Ukrainian Folk Art

Ukrainian Folk Art

Ukrainian folk art is a special layer of culture, reflecting world perception of Ukrainian people, their psychology, ethical and aesthetical views. Folk art unites different forms of spiritual, functional and decorative arts. Various folk motifs are used in producing and decorating of household items, clothes, art and ritual objects. By materials and techniques used, traditional Ukrainian art can be divided into such categories as ceramics, woodcarving, weaving and embroidery. Let`s consider each of these types in more details.

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Ceramics is one of the most popular form of folk art in Ukraine. In the course of long-term development of pottery art, the regions of Ukraine have separated by shapes of items, ornaments and technology. The main centers of ceramics production corresponded to the locations of the largest clay deposits: Kyiv oblast` (Vasylkiv, Kaniv), Chernihiv oblast` (Ichnya, Nizhyn, Glukhiv); Poltava oblast` (Myrgorod, Opishnya), Kharkiv oblast` (Zmiyiv, Izum); Ivano-Frankivsk oblast` (Kosiv, Kuty) and other. Each region differed by special features of production process, materials and purpose of the items. The mostly wide-spread type of ceramics in Kyiv, Poltava, Chernihiv and other central regions was crockery made of red clay (glazed and painted). South West regions were well-known for white glazed ceramics. The masters of Ternopil oblast` made crockery with unusual engraved ornaments. In the XIX century, it was also popular to produce decorative ceramic crockery and toys in the form of animals, humans etc. These items reflected rich fantasy and humor of Ukrainian people.
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Weaving has been known in Ukrainian lands since prehistoric times. It is one of the most widely spread type of handicraft and folk art on the whole ethnic territory of the country. The first great flowering of this art took place in the times of Kyiv Rus`, then – in the XIV-XVI and XVІІ-XVIІІ centuries. Until the beginning of the ХХ century, weaving in Ukraine ensured almost 100% provision of fabric for the dwellers of towns and villages. Traditionally, weaving of rugs was the most important and popular form of this art in Ukraine. The first mentioning of rugs as an element of folk culture dates back to 998. Rugs were widely used in the courts of kings as well as in small villages. They served for heating and decoration of an apartment and were a part of customs and rituals. Usually Ukrainian rugs were weaved of wool, linen and hemp. People in the whole country could not imagine their homes without beautiful large rugs and long narrow carpet runners. As for patterns and colors, Ukrainian rugs may be divided into two main categories: rugs with geometric patterns produced on the right bank of Dnipro River and in Galicia, and rugs with floral ornaments made on the left bank.
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The art of woodcarving has become one of the most sophisticated forms of wood processing in Ukraine. As it is obvious from some survived samples, folk motifs were used even in wooden items made in the times of Kyiv Rus`. After long-term regression of this art in the period of Mongolo-Tatars invasion, the XVI century has brought a new revival of woodcarving. In the times of Cossacks in the XVII-XVIII centuries, woodcarving as a kind of folk art became an integral part of people`s life. Numerous objects such as ledges, household items, furniture, utensils, labor tools and weapons were decorated with wood engravings. Woodcarvings of church iconostasis and other spiritual objects were especially detailed and gorgeous. Many woodcarvings included floral patterns showing grape-vines, sunflowers, mallows, roses and other. By the middle of the ХІХ century, the art of woodcarving reached high level of development in all regions of Ukraine, especially in Poltava oblast`. Similar to weaved items, wooden masterpieces in Galicia and Volhynia tended to have geometric patterns, while floral ornaments were typical for central and Eastern parts of Ukraine.
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Embroidery may be called the most famous type of Ukrainian decorative folk art. Ukrainian women have been always well-known for their perfect skills of embroidering amazing ornamental and narrative figures using different embroidery techniques. The history of embroidery in Ukraine dates back to the II century before Christ; beautiful embroideries on the traditional Ukrainian white shirts are mentioned by Byzantine authors of the ХІ-ХІІ centuries. Embroidery was widely spread in Ukrainian folk life, especially as a decoration of men`s and women`s clothes. Besides, it was used for decorating household items such as pillowcases, towels and so on. Embroidery in Ukraine was made using around 100 techniques such as satin-stitching, cross-stitching etc. Traditional ornaments are divided into three main groups: geometric, floral and animal figures. These typical patterns show how much Ukrainians appreciated nature with all its wonders.
Ukrainian folk art in all its forms and styles is a powerful tool that helps to keep spiritual heritage of ancestors alive even in modern times.
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