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Natalia Kishchuk

Artist, master of lizhnykarstvo
Living (by) art
Living (by) art
Lizhnyk instead of mathematics: master Nataliia Kishchuk

Natalia Kishchuk – master of ancient Hutsul weaving

There, on the hill

The place where I spent my childhood is there, on the hill. You always go there and come back a completely different person. Even if you just go out, walk and walk and immediately rejoice.

Natalia is squinting. It is as if she is trying to reach the depths of those Carpathian hills only with the edge of the eye, to recreate in memory the whole landscape of the places of her childhood. She has a floral scarf on her head, the white corners of which are gently falling down on her shoulders. The hair is hidden, only a small dark strand is visible through a long scarf. Her green eyes radiate light. She is dressed in a traditional Hutsul costume. The waist is girded with a cotton fabric zapaska and a red belt. There are brown leather postolys on her feet. She is holding hands on her knees, repeatedly pulling one palm away from the other. She is gesturing.

Sometimes I come there and speak to myself: there is an idea to take the loom uphill. I would stay there forever.

Craft and wisdom of ancestors

Natalia Kishchuk is one of the most famous masters of Hutsul artistic weaving, who lives in Yavir, Kosiv region. Weaving Hutsul bedspreads and authentic clothes is a matter in which a woman finds herself, sees the unique meaning of the culture of the mountaineers, and feels a strong connection with her ancestors and her own past.

The traditional Hutsul craft dates back to ancient times, and the Hutsuls themselves say that they weaved when their ancestors appeared in the Carpathians, so it is almost impossible to establish the exact date of origin of weaving. We can only assume that the ancient knowledge of this crafting is related to Carpathian sheep breeding. Today, traditional Hutsul bedspreads making and sheep breeding are an integral part of the cultural code of Ukrainians.

Natalia Kishchuk’s family has always woven and spun: her grandmother and mother made Hutsul lizhnyks (bedspreads) during all their lives, so she continues the family tradition. However, according to Natalia, there was a period when the mother wanted a different future for her daughter: to master the exact sciences – physics and mathematics. The girl even went to the university and studied there for three years. She later got married and finally realized that she wanted to do lizhnyks. Urban life slightly distanced Natalia from her favorite crafting. But later, the depth of the Carpathian space created a new appearance of inspiration for future work.

For Hutsuls, the word “lizhnyk” means anything related to sleep. To lie down, sleep, nap and rest. Natalia says that at first she made only bedspreads in the traditional authentic technique – as her grandmother taught her. Later, she decided to experiment more -following the traditional techniques she decided to create women’s and men’s clothing. She admits that her husband Yaroslav pushed her to do so. He himself willingly helps his wife in the weaving family business. The collection of Natalia and Yaroslav has a diverse assemblage not only of Hutsul lizhnyks, but also, first of all, hunies, coats, sleevelesses of unique and original cuts, shapes and styles. The hunies are the so-called Hutsul mantles.

The feathers of a wild bird

"Once I found wild bird feathers in the woods. It was so four-color, you know: blue, white, dark and black. So I used all those colors for the jacket I was making.

Inspiration by nature and all living things around – are the main elements for the weaving craft of the Kishchuk family. It creates an imprint of the magical world of the Hutsuls, capturing the details of the Carpathian lands. It absorbs the origins of the deepest meanings and contents of this region. Reflections of plant and animal, mythical and sacred themes can in any way tell us about the little-known, often mysterious life of Ukrainian Hutsuls.

Natalia says that she draws the strongest strength for her work from space, sun, wind and mountains. When she talks about all her artistic weaving techniques, the muscles of her face tense with a smile. From time to time a woman gives expressiveness to words with a sonorous laughter.

The lush mountain landscapes are lurking behind the woman – those are landscapes weaved of tapestries and bedspreads, created by the hands of Yavoriv master. Here is the river. And forests. And the meadows leading to the sky.

The loom, singing and the sun

In my childhood we lived on a hill that was so high. And now we are here in the pit as if. You need to look at the sun early.

Is there a sun? It is! So, everything will be fine.

It’s as if the sun is calling to visit it. In its house. Natalia is raising her eyes up. She is scrolling through the film of memories, and then is sitting down at the loom. The woman is holding the thread carefully so that it does not tear. The wheel is spinning underfoot. The woman, as if imagining her own ornaments, immediately stopped the process. She is beginning to spin. The sound of the loom is beating harmoniously to the beat of a human foot.

The melody is complemented by a quiet girl’s singing. This is her daughter Julia, who is singing barely audibly. Singing while weaving is special and important. A kind of meditation without which it is impossible to adjust to the right rhythm.

Now they are both singing. The music is quiet, elegiac. Like a river that snakes and makes a noise somewhere in the shadow of the nearby Carpathians.

Author of the text Eva Raiska
Photo author Serhii Havryliuk

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