Meet the people behind Raduga Grez
Inna trained as an interior designer and has always had a keen interest in art. She started designing and making wooden toys and founded Raduga Grez (which means Rainbow Dreams) from her home in Moscow. Fast forward 8 years and Inna and her family have moved away to a small village in the Caucasus Mountains and have a team of more than 20 people working to hand-make their beautiful wooden toys. Inna now has 3 children of her own, and her husband (an engineer) heads up the production side.
The designs have evolved over this time too. From a starting point of mostly rainbow colours and a small selection, Inna has drawn heavily upon her interests in art, sculpture and colour to create different ranges which are truly unique, explore deeper symbolic meanings, and play with rich, natural colour palates. All of the designs have Raduga Grez’s characteristic velvety, tactile wood finish and beautiful attention to detail.
The team has a lot grown since 2015 too. They now have over 20 people working to cut, shape, paint and pack the toys. Their carpenters are 3rd generation wood turners - they have long family histories of making Matryoshka Dolls, and you can see this skill reflected in the toys they craft. The traditional Matryoshka design has been used as inspiration for their Matryoshka House, Acorns, and Mushrooms. One skilled woodturner can only create around 50 toys per week. This is why the available number of toys in each batch is limited.
How are the toys made?
The toys are all made from Linden wood, which is more commonly called Lime in the UK. Lime has traditionally been used for decorative carving and matryoshka dolls as it’s a soft wood that is easily shaped.
The coloured toys are lightly stained with organic pigments and then sealed with linseed-based Biofa oil which is made in Germany.
The cotton storage bags that many of the toys come in are also handmade in-house. A women’s working co-operative in the local village hand stitches all the bags and hand stamps them with the company logo. It’s these little details, along with the stylish, minimal boxes for the stackers and block sets, that set the brand apart and show the thought and consideration that goes into every aspect of the design process.
What was the inspiration behind Raduga Grez’s collections?
Here, Inna explains what has inspired her to create some of their different collections.
PB: Why did you design the Flowers Collection? What inspired you?
Inna: I chose the theme of flowers because childhood and our life are very similar to flowers. Childhood is very beautiful and very fleeting. Children are like a garden, they must be looked after and should be admired. I was also inspired by the paintings of the Small Dutch and the art of the 17th Century. Small Dutch created the first art to hang in homes, rather than public places like churches and temples. So our toys are also pieces of art and aesthetic that you can bring into your home.
Our flower collection is about love. Love for your children, for yourself, for family and for childhood.
PB: The Fairy Tale collection is one of my personal favourites. I love the colours and shapes you've chosen - and you've got a big range of designs in there from the bread sets to the massive building block sets. How long did it take you to develop?
Inna: The Slavic Fairy Tales collection took 4 months to design, and I started in January 2021 - on the 10th of January was when I started sketching out ideas!
This year we all couldn’t travel and I, like many, turned to my own country. Of course I want to tell my own story.
PB: What is your design process?
Inna: To create toys I need to create an atmosphere. I usually light candles. I like to spray around Aveda Chakra 5 Creativity oils. The collection took 4 months to create. Honestly, I don't know how hard it is for clothing brands that are required to create at least 4 collections per season. I'm glad that's not the case with toys. And I admire those brands who don't give in to the pressure, but do as they feel and create when they have something to say.
PB: Where did you start with your designs and how did they evolve?
Inna: Here there is a proverb - bread is the staff of life. When I got the first prototypes of the bread designs I realised that it felt like one was missing from the set, so I drew it out right there on the wrapping paper!
I'm not very good at painting colours in advance. That's why I am painting them live. I usually do 5 - 10 colourings of the toy until I find the right colour.
PB: I love the colours you've picked for the Arcs - the Earthy tones are beautiful.
Inna: I kept the Earth Rainbow. But I plan to stop making arcs in this format all together. So there won’t be any new colours for the arch stackers now.
PB: Well, I guess it's good to retire certain designs to make space for new collections and ideas. Which is your favourite design in the collection and what inspired it?
Inna: The Cathedral Blocks set! I love the colours so much. A dose of optimism! The Fairy Tale collection was inspired by Bilibin’s illustrations. Almost all Russian children have fairy tale books with his drawings in.
Also, the matryoshkas - they are like from my childhood, but in forest shapes!
PB: Thanks Inna, we love them too!
What are other people saying about Raduga Grez?
“Absolutely love Raduga Grez and so does my little boy. The Matryoshka Acorn is pretty enough to sit on my bookshelf when it is not being played with and my son just takes it when he wants to play with them.” Wendy C.
"With bonfire night around the corner, autumn setting in and cosy fires and candles being lit as we move into winter the Flame Stacker just seemed like the perfect toy to get for my smalls. They can safely look into a flame, as they draw and imagine the beauty of a lit candle." S
“I think it’s maybe because of my childhood I feel so connected to the shapes and materials of Raduga Grez toys. I grew up in a forest surrounded by trees, mushrooms and fairy tales so my inner child feels more than happy while interacting with Raduga Grez toys.” Jules V.
“They are more than toys - magic, warm emotions, cosy evenings with kids and moments of happiness.” Olga T.
You can explore the collection here: https://puzzlebug.co.uk/collections/raduga-grez