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Yurii Porokh

Master of leather goods

Master of Hutsul Chereses

There is a lot of odds and ends in his workroom: hammers, pads, knives, various scraps, vices, wire, wax, resin, nails and pegs, horseshoes, boards for cutting leather, threads of various colors, old clothes, paints, pencils, brushes, stretchers, buttons of the strangest shapes, scissors, punches, sewing machines, needles of different sizes, thimbles, chalk and a bunch of other things. So, it makes you want to build a fabulous micro-city with tiny droplets, narrow courtyards, cramped markets, miniature tailor shops and studios, and then capture the whole panopticon on a photographic film with an old camera that hangs next to the table.

The last few years I started sewing the way people did this 100-200 years ago.

He is one of the few leather craftsmen in Kosovo. He tries to sew and decorate his products as his Hutsul ancestors once did. Yuri started practicing the craft twenty years ago. He graduated from the Institute of Applied and Decorative Arts in Kosovo, but first became interested in it when his mother took him to her friends – the masters of leather goods of that time.

Now Yurii Porokh is one of the most famous masters of artistic leather processing in his city and in Ukraine in general. He creates purses, backpacks with Hutsul ornaments, keychains , women’s reticules , bags for bicycles and trunks for motorcycles. But most of all, Yuri likes to make traditional Hutsul chereses and tabivkas.

Cheres is a men’s leather belt that Hutsuls often wear on a holiday or during a solemn event, and a tabivka is a Hutsul leather bag. Men and women wear it on a shoulder strap.

We still have some time

Yurii is 34. He has got long, blond hair and blue eyes. He is short. The man is dressed very simply: sweater, old jeans, sneakers. Every day starts with the habit of drinking coffee and lighting a morning cigarette. And what is also important – to be silent for a minute or two, looking at the mountains that are looming on the horizon. The master explains that every Hutsul should have a morning ritual of leisurely observation of mountain landscapes before he starts any work. Because it is an internal setting for a successful business. The town of Kosiv, in the Ivano-Frankivsk region, is located at the foot of the Carpathians, in the valley of the Rybnytsia River. In order to see a piece of mountains from his house, Yuri goes out on the porch every morning. And keep watching.

The culture of the region, its nature, is reflected and flows into you at the same time.

The Kosiv master is starting to show leather belts. He has more than a hundred of them. Decorates chereses with copper chains and buttons. And over here you can observe handmade chereses made of cupronickel (a group of copper alloy, which has a distinct silver color). Its buckles are made of brass, as it should be cast from brass. While the man is talking about the technology of artistic decoration of leather, the little son Illia is peeping into the room. He is slowly opening the white door and pulling Dad by both hands.

Making each product takes a lot of time. This needs to be done day in and day out.

It takes a whole month to make one good cheres. Smaller things take less time, such as wallets or purses. Yurii can make them in a day or two. He buys leather because it is too long and difficult to prepare it himself. He used to buy second-hand leather goods in the markets and process them into material for future work. Now he works only with a new fabric, from which he forms his own works of art.

Formerly Hutsuls made the leather from cattle themselves. They did it very slowly, because they had a lot of time. In general, the Hutsul once had a lot of time. And now? Is that so?

Author of the text Eva Raiska
Photo author Serhii Havryliuk

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