Flower-pot nesting figures are a version of matryoshka dolls, a popular craft in Russia. (Photos by Ann Cameron Siegal)

Art students at Alexandria Country Day School in Virginia are having fun creating a simple version of an old art form called nesting dolls. This Saturday, October 10, at the Art on the Avenue Festival in Alexandria’s Del Ray neighborhood, ACDS students will provide supplies and give free lessons on how to make two-part nesting figures.

Originating in China and Japan centuries ago, nesting dolls became very popular in Russia around 1890. There, they are called matryoshka (pronounced mah-trowsh-kah) dolls.

These little surprise packages contain several hollow, brightly painted figures nesting inside one another. Each figure is slightly smaller than the one outside it. Artists often have five or more dolls inside the largest one.

You can make your own at home. Let’s get started!


●Paint-pen markers

●4 or 6 unglazed clay flower pots of various sizes

●Your imagination

Raza Siddiqui, 9, works on Halloween-themed figures for his flower-pot nesting dolls.

Raza’s green monster flower pot hides a ghost inside.

Use two pots of the same size for each figure you’re making. For example, two mini pots (about 1 3/4 -by-1 1/2 inch) and two larger pots (about 2 1/2 -by-2 1/4 inch).

1 Plan your art. Choose a theme, such as your family, pets, holidays or sports.

2 Turn a clay pot upside down and draw the top half of your design.

3 The matching flower pot, turned right side up, will be decorated with the bottom half of your drawing. Before you begin drawing on the bottom half, put the two pots together and mark where the outline of the bottom drawing should start so it lines up with the top half.

4 Follow the same steps for the small flower pot. By adding other sizes, you can make as many nesters as you want.

5 Fill in your outline with paint pens and decorate. You can also do a different design on the back of the pots to get two looks.

Anne Ellis Bohannon, 11, checks to make sure the top and bottom of her kitty line up when the two pots are put together.

Kelsey Mathieson, 9, created a fox within a fox.

ACDS students shared a few tips.

Raza Siddiqui, 9, suggested decorating nesting flower pots with nature scenes, then donating them to brighten up such places as homeless shelters. Ask your parents to help you find appropriate locations for your art.

Seneca Baytosh, 8, who drew nesting wolves, said not to worry if you make a mistake in your drawing. “I use my mistakes to make it better.”

Siegal is a freelance writer and photographer.

Art on the Avenue

What: Arts and crafts festival in Alexandria, Virginia, with music, free kids activities and food to purchase.

Where: Along Mount Vernon Avenue in Del Ray, between Hume and Bellefonte avenues.

When: Saturday, October 10, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

How much: Free.

For more information:
A parent can visit www.artontheavenue.org.