Ukrainian zoomorphic ceramics from A to Z

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Since olden times animals have been very closely connected to people, who began to express their attitude towards their four-legged friends with the help of art.

It appeared exactly when in the Paleolithic era, more than 30 thousand years ago, people began to depict animals on the rocks. Hereafter, in Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome drawings of dogs and horses decorated ceramics; images of jaguars and snakes could be seen among sculptures of the Aztec and Mayan tribes. But the highest level of depiction animals was reached in Ancient China. Thus, the ancestors sought to systematize life and the environment, pass on experience and knowledge to their descendants, and pay homage to nature.

The heyday of the animal genre in Ukraine was in the era of Tripoli culture. 

Products made of clay became the mirror of the life of those times. Thanks to ancient vessels, we can look at the world through the eyes of Tripoli people, see religious signs and the reflection of natural phenomena.

In ancient times, people believed that the clay absorbs all the negative energy, and therefore sought to surround themselves and their homes with this material. Dishes, traditionally used by Ukrainian hostesses, were made by hand and decorated with various amulets and symbols.  Animal terracottas (pottery made of colored clay) were objects of sacral practice. In Tripoli culture, the idea of the Goddess-Bird and the Goddess-Cow joined together. They were widely used for decoration domestic altars as the support of the Great Mother Goddess. Some figures of birds — rattles — were used as ritual items to scare evil spirits. Other animal figures were considered as intermediaries between the worlds.

Zoomorphic vessels became even more widespread and diverse at the turn of the first centuries of our era when the nomadic peoples began to inhabit the Ukrainian lands. For Scythians, animal images served as the personification of animal totem ancestors, various spirits, and played the role of magical amulets. With the spread of aristocratic jewelry style among Sarmatians, ceramic items with zoomorphic handles appeared, among which the images of horses could be found especially often. However, in medieval days these images, common among many nations, lost its original magic and sacred meaning and acquired utilitarian qualities — gaming inventory or decorative arts and crafts.

Today, there are about ten active pottery centers in Ukraine. Opishne in Poltava region is the largest among them. The local masters Ivan Bilyk, Vasily Omelyanenko, Mikhail Kitrish make everyone fall in love with a zoomorphic sculpture. It is made in the form of a bull, a goat, a horse, a bird, etc. But the most favorite images are the ram and the lion. For example, the most famous park sculpture of Vasily Omelyanenko — «Lion of two heads», symbolizing courage and strength of Ukrainians.

Having firmly entered a mode of life, zoomorphic ceramics became the material chronicler of the history of the development of Ukrainian traditions and an integral part of the interior and decor of the modern Ukrainian family. 

A jug of fresh milk, a bowl of borscht, a pot of fragrant roasts, inspired by the diverse Ukrainian fauna, instantly transfer everyone sitting at the dinner table to the fairytale about miracle beasts.

For example, a collection of zoomorphic ceramics DIDO where the workshop of Sergey Makhno explores endless animalistic forms. A ceramic set «DIDO. The Carpathians»  introduces us to ten fairy Lanchyn villagers. They are bears, lions, and sheep called Dido Vasyl, Dido Mykhas, Dido Pylyp, Ovva!, Tatysho, Liubchyk, Dunia, Afanasiy, Gaida, and Musia. Every hero shares his unique story. Each story reveals and develops rich Ukrainian traditions. They tell us about life in the Carpathians: about walks in the woods and meadows to the sounds of birch trembita; about fishing on the river, lizhnyks, and valylos; about pottery and bee yards; about bread baking, banosh, and mushroom soup.

Zoomorphic ceramics is a reflection of the multicultural phenomena of the people. It is a centuries-old life story. It is a living soul, captured in clay.

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