Ceramics and pottery in Ukraine


Perhaps there are almost no people who would not have used clay to create tableware and ornaments. The oldest found are about 9,000 years old - the Neolithic period. People worshiped to job of potters at all times and ages, not surprisingly, that the image of God in the Bible is selected as the image of a potter, who made a man of clay.


The earliest potteries found in the territory of Ukraine belong to the Tripoli culture (2.5-2 thousand years BC). This people loved the rich ornament and generously applied it on vases, plates and pots. Undoubtedly, their culture has had a profound influence on later peoples, the Slavs, whose period begins around the VII century BC, aren’t the exception. Pottery of this period resembles the ancient Roman crockery - stamping consists of cuts, stars, straight and wavy lines. However, over the years, not only manufacturing techniques of clay and firing improved, but artistic skill of craftsmen has grown too. By the X century BC pottery became a folk craft - pottery made not only for the needs of the natives, but also for export. By the XI century the Slavs learned to process kaolin clay - the final product looks reminiscent of porcelain of XVIII century and was one of the main fillers of princely treasury. Except dishes Slavs were also made clay figures - the pagan gods, humans, animals, birds, fish and plants. Clay has also become an inherent part of religious ceremonies. In addition, new ways of processing and roasting helped improve building materials - bricks. The word "brick" (Ukr. “tseglja”) is the borrowing from Turkic. Ukrainians’ ancestors called it "plinths", which recalls a plate. Mainly clay plinths were the material for places of worship.


The Golden Horde was raiding the lands of Kievan Rus and forced people to think first about the survival. That’s why many creative professions, including pottery, came to the decline. However, this period was short-lived – until the XV century pottery is almost completely restored, and the craftsmen began to coalesce into a so-called "tsekhs" (Eng. “workshops”). The desire to achieve perfection pushed artists to experiment - there are new forms of cooking utensils, new jewelry, tiles, toys; Ukrainians have learned to make glazed ware also.


In the XVII century ceramics reached new heights, which has contributed to policy of Hetmans and the love of Cossacks to ceramic products. Drawing and ornament on pottery becomes more accurate, more reserved and much more vivid - in terms of expressiveness and in terms of color. Additionally, we received the original pattern with Cossack and Orthodox motifs. Potters began to create tiles, depicting the whole stories - domestic, natural and historical. Like cave paintings, tiles of XVII-XVIII centuries tell us about the life of the Cossacks, bandura musicians, location and arrangement of kurens (Cossack huts), about sea voyages, battles, raids, heraldry, rituals, customs, and much more. In the same period there were so-called monochromatic tiles - it was raised projections and recesses. With the advent of new technology the schools and production centers, which are in the majority, have survived to the present days, began to spread. They are located in the ancient cities Baturin, Starodub, Chernihiv (Chernihiv region), Kamyshne, Horol, Opishne (Poltava region), Kamenetz, Shargorod, Nikolaev, Kupyn, Bar, Letichev (Podillya), in Striy, Javorove (Galicia), in Vladimir (Volyn region). The centers of pottery production in those ages were distributed unevenly depending on the wealth of quality material deposits. Most centers were on Podillya, in the Poltava region, in Bukovina, Transcarpathia, Kyiv region, Chernihiv and Sloboda Ukraine. There were made tableware (bowls, glechiks, bottles, pots, barrels), decorative tableware (mainly in the form of animals - sheep, cocks, horses, etc.), toys and much more. Interestingly, the pottery has had significant impact folk embroidery - inherent wavy lines, diamonds, squares, their plexus, full of regular geometric shapes animals and other archaic images are often found in the form of engraving on the dishes and decorations. Products of Hetman period are extremely durable and got smooth pictures.


Like other types of decorative art, pottery from different areas of the country can be very different. So, for example, products of Kyiv, Chernihiv and Poltava regions (the so-called Hetman area) got inherent ornament of Old Princes’ era, including floral motifs, and Polissia and Galicia crockery different monotonic performance and its practicality. In addition to the special distribution of bowls it was all sorts of pots - for milk, water, salt, flowers, etc. Archaic pattern inherent to Podillya, Transcarpathia and Volyn. All ornaments have a common theme - the roosters and peacocks, horses, frogs, fishes, insects and people.

Since the beginning of large-scale industrialization in the XIX century ceramics became even more different, depending on the terrain, equipment and material of masters. In some places, the engraving was applied to the still wet clay, drawing often fringes the relief ornament, portrayed by fabulous beasts. So it was, for example, in village Oposhnya, and on Podillya dishes made of red color, richly themed it with drawings. In the village of Kosovo in Hutsul region masters invented truly unique products featuring multilobal flowers, triangular leaves, grapes and animals - pets near the wild.


In the early days of Soviet power industry was hit hard on the pottery because of the so-called "forced collectivization". Because of the new policy artisanal production of earthenware products in the 20-30s of the last century, went into decline. After the Second World War, the steel grip of Soviet power waned over the production - the war-torn Soviet Union needed all kinds of goods, and any professional skills of people, so the pottery began to rise from the ashes. Nevertheless, the demand for such products has been relatively quickly satisfied, including museums, and after 1960 the pottery has become a refinement for connoisseurs, and not a necessity. Due to lack of demand, many masters were forced to retrain and their shops closed.

Unfortunately, these days - in the years of Ukraine's independence - pottery remains in the doldrums. Although in the once major centers of pottery, such as Oposhnya and Gavaretchin, began to appear en masse pottery workshops, it is too early yet to talk about a serious revival of the ancient Ukrainian craft. As in hoary antiquity, manufacturing technology clay product has not changed. You first need to get clay (most of the potters are looking for it on their own), then you have to prepare it for processing, after that you have to give it the desired shape, and in the end to burn it in the oven. As in the past, drawing on the product is applied with a brush, and ornament applied with stigma on the surface of unfired, only slightly dried dishes.
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