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Iryna Tsvilyk-Serohina

Artist, master of ceramics

Grandmother Pavlina

When I was small, I always went to my grandmother Pavlina Yosypivna. And each time my grandmother told me: “Irka, you come to help to notch on vessels! ” - Now I will show you what a notch is. – she is reaching for the mug. "Do you see the pictures?" And here there are such notches. Notches help to emphasize the picture, make it more expressive. My grandmother used to potter all the time, my sister Nadia painted, and I made notches. One day my grandmother looked at me like that and said, "You know, Irka, it seems to me that you'll be a potter."

The woman is dressed in a black dress that covers her wide hips. The white belt is sparkling with thin gold and brown threads on her waist. The neck is gently wrapped in a thin necklace of white pearls. The hair is dyed fiery red. She has got a short haircut. The contours of the face are emphasized by light make-up. The most visible ones are her lips, covered with bright pearl-pink lipstick. Iryna Tsvilyk-Serohina is one of the most famous masters of Kosiv ceramics and pottery in Ukraine. She is 71 and she is still a potter. The woman continues the work of her grandmother – Pavlina Tsvilyk, who was one of the leading and famous Kosiv craftswomen. She instilled in her granddaughter a love of family business and was the first mentor of little Iryna, who has preserved the ancient traditions of her grandmother to this day and which she skillfully and masterfully uses in the technique of pottery and ceramics.

Iryna Tsvilyk-Serohina was born and raised in Kosiv. She also went to school here and studied at the Kosiv School of Applied and Decorative Arts.

The heart of ancient Ukrainian pottery

Today, the city of Kosiv in Ivano-Frankivsk region is one of the most famous pottery centers in Ukraine. Here, for several centuries, hundreds of potters and craftswomen worked with clay, preserving the traditions of painted Kosiv ceramics. The art of pottery developed rapidly not only in Kosiv, but also in the surrounding villages: Kuty, Pistyn, Stary Kosiv. In Kosiv traditional pottery, the ancient customs of the Hutsuls, their life and way of life, history and a certain philosophy can be traced. Ceramics have absorbed the origins of the secret meanings of the Carpathian region, and traditional Kosiv ceramics are an important element of Ukrainian identity. Potters use three colours in their works: green, yellow and brown. Mrs. Irina often likes to use brown in her ceramics.

I have a brown one on my jug, can you see?" And there is already a darker one. I gave too much whitewashing and it turned out in such a darker color.

There are also neatly stacked ceramic tiles, adorable lambs, decorative birds, candlesticks, barrels, plates, clay dzbans on the shelf behind her. Dzban is the way Hutsuls call a jug, that is used for water, milk and kvass.

Plates and a vase with ears

There used to be more than 250 craftsmen in Kosiv, today there are about 70 left. However, not all of them work in traditional ceramics. Usually, young potters and craftswomen try to find their own forms, more open to innovations and experiments. Iryna Tsvilyk-Seriogina says that she works in a traditional technique, but once tried to experiment. That was the time she worked with her husband in a tandem.

Once at an exhibition in Kyiv, one of the journalists asked my husband what he liked to do the most. And he said: "Plates and a vase with ears!"

Everyone still remembers my Vania and his "vase with ears…" He was able to create new forms.

Suddenly she fell silent and started looking somewhere over the camera. She is exhaling slowly, touching her heart with hand and recolling in memory her deceased husband.
Iryna’s husband, Ivan Serohin, died in 2004. Prior to that, the couple always divided their work into two. Mostly in pottery people work in pairs: men spin a potter’s wheel, and women do modeling and painting. At first, Iryna had no idea how she would do both things herself, whether she would learn to spin a potter’s wheel or cope with all the work.

Everyone had a couple, and I was left alone. Everyone thought who would help me.

Later, her male colleagues began to help the master in every possible way, and after some time she learned on her own. She says that the time she worked in a couple with her husband, it was the best thing that could ever have happened. Iryna has no idea how a couple can do different things. While she is talking, she is slowly getting up from the chair and starting showing two kalaches and a candlestick that she once sculpted together with her husband Ivan.

The matter of the whole life

Filling the plot lines is important for Hutsuls in the creation of Kosiv ceramics. This conveys the artistic manner of each master in a special way. Iryna says that the main inspiration for her work is the continuous spirit of the Carpathians, where every time you want to dissolve, as if swimming in a wide sea, and then draw new shapes and colors in your own head. Fabulous birds, all kinds of animals, nature, and mountain landscapes create a unique palette of moods of the Carpathian region on the decorative dinnerware of the master.

Mrs. Iryna is a participant in many exhibitions in Ukraine, and her works are in many private collections. In 2009, Iryna Tsvilyk-Serohina was awarded the honorary title of Honored Master of Folk Art of Ukraine, but she speaks about it very modestly. She proudly demonstrates all her creations, which are seen from all corners of the spacious and bright woman`s room.

When I come to my workroom, I feel that it is the dearest thing I have in my life. My niece Oksana, just like me, loves to draw for hours. Sometimes she calls me and asks, "Auntie, what are you doing?"
"I am drawing" "Me too"

Author of the text Eva Raiska
Photo author Serhii Havryliuk

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