Ukrainian Zoomorphic Ceramics from A to Z

Amulet, dishes, sacred practice, arts and crafts, reflection of traditions, respect for nature and animals, memory of the culture of our ancestors, stories of miraculous beasts. All this is an integral part of the life of Ukrainian families. All this is zoomorphic ceramics, which we will get to know a little closer.

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.

When did it appear?

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.

Why animals?

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.


What about today?

Today, there are about ten active pottery centers in Ukraine. Opishnia in Poltava region is the largest among them.

“I will not exaggerate if I say that Opishnia was the ceramic capital of Ukraine. In the 18-19 centuries, more than 1000 craftsmen worked in the village!” — says Sergey Makhno.
Photo: Valentin Bo

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.

What is DIDO?

Exploring endless animalistic forms, the workshop of Sergey Makhno created its own collection of zoomorphic ceramics. DIDO is a rethinking of Ukrainian tradition and modernity. All animals are made in a single copy and live in family collections. So, the first series — the Carpathian family, which lives in the Lanchyn village, in the Frankivsk region — has 10 inhabitants: bears, lions and sheep.

"Each DIDO has its own story, but everyone has one mission — to be a talisman for his person."

Each story reveals and extols Ukrainian traditions and everyday life: 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.

9 a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p r s t u v w x y z і а б в г д ж з и к л м н о п р с т У ф ч э я


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