Vyshny Volochek, Russia
10 Images

Up by their bootstraps

Workers shape valenki, traditional Russian felt boots, at Boris Smorodov’s tiny factory in Vyshny Volochek, about 200 miles northwest of Moscow. (Sergei L. Loiko / Los Angeles Times)
The workshop uses centuries-old methods to make the valenki(Sergei L. Loiko / Los Angeles Times)
Owner Boris Smorodov found machine-made valenki too stiff for comfort, so he decided to make them by hand. (Sergei L. Loiko / Los Angeles Times)
A worker polishes a felt boot on Smorodov’s primitive equipment. (Sergei L. Loiko / Los Angeles Times)
Factory owner Boris Smorodov cuts a pair of boots to size. He and his small team spent years driving around the countryside, looking for the “very old people who knew how to make valenki.... It’s a skill you can’t buy.” (Sergei L. Loiko / Los Angeles Times)
A worker embroiders flowers onto a boot. (Sergei L. Loiko / Los Angeles Times)
Factory worker Galina Antonova shows a pair of valenki to a truck driver who stopped in. (Sergei L. Loiko / Los Angeles Times)
Women take their lunch break at the factory. (Sergei L. Loiko / Los Angeles Times)
Workers relax during a break. They work the wool by hand, plunging it into vats of greasy, steaming water before rolling and hammering it. (Sergei L. Loiko / Los Angeles Times)
A woman fetches water from a canal in Vyshny Volochek, a dilapidated town on the highway between Moscow and St. Petersburg. (Sergei L. Loiko / Los Angeles Times)
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