

During the Soviet time, textiles were one of the main methods of propaganda. As people say, the poster will see thousands, and the fabric — millions.
The Soviet calico, satin, cottons, less linen, were depicted striking political phenomena, technological achievements of the time, prospects of luxury life. Even with strong politicization, agitation textiles were not deprived of elegant aesthetics. Propaganda textiles became relevant when other methods of influencing on people minds – posters, slogans, demonstrations – began to give up. The art of mass textile decoration, which spread with unimaginable speed was a new step.

With the slogan "Down with the curls!" geometric ornaments in avant-garde style were produced in the manufacture. When it was lack of good materials, avant-garde fabrics were sold out rapidly, instead of usual calico.
In a provincial town in the postwar period people heard an information about new textiles from a large factory. Tatiana has a friend, who worked as a director of a fabric store. "I'll cut it for you," he said, "how will you get to the stall? There will be too crowdy". The director was right, there was plenty of nervous people; an attempt to go ahead can really turn into something terrible for life. Then she finds two fellows, asks them to help her and promises to share fabric in case of luck. So "on the heads" she got to the stall. How she came back —she doesn't remember. I felt better only behind a fence in the yard of the store. Two fellows were waiting, worried, "if anyone could rob her". The Soviet woman was ready to lose consciousness and get something impossible. She was brave and adventurous and always wanted to be modern, fashionable, even in such times.
Propaganda theme has been used on textiles in different styles, and material played role of a suprematism decoration. Headscarves made of calico and satin were full of images of combines, aircrafts, buildings, cities, athletes in swimsuits, portraits of revolutionaries. The largest collection of propaganda textile we can see in the museum collection – calico of Ivanovo. Samples of Ivanovo propaganda textiles are not just artistic rarities, but real representatives of this period.
In the post-Soviet period, when foreign goods flooded the country, the light industry experienced a severe crisis. In the 1990s, the factory was abandoned. The first qualitative change in the sphere occurred only about ten years ago. Then for the first time happened an increase of production in this industry. New domestic brands appeared, strengthened their positions in the market among other Russian brands.
In the Ivanovo region in 2012, there were already 999 textile and clothing enterprises, which produced and sold to consumers various products for 29 billion rubles. Today they employ more than 30 thousand people. Former workers, who suddenly lost their Alma mother, waited for revival of Balin era almost for 20 years. Manufacture has always been a reason for personal pride of the southerners.
Lyudmila Arkadyevna worked at the factory for 32 years, 15 years as a weaver, 5 years – as an instructor. Once she was called by the head of production and he offered her to become a shift master. She liked this work, doing it for another 20 years.

After a long experience as a weaver, she was assigned as an instructor of industrial training. She began to deal with children - fifteen-year-old girls and boys, at the same age she began her professional life as a weaver. It was important to transfer experience, to share not only technical knowledge, but also knowledge of life, human wisdom.
« I always knew that I would work at the factory, because whole my family, the entire Smirnov dynasty, worked at the factory at that time. I finished 9 classes, entered and immediately went to the South weaving and spinning factory fifteen-year-old girl as an apprentice of a weaver. My mentor was Zinaida Fyodorovna, she was very strong, strict woman, I liked her very much. She gave me a lot in my life, taught how to work, taught how to behave correctly in the manufacture. I remember my first day at work. We were a group of kids. They gave us firstly one machine. We studied, worked, got threads, workers told us about everything, and then began to add machines. After each week we got extra two machines, up to twenty machines".

"At the time when we were working — says Lyudmila Arkadyevna — we have nothing to buy in the store, we have money, but there was nothing to buy, the shops were empty. When I was working as an instructor, I always organized trips to Moscow, we went there to pick up sausages, sweets for children, you know these difficult times. And only women always said: when we will go to Moscow? The food is out".

The team of the factory had its own traditions: in winter at the weekend each shift went to the camp site for skiing, in summer rested on the lakes. Celebrated birthdays, gathered medical herbs in the neighboring areas. Everybode was on nature. Factory awarded employees for a good work. "When I worked as a weaver, I was repeatedly the winner of the social competition, was awarded a leader of socialist labor, a veteran of labor – the last I had the award", — says Lyudmila Arkadyevna.

Today woman keeps at home memorable things from the factory. She has white cloth and a small reel for winding thread. She's saving memories. Her whole life. Factory employees have always been proud of their Alma mater. "The factory employed up to 7,000 people, and all at 5 o'clock in the morning went there as on holiday. We all hurried, everyone loved this job. We had a very good team. The chiefs are all conscientious and benevolent »


Weaver, instructor, master, she worked at the factory from 1968 to 2000

After graduating from the textile academy, Aleksey came to work at the factory in the late 90's. Today he works at the Balin Manufacture as the head of the preparatory workshop, manages commissioning. Recently participated in Assembly lines for dry spinning flax, run lines cottonization.

At the factory, Alex met his wife, next year the couple will celebrate a porcelain wedding, twenty years of marriage. "My wife worked as a timekeeper in the factory, studied part-time in Shuya pedagogical university. I met her there. We live together for nineteen years," says Alexey.

In recent months, Alex and his team started a line of cottonization. The factory has finished redecorating. Staff have established all the necessary yarn from short flax fiber.
« We have enough specialists now, but I would like to attract more young people. Because it was a failure, frankly speaking, we lose one generation. We need workers, — said the foreman. Previously, young people were taught different specialties in institutes, and now only in the workplace. We try to make our manufacture a textile leader in the district". This will be an matter of personal pride for the southerners. "In order to raise the factory, you have to work, give everything, that you know, to work effectively and efficiently," Alexey is convinced. "After this, people will return to the city, everyone will be at home, with families, will receive a good decent salary »
Master of preparatory work, works at the factory from 1996 to the present time


Olga Vyacheslavovna in 1973 came to Balina Manufacture as a pupil of weaver. She worked as a weaver for 27 years, and then moved to another position — began to teach young girls. When there was a strike at the factory, Olga Viacheslavovna was elected as chairman of the board. From 1997 to 2009, she was chairman of the trade Union Committee of the southern spinning and weaving factory.
« The best memories I have are – community work days. At the factory we had a dance floor, our own orchestra. All the workers gathered and danced, sang. So the day of textile worker (day of light industry workers) was also celebrated. I also have a set of bed linen, which I saved. Nobody believed that we would do it. It has 30 percent of flax and cotton. Calico we made ourselves and produced bed linen out of it. We went to work earlier, hearing the buzzer which sounded at 5 o'clock in the morning. So, we woke up in this way. We came half an hour before the start, took a shift, because the mode has four shifts. Everybody came, looked, if the machines are clean, in what condition new shift starts », — says Olga Vyacheslavovna.

At lunchtime, women were talking about everything. They loved to discuss the upcoming weekend, travel to the camp site, next holidays, where Olga sang in the choir and danced in the team. With this program, they traveled to the villages.

In 2009, the factory stopped working, and in 2010 started again. « It almost never stopped working, I don't have in my workbook any note not that I was fired, — says Olga Viacheslavovna. And today it's still working ».
Today the factory begins a new life. In 2016, production revival process was launched: modernization of equipment, new sales channels; a design studio was created for the development of authentic drawings and products, as well as our own textile brand and textile products.


Head of personnel Department,
Works since 1983 to the present time
Alexey Kutyn
Anastasia Maryina
Karen Labarck
Евгений Шишкин
Александр Володин
Даниил Фалиштынский
18/38 Agency
Алексей Кутьин
Анастасия Марьина
Карен Лабарк

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