Book Review: Book promotes ancient craft of Carpathian

Print version
May 31, 2012, 10:45 p.m. | Books — by Katya Gorchinskaya

“Painted Ceramics of Kosiv and Pistyn” is an impressive 400-page tome of pictures of clay creations from a small area in Ivano-Frankivsk Oblast.

Katya Gorchinskaya

Katya Gorchinskaya has been the Kyiv Post's deputy chief editor since 2009 and is a contributor to The Wall Street Journal and other publications. Follow her on Twitter @kgorchinskaya.

Ukraine has a fantastic variety of regional folk designs, but very little information about these traditions. Albums on local arts and crafts are still like gold dust, despite growing interest in ethnic festivals, food and the like.

But a new book published in May is a welcome contribution. The book called “Painted Ceramics of Kosiv and Pistyn” is an impressive 400-page tome of pictures of clay creations from a small area in Ivano-Frankivsk Oblast.
The tiny mountainous village of Kosiv lent its name to a particular brand of traditional clay ceramics with characteristic colors and designs.

The colors were yellow, green and brown – made with the dyes that naturally occur in the Carpathian Mountains. The goods themselves are molded, then etched, painted and double-glazed, which made them particularly labor intensive and precious. The process resulted in pictures in which the etched elements held the shape, while the colors ran and mixed a little, quite unpredictably.

Nevertheless, the goods were durable, practical, smart and distinctive. Household items were made in that technique, from oven tiles, to jugs, to candlesticks. They were decorated with images that surrounded the artists, from simple geometric patterns to animals, people and churches the artist felt like etching on today. Locally sourced clay was originally used to produce the goods.

The new book collected hundreds of images of these amazing works, created by craftsmen in the 19th and the 20th century. The works were found in more than 20 museums in Ukraine and Poland, as well as in private collections.

The book includes a brief history of the craft in Ukrainian, and biographies of prominent craftsmen. There is a summary in English. But the rest of the book is a pure bliss: pages and pages of colorful images of ceramic goodies, in good quality and with plenty of close-ups to appreciate the details. There are 785 illustrations in all.

It’s a great coffee table book and it only costs Hr 250. The downside? It has a tiny first print run, which has made it a rare edition already. It still cannot be found in Kyiv, but is available in Lviv, where it was printed by the Institute of Collecting of Ukrainian Art Objects.

Kyiv Post editor Katya Gorchinskaya can be reachead at

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