The Consulate organized a tour of the Russian Imperial Porcelain Factory on MLK Day. We took the opportunity to leave the kids with the babysitter and went. The tour guide brought us through where the Masters work (Artists are the ones who develop the new designs and artwork for pieces, Masters replicate them by hand). It's funny, it was basically like a regular office building with desks in a room but instead of computers they had thousand-dollar pieces of porcelain and tons of different paints.
The tour guide explained what ingredients go into the porcelain, how it's poured into molds, where the term bone china came from (yep there's real bone in there - wild animals, so they say). She also explained the two different ways of firing porcelain and how the firing both shrinks the piece as well as changes the color of the paint. Cobalt goes on black but comes out the well-known dark blue.
We then went to the gift shop, where we looked at pieces that cost hundreds of thousands of rubles (roughly 30 rubles to the dollar) They were significantly less intricate, smaller, and less ornate than the pieces we saw being worked on. Hm.
Here's some more information about the factory