There are many rich and beautiful folk art traditions from Ukraine: carpet weaving, embroidery, decorative painting, pottery, and more. Laborious production practices, high precision, and bold colors are common threads connecting these different artforms; there is no denying the skill and finesse Ukrainian folk artists possess when admiring their wares. The Pokuttya Folk Art Cooperative offers many admirable examples of traditional Ukrainian arts through their embroidered garments and accessories, pysanky eggs, and golden icon paintings.
The cooperative began in 2015 with the goal of preserving traditional artistic hand-making methods and styles of the historical Pokuttya region, which is now part of southwestern Ukraine. Embroidery is the most ancient kind of folk art in Ukraine, and every ethno-cultural region has its own ornamental style. While color schemes change over the course of centuries, designs are much more static. Rhomboids, rosettes, crosses, and stylized vegetal motifs embellish the collective’s natural cotton and linen garments. Similar patterns are used in traditional pysanky.
The process of decorating pysanky eggs is similar to batik textile dying. Patterns are drawn onto delicate blown-out eggs with a specialized stylus, known as pysak, dipped in molten wax. The wax acts as a resist, and the marked-out areas are not dyed. Multicolored pysanki eggs—the Pokuttya version usually in some combination of red, orange, yellow, green, and black—are created through multiple rounds of resist dyeing. Pysanky eggs are usually made during Christian Lent, but their beauty can be appreciated year-round.
In addition to their own art, Pokuttya Folk Art Cooperative represents the work of Oleg Pona, a notable Christian icon painter. Highly-stylized, Ukrainian icon art is often painted with egg tempera over a gold leaf background on wood. Oleg’s icons can be seen in churches throughout the country, and he has taken part in the restoration of old church altars and artworks in Switzerland and Austria.
Lesia Pona, head of the cooperative, shares that most of the cooperative’s members are women who face many challenges because of the difficult economic situation and ongoing military conflict in Ukraine. Pokuttya Folk Art Cooperative’s mission extends beyond showing the best folk art and cultural traditions of Pokuttya to helping the families of its artisans survive during these difficult times. Purchasing a beautiful top, painting, or decorative egg from their artisans brings beauty into the lives of patrons and makers alike.