Pottery in Ukraine: history and characteristics

Pottery is a craft of making different household goods out of clay. In Ukraine pottery was highly developed from the ancient times, and ceramics was widely used by Ukrainians up until industrialization in XX century.

Ceramic tableware

History of pottery in Ukraine

The development of pottery on the territory of modern Ukraine was facilitated by existence of large deposits of clay.

First potteries found in Ukraine belong to Trypillian culture (about 2000 year BC). Trypillian pottery is also called Ukrainian Neolithic pottery (pottery of Neolithic Period).

Main characteristics of Trypillian ceramics are rich ornaments and refinement of forms. Vases, pots and plates were generously decorated; high technical level equals level of Aegean culture artifacts.

The period of Slavic pottery (began in 2nd century AD) is marked with more modest ceramic designs. Ukrainian crockery of this period resembles Roman crockery with stamping of wavy and straight lines, stars, cuts.

During the Princely era (Kievan Rus’, IX-XIII centuries) the production of ceramics in Ukraine achieved high technical level and pottery grew into a large industry. Artistic skills of craftsmen also grew, so they began to make ceramic goods not only for the needs of natives, but also for export. Different types of dishware were produced, as well as glazed decorative tiles used for floors of churches. Tiles of XII-XIII centuries are notable for images of peacocks, griffons, eagles, doves in relief.

Apart from ceramic dishes and tiles Ukrainian potters of that time made clay figures and figurines – animals and humans, pagan gods, plants.

During the period of Golden Horde (XIII-XV) many creative professions including pottery came to the decline. But by the end of XV century pottery was almost completely restored. Moreover, the potter’s wheel was widely introduced, supplanting the manual shaping. Many craftsmen coalesced into workshops (“tsekhs”) with the desire of perfection and experiment. In XV-XVI centuries Ukrainians learned to make glazed ware.

In XVII-XVIII history of ceramics in Ukraine changed a lot, one of the reasons – Cossacks’ love for ceramic products. Potters of that time began to create tiles which depicted the whole stories – natural, historical, domestic. Orthodox and Cossack motifs were widely represented in patterns. With the use of new technologies ceramic production centers and schools began to spread (most of them were concentrated in Poltava, Kyiv, Chernihiv Regions of Ukraine). Ceramic products of this period are extremely durable. Potters from Ukraine made tableware (glechics, pots, bowls), decorative tableware (horses, sheep, cocks), toys. Ceramics was decorated with different Ukrainian folk patterns such as diamonds, wavy lines, squares. Geometric pottery designs are characteristic of Hetman period products.


Industrialization of XIX century made ceramics different from region to region. Potters used various materials, techniques, equipment. Main pottery manufacturers in Oposhnyua (Poltava Region, so-called Hetman area) and in Kosiv (Ivano-Frankivsk Region, so-called Hutsul area) made ceramics of different colors and decorative design.

XX century is marked with declining of ceramics production in Ukraine. In 20-30s because of new Soviet policy and collective industrialization artisanal production of earthenware went into decline. After the WWII any goods and professional skills of people were needed, so the pottery began to rise from the ashes. But in 1960s with the appearance of tableware made out of modern materials the pottery became a refinement for connoisseurs. The lack of demand made the most of the masters to close their workshops.

In XXI century pottery in Ukraine still remains in doldrums. Nevertheless some old pottery centers continue to produce ceramics (decorative tableware and sculptures mainly). Opishnya (Poltava Region) and Kosiv (Western Ukraine) potters make ceramics using authentic techniques.

Pottery regions in Ukraine and ceramics differences

Main pottery centers in Ukraine were concentrated in:

  • Kyiv Region (Dybyntsi, Vasylkiv, Kaniv, Novi Petrivtsi);
  • Poltava Region (Opishnya, Khomutets’, Komyshnya);
  • Chernihiv Region (Ichnya, Gorodnya, Korop, Nizhyn, Oleshnya);
  • Volyn Region (Rokyta, Dubrovytsya);
  • Kharkiv Region (Nova Vodolaga, Prosyane, Izyum);
  • Western Ukraine (Kosiv, Uzhgorod, Khust, Dubovynka, Olhivka, Kolomyia);
  • On Podillya (Bar, Bubnivka).

Products of this ceramics centers had common features, but also local differences. For example, Ukrainian dinnerware sets from Opishnya was notable for thinness, two or three-color paintings with curved lines, dots etc. Opishnya workshops were famous for ceramic figurines and toys.

Ceramics of grey, black, blue-black colors was illustrative of Volyn Region pottery. Lines of different types and forms were used by Volyn potters for decoration of pots, plates, bowls, vases.

Ukrainian potters’ work

Podillya ceramics was known for red hot ground-color and original ornaments – opulent flowers, fruit spurs, grapes.

Dinnerware made by some Chernihiv Region potters had original streaks and splashes.

Kosiv masters made unique tiles, candlesticks, painted bowls and decorated pots, notable for engraving painting.

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