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TRADITIONS - the hand-drawn Ceramics of Kosiv

Updated: Jan 27, 2021

Having survived since the XVIII century, traditions of hand-drawn ceramics of the Kosiv region have spread from the town of Kosiv and nearby villages Pistyn, Verbovets, Staryi Kosiv, and the urban-type settlement of Kutiv far and wide.

The main centre of Ukraine's national pottery was at first the village of Pistyn. It had its own ceramic school, its own style, and its own traditions.

The plots of paintings of Pistyn craftsmen are closer to what we know as folk primitive, and the favourite motifs include triangles and the many combinations that cover the edges of whatever ceramic piece they happen to adorn. From the XIX century, Ukraine's ceramic centre could be found in Kosiv, which formed the recognisable features of the Kosiv ceramics we recognise today:

- three-color palette (yellow, green, and brown), which is associated with the sun, mountains, and land

- a reflection of Hutsul life, their beliefs, and a more traditional way of life

- an application of biblical scenes and images of saints, churches, and bell towers

Koshak P. (1860-1942) Baklaha. Vessel. Early ХХ century. Pistyn village. 23.8x19 cm. Clay, engobe. Formation on a circle, engraving, painting, glazing

What and How Pottery is Produced

The main feature of pottery in general is that it is man-made, providing a certain uniqueness to each ceramic work. Most of the products from more than 100 years ago were made on a potter's wheel and included dishes mainly, made of local raw materials (clay, mostly dark gray in color), which, when put in a pottery kiln, revealed a beautiful red tint.

The range of products was fairly wide: pots for cooking; milk pots; mugs and cups; flasks; different barrels for liquids; pieces for Easter cakes and cakes in general; makitras for grinding poppy seeds; and various bowls, jars, and mugs.

Verbivska N. (1929 g.) Vase. 1961. Kosiv. Clay, engobe, watering. Formation on a circle, engraving, painting, glazing

The basis for the bright decorative system of Hutsul ceramics in the early XIX century was rytuvannia (engraved painting). Using this technique, the ceramic item is fully covered with a thin layer of white clay. An outline is painted on the dried white background, which is then filled in in brown and burned for the first time. Following this, the item is then painted with ceramic paints of yellow and green, covered with glaze, and burned again.

In addition to tableware, vessels for wine were made in the Subcarpathian region – clay pots of interesting shapes, banks for liquid, narrow jars for oil, and ring-shaped vases. Large candlesticks for a single candle was a special piece. Inherent only in the Subcarpathian region, this ceramic form - or postavnyk was presented to the church by parishioners.

Kovbasynnyk, M. Candleholder. 1867. Kosiv. Clay, engobe. Formation on a circle, engraving, painting, glazing

Kahlia, or jugs, were also produced using a rectangular shape on which crafters painted the surrounding events – the work of peasants, entertainment and holidays, lordly retreats, riders, musicians and dancers, hunting scenes, and various animals (deer, lion, bear, rooster, fish, etc.). The plots of religious content were common also: church buildings, crosses, and images of saints. Thus the chronicles of local life were created.

Carriers of Tradition: Outstanding Craftsmen of Pistyn and Kosiv

The development of ceramics in Pistyn is associated with the works of the Zintiuk dynasty, in particular of Dmytro, whose years of intensive work included 1840-1865. Petro Koshak (1860-1942) is also a well-known representative of the late generation of Pistyn craftsmen.

The feature of creativity of outstanding craftsman from Kosiv, inlcuding Mykhaylo Baraniuk (1834-1902) from Moskalivka (near Kosiv), was the central arrangement of drawings, symmetric and balanced. Likewise, slender ornamental motifs are adherent to the works of Yosyp Baraniuk (1863-1942), the last of the great craftsmen of Moskalivka.

Baraniuk Y. (1863-1942) A bowl. Early ХХ century. Kosiv. Clay, engobe. Formation on a circle, engraving, painting, glazing

The craftsman of Kosiv ceramics of the third quarter of the XIX century, including Oleksa Bakhmatiuk (1820-1882), enriched the tradition of hand-drawn ceramics from Kosiv with a new element - the so-called Bakhmatiuk flower: its middle is an ellipse filled with partial letters and surrounded by dots. Around the flower, there is a halo which features a yellow stripe, bounded by a toothed line. Bakhmatiuk’s works were exhibited in Vienna in 1873 and Lviv in 1877. Visiting the exhibition in Coloma in 1880, Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph bought a whole furnace made by this very craftsman.

Craftsmen of the second half of the XX century, Pavlyna Tsvilyk (1891-1964), Viktoria Voloshchuk (1932), and Nadiia Verbivska (1929) continued developing the traditions of Kosiv ceramics, and their works are rich both in form and painting.

Tsvilyk P. (1891-1964). Flower Pot in the shape of a ram. Kosiv, 1959. 24.8x26.4x15 cm. Bottle for beverages. 1950s. Kosiv. Clay, engobe. Formation on a circle, engraving, painting, glazing

Today, the tradition develops in a couple of directions: as small shop productions and private creative workshops. Its well-known artists include: Oksana Beisiuk, Khrystyna Balahurak, Bohdan Burmych, Ivanna Kozak-Dileta, Valentyna Dzhuraniuk, Uliana Shkromiuk, Mariia Hryniuk, Vasyl Strypko, Mykhailo Susak, the creative family of Ihor, Khrystyna and Tereza Trots, and many other interesting artists.

In 2016, the traditions of Kosiv hand-drawn ceramics were included on the national list of Elements of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Ukraine.

This features is based on the works of Iryna Beketova and has been translated into English.

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