Ukrainian folk art has centuries-old traditions. Ukrainian weavers, painters, wood-carvers, potters, carpet-makers and embroideresses are well-known all over the Ukraine and abroad. Polk art in Ukraine is rich in forms and design and varies from region to region. In Ukraine there are a number of districts where folk arte and handicrafts have a distinctly local character. The works of the craftsmen of the Dnieper Basin, of Chernigiv Polissia and of the Hutsul folk masters are quite different, beautiful in their own way and popular.
Folk art is closely connected with the customs of the people. The endurance of tradition is illustrated by customs and rituals which are still alive though their original meaning may be forgotten. The pisanka Easter egg is still painted and the wedding loaf is still baked, but not everybody knows that they are parts of ancient pagan cults.
There are many permanent forms and motifs, connected with these ancient cults, in Ukrainian folk art. A moat common ornamental motif is the sun sign which may be a simple circle, one may come across it in wood-carving, in pisanka (Easter egg), in Hutsul metalware, on embroidered towels (rushniks). The representations of horses and birds are also very popular in Ukrainian traditional folk arts and handicrafts. The old-time belief was that the bird served as a symbol of peace and prosperity. The horse symbol was used to protect from the evil eye.
Various kinds of artistic wood-carving have been known in Ukrainian wood-lands since ancient times, especially in the foothills of the Carpathians. Here, in many families the working of wood is a craft handed down from generation to generation, the Shkribliaks and the Korpaniuke from the village of Yavoriv, Ivano-Frankivsk Region are especially well-known. Hundreds of master carvers have participated in the decoration of various modern buildings. Thus, Hutsul wood-carvers decorated several restaurants in Ivano-Frankivsk and Yaremcha.
In Ukraine the art of metal-working reached its highwater mark as early as the tenth-twelfth centuries. But at that time it was located in towns. Only at the end of the eighteenth century the craft spread to the countryside. There appeared many craftsmen in the left-Bank regions, Podillia and the Eastern Carpathians producing jewellery: rings, earrings, ornamental buttons and dukachi necklets of gold and silver coins. Hutsul folk craftsmen living in the Carpathian foothills continue to use the traditional metal-working techniques that were used in the 18-th century to make such things as knives, forester1s axes, pin and needle cases, tobacco pipes, timberboxes, chains, buttons, crosses and so on.
The Ukrainians’ top popular arts and handicrafts have long been embroidery, weaving and making of rugs and carpets. In olden days every peasant woman knew how to embroider and do needlework. In fact she was taught that from childhood. In Ukraine embroidery was used to ornament clothes, table-linen and bed-linen and especially the rushnik towels. Each place had its own particular methods for embroidering this or that thing and its own colour scheme.
The rushnik towels were used to decorate the interior of the house, to drape windows and the corner where the holy pictures were hung. They were also used at different rituals. The weaving of rugs and hangings was also a most popular craft in Ukraine. The traditional national kilim was an element of interior decoration in every peasant house. It served as wall hanging and table-cloth; the runner-type was spread over benches, while smaller rugs carpeted seats. The main appeal of the kilim lies in its exciting colour scheme. How kilims are mostly made at carpet-making establishments, though in many villages in the Carpathians peasant women still weave kilims at home. Kosiv and Kolomiya are famous for their kilims all over Ukraine.
Nowadays there are changes in the way folk craftsmen are trained. There are special art schools and enterprises in such traditional folk art centres as Kosiv, Yavoriv, Vizhnitsya.
Various expositions and the permanent collections of the Kiev Museum of Polk Decorative Art, the Lviv Museum of Ethnography and Handicrafts, the Kolomiya Museum of Hutsul Art display treasures created by the people in the course of many centuries.