How it was: on 24-28 June 2019, a group of international designers and journalists visited authentic craft centres of Transcarpathian Ukraine. Initiated by the architect and founder of the living design collection FAINA - Victoria Yakusha, a design expedition to Ukraine covered 5 unique handicraft centres. The project was implemented with the support of the Ukrainian Cultural Foundation.
What was the goal: to inspire design experts all over the world with a unique craft technique of this region, true cultural heritage of Eastern Europe. Besides, many of these crafts are endangered, so interest in them from foreign designers and the media will also help us to attract the attention of the wide audience.
Who were the participants: this unusual trip has brought 6 designers from UK, USA, France, Denmark and Finland as well as 6 international reporters from Belgium, Czech Republic, Germany, UK, Italy and Spain to some mystique and absolutely original craft workshops at the Carpathian region: black-smoked ceramics, Hutsul sheep-wool carpets, the world's longest musical instrument Trembita and many others.
Unexplored Ukraine, a true Terra Incognita, known in history as the cradle of Slavic 900 old civilization, has been opened for a following group of “design- researchers”:
· James Shaw (UK, London) – brave experimenter and inventor, he converts recycled thermoplastics into exuberant furniture using the hand-held plastic extruding gun he invented. James has exhibited internationally including The Design Museum, The V&A and MoMA.
· Kristen De la Vallier (France, Paris) – is American trendsetter and influencer who moved to Paris from New York, the founder of “Say hi to” (a community of likeminded creatives internationally), design jury, art director and curator at such events as 'Maison et Objet', 'Design Korea' in Seoul, “Design Trends” and numerous exhibitions in Paris and Singapore.
“I travel a lot, including handicraft locations, but what I saw in Ukraine, I have not seen anywhere else in the world. Here handicraft is the work of a lifetime, it takes all the resources and is passed on from generation to generation. We saw a girl at the location of the “lizhnikarstva” masters, she was probably 10-11 years old, and she already knew how to work with the machine, picked up the colours... She could have opened her own Hutsul carpet shop now, that much she was into everything. "
Eny Lee Parker (USA, NYC) – Korean design-maker based in Brooklyn, NYC. Eny is a spatial designer emphasizing in objects, furniture and lighting, using clay as her main medium. Parker reclaims the essence of making used in traditional craft from our past – the slowness, the intention, the respect for natural resources, creating contemporary objects that brings awareness to our presence as well as to non-living things.
“I was struck by Ukraine with a lot of things, for instance in the context of feminism I observed a tremendous respect for the woman artisan. The whole group saw the power of female sensuality – which was manifested in the culture of production, forms, colors, artistic plots on the products."
· Luce Eastop (UK, Kent) – is a third-generation ceramicist, focusing on pared-down ceramic pieces, exploring the basic material qualities of clay, form, function and utility. His ceramic works and drawings are exhibited in London and New York.
“What is very remarkable for Ukrainian handicraft is that everything is made from beginning to end. For example, black smoked ceramics: the master goes into the woods, heaps clay, sculpts the product, bakes it in his oven, and then sells it himself. It's amazing, I haven't seen anything alike in Britain."
· Reeta Laine (Denmark, Copenhagen) – is a Danish interior designer, teammate at the Nina Bruun design and consulting studio, which has carved out a niche on the Nordic design scene as a leading source on interior trends, color knowledge and design forecasting. Nina Bruun Studio has evidenced its recognition within several features including Wallpaper, Design Milk, Herald Tribune, Washington Post, Le Figaro and many others.
· Ulla Koskinen (Helsinki, Finland) - furniture and interior designer, editor of ASUN from Finland, explores textile design at the University of Art and Design in Helsinki. Ulla collaborates with the Woodnotes brand, as well as with numerous Finnish companies: Artek, Durat, Kannustalo and Marimekko.
“The techniques that we saw are truly unique - and not only by their applied and artistic features. The fact is that this craft knowledge is almost closed for everyone except the family of craftsmen. Thus, over the decades, technology and decoration have been encapsulated and become a feature of certain artisanal art.”
International media partners of the second design expedition "Earth inspires":
Eva Sluneckova – "Elle Decoration" (Czech Republic)
“One of the reasons why I went on a design expedition to Ukraine that I saw FAINA at Milan Design Week, and I was very interested in the implications of the style of this design, how they transformed the tradition and culture of their people into modernity. And this trip to a certain extent gave answers to these questions. Now it’s clear what the depth is behind it.”
Emmy Toonen – Feeling Wonen (Belgium)
“From the abundance of unique techniques, I remembered most of all the workshop on black-steamed ceramics — when you touch clay, as the heart of the earth, you feel an incredible unity with nature. It was the hardest workshop for me and at the same time the most sensual. At the same time most entertaining workshop, in my opinion, was “lizhnikarstvo” – Hutsul blanket weaving.”
Maria Diaz del Rio – Architectural Digest (Spain)
“It is important to write about it, to distribute it among the design community, because such design practices have no equal in the world. All the masters we have seen have a very sincere and passionate art, they are inspired by the work of their life – and we need to tell about it”.
Joe Lloyd – Designo Magazine (UK)
“I think that young designers need to learn such a sense of belonging to the Motherland, its natural treasures, to peer in the environment and create something unique. You need to search for inspiration in your origins, not around
Tanja Pabelick – DEAR Magazine (Germany)
“As for a journalist who studies mainly world design - Ukraine for me was a blind spot on the design map. Therefore, I was very happy to be invited, to learn more not only about modern Ukrainian design, but also about its roots.”
Laura Todd – Wallpaper* (United Kingdom)
“It was very interesting to see what is behind the scenes of the craft practices – materials, vehicles and the culture of manufacturing products. I was amazed by the spirit of the masters, they are very positive – remembering at least a family of musicians. By three generations they produce musical instruments and, with a great talent they also play trembits, cymbals... It was in Yavoriv that I clearly saw the bridge – between the past and the present. ”
What was the route:
DAY 1 - Enchanted culture of dark steamed ceramics
Gavaretska ceramics — is Ukrainian folk fishery born from clay, flame and smoke. It has been around for hundreds of years and is practically unique in the whole world. This is not surprising, because only Gavaretska ceramics without any chemicals and additives is stable black. Due to that it received another name — "blackened" ceramics. This culture is exported by a small farm in the Lviv region. In the 1930s about 70 potters were working there, and black smoke was visible far away in the sky. Today, the unique fishery is abandoning: the furnaces are crushed, and the masters who own it can be count on fingers.
DAY 2 - Аrt wood carving
«Carving is not only a craft, it is necessary to give yourself all, give your mind and soul warmth...» - ancient Slavs were famous for art wood carving since the XI century. The art wood carving gained the highest level in Ukraine in the XVIII-XIX centuries. It was used for the decoration of the parts of buildings: doorways, beams, architraves and shutters. Special attention was paid to the carving of a ceiling beam. They also decorated items and household goods: chests, tables, beds, shelves, places for bowls; roadside crosses and sledges.
DAY 3 - Ancestors sound in Trembitas
Once Trembita replaced for Hutsuls (inhabitants of Carpathian mountains) mobile phone. The centuries-old tradition has survived to this day. Shepherds, going high into the mountains, take trembita with them. But there left only a few masters who can make musical instruments, producing of which requires special conditions — the tree for especially good trembita has to be struck by lightning.
DAY 4 - Unique artisan blankets Lizhnyky
Lizhnyky — is woven woolen products, that has fluffy pile on one or two sides. They are also called as Hutsul (Carpathian inhabitants) blankets. Lizhnyky are common in everyday life: they are covering beds, sofas, especially in winter. It is made of natural wool, so it may "bites" a bit. But do not be afraid of this, because such natural massage stimulates blood circulation and improves health.
DAY 5 - Kosiv hand-drawn ceramics
Having survived since the end of XVIII century. The traditions of hand-drawn ceramics of Kosiv spread in the town of Kosiv and nearby villages. The plots of paintings of the Kosiv craftsmen are closer to the folk primitive, and the favourite motifs of the ornament are triangles and their combinations that cover the walls of the vessels and edges of the bowls.
The organizer of the design expedition – Victoria Yakusha - aims to outline Ukraine on the world`s design map, to inspire design colleagues all over the world with a unique craft techniques of this region, true cultural heritage of Eastern Europe:
“Considering all the political and economic conditions, it is hard to imagine Ukraine as a perspective design-tour destination, but I decided to take a challenge and prove that we also have something to interest foreign guests. I personally selected all the places and workshops along the route of the expedition, communicating and getting to know each artisan, working through master classes with them. Many of these crafts are now endangered, in great risk to disappear as a result of lack of interest and attention from young generation. So I decided to launch this design-expedition with participation of foreign designers and the media and hope that it will help us to attract the attention of the internal audience. Perhaps someone will want to learn deeply invaluable knowledge, or just acquaint with it during the holidays trip.
Big difference of the second design expedition was the fact that we invited young design influencers, who has thousands of fans on social media around the world. It helped us to involve generation of so-called “millennials”, future or current product and interior designers who, hopefully, will help us to preserve unique crafts in Ukraine by using them as inspiration for contemporary design projects.
I also see the difference in approach from our artisans - they started to experiment and add some fresh ideas to their products, yet using all the techniques they have been saving for centuries from their ancestors.
Our design collection FAINA is an example of transformation of traditional craft techniques and natural materials into modern design objects, that still keep “living soul” of our heritage through some coded symbols, recognizable shapes and stories behind them. We do believe, that such approach and inspiration in our traditions, history, nature will help Ukrainian design find its own place on the world`s global design map”.
About the organizer:
Yakush Victoria is a designer, architect, director of the Yakusha Design studio and author of the collection of Live Ukrainian Design FAINA (www.faina.design). In October 2018, she initiated the first design-expedition to Ukraine for foreign experts in order to attract attention to the unique craft techniques and problems of their preservation. Victoria also opened the first lecture hall in Kyiv called "YaVsesvit" for design-minded specialists in such areas as product and interior design, fashion, architecture, style, photography and video art.
Ukrainian Cultural Fund is a state institution established in 2017 on the basis of the relevant Law of Ukraine in order to promote the development of national culture and art, provide favourable conditions for the development of the intellectual and artistic potential of the individual and society, wide access of citizens to the national cultural heritage, supporting cultural diversity and integrating Ukrainian culture into the world cultural space. Activity of the fund, in accordance with the current legislation, is directed and coordinated by the Ministry of Culture of Ukraine. Project support by the Ukrainian Cultural Foundation is carried out on a competitive basis.
Local partners of the project:
Hospitable boutique hotel Sherlock Holmes Boutique Hotel (Lviv) www.sherlockholmes.com.ua
Verhovel Hotel - http://www.verhovel.com.ua/