The history of Ukraine reveals that the area has been inhabited by many different cultures throughout the millennia. Because of this, the folk art of the region is rich in variations, all beautiful in their own ways.
Let’s explore some of the amazing folk art of Ukraine!
Since the dawn of time in Ukraine, local artisans have produced gorgeous art, both as functional pieces and amazing décor.
And since many of the skills were passed down through the generations, the folk art we see today is a loving echo of creations from the past.
These pieces of art represent the strength and hope of a people often suppressed and many times contain hidden symbols meant to encourage those who understand them.
Even though some of the items are intended for everyday use, the artisans still add lovely designs and colors to make the pieces both beautiful and functional. And the decorative items add beauty to their surroundings, both inside and outside.
Weaving and Embroidery
Using natural fabrics made from flax, cotton, and hemp grown locally, Ukrainian weavers create amazing blankets, shirts, and towels. These items are patterned with unique symbols representing the people and areas where they are made.
Solid-color fabrics are often embroidered with intricate designs including flowers, animals, and beautiful repeating patterns. The shirts are called vyshyvankas and are worn as a part of everyday fashion.
Carvers create intricate designs in wood, both to hang on walls and display on shelves. These items are lovely but are also believed to offer many forms of protection and generate abundance.
Master wood carvers use flowers, geometric patterns, and religious scenes to decorate their pieces. They make beautiful boxes to hold precious possessions and wooden statues representing people or animals.
Decorated Easter eggs are said to have originated in Western Ukraine. There is a legend about the eggs:
The world was threatened by an evil monster chained in the mountains. Each year, it would send spies to find out how many pysanky the artisans created. The higher the number, the tighter the chains. If the number was ever too small, the monster would be released to destroy the world. The artisans made sure they created plenty of eggs each year, and so kept the monster away and the world safe.
A pysanka is created using a wax-relief method. The artists use melted beeswax to draw beautiful designs on the egg. Then, the egg is dipped in a special natural dye to color the exposed parts. When the wax is removed, the pattern is revealed. More wax is then drawn on the egg and the dying process repeated. The result is a wonderfully decorated egg with many layers of colors, patterns, and designs.
This tradition continues and shows the endurance of the Ukrainian people and their culture.
Even bread is a form of folk art in Ukraine. The people honored bread and gave it a special place on the table. Each loaf was made by hand and carefully decorated depending on the particular event it represented. Some ritual bread celebrations included weddings, funerals, and harvest days.
Ukrainians also have a tradition of welcoming their guests with bread and salt, both representing the highest respect for the receiver.
Pottery and Ceramics
Even the dishes used in Ukraine are a form of folk art. Kosiv ceramics began from the tilework used to decorate stoves in the kitchens. Plates, bowls, and cups are painted with beautiful folk designs unique to the regions they are made. Kosiv ceramic folk art is on the UNESCO list of intangible heritage.
Another form of Ukrainian pottery is called Opishnya ceramic. These are made by painting designs on wet clay before the pieces are glazed.
Black pottery is not made exclusively in Ukraine but is kept as a traditional method by Ukrainian potters. The pieces have a unique dark color and slightly metallic sheen because they are placed in the smoke of a fire to cure.
Ukrainian artisans use seed-beads to make wide necklaces called gerdani with gorgeous colors and patterns. These items were considered heirlooms and were often passed down from mothers to daughters.
This UNESCO intangible heritage is the painting style found in the village of Petrykivka. Using bold colors and imaginative designs, artists create lovely dishes and statues, murals for walls and even decorate airplanes and automobiles using this technique. They use pigments found in nature to create the vivid images.
Enjoy looking at these examples of Ukrainian folk art as you explore the wonderful heritage and taste of Ukraine. You can even try your hand at making your own pysanka! When you choose to eat2explore Ukraine, you'll find links to instructions in the Explore Ukraine in a Week Digital Lesson Plan.