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Hut from the region of Podillya

Since olden times folk craftsmen were accustomed to using for construction only those materials that nature had given them. Skillful adaptation of the most accessible materials to their own economic needs has given rise to a number of interesting techniques and design solutions, partially forgotten today. Podillya is a part of the forest-steppe territory of Ukraine, that is why the log building technique was the oldest here. However, in the 19th century, due to the lack of forests, peasants began to practice frame and pillar structure. This is how a hut from the village of Babchyntsi in the Vinnytsia region was built.

It had a three-celled planning (inner porch or “siny” + rooms + pantry) and used to belong to a wealthy peasant. Poorer peasants often used one part of the hut for household needs. Only a wealthy landlord could afford to use an entire hut for family needs. The left side of the hut, which was slightly smaller than the right one, was the place where the daughter-in-law was in charge. Having her own stove and not being completely dependent on her mother-in-law was a great happiness for the young housewife. Both stoves in the hut were made of clay. The roof of the hut is covered with straw. Typically, a properly laid roof could be in use for fifty years or more.

Wall painting

The hut was considered not to be kept well maintained, if it was not painted. Wall paintings, along with decorations, also had a protective function. Drawings on the walls were done in bright colors to protect the hut from evil spirits.

The inner porch or “siny” was decorated mainly with modest and simple ornaments. They are believed to reflect the prosperity, land, sun, the alternation of day and night. Dynamics, movement, eternity. The hostess herself often could not explain the nature of the drawings. But that is how her grandmother and then mother painted the hut, so did the young hostess. That is why today we have an inexhaustible storehut of folk wisdom.

In the south-eastern region of Podillia, the layers of hardened clay were used for painting. Up to eight shades of such clay could be found on the slopes of the Dniester River. Solid petrified pieces were grinded between stones, or pounded in a stone mortar, then washed down. When the clay got soaked, it could be used as a paint. 

Flowers in a pot were an essential element of the paintings as well as bouquets, branches or wreaths. Although a wreath was often painted for a girl. Mandatory zoomorphic elements included turtle doves (pigeons, birds, roosters). As a rule, turtle doves were depicted in pairs on the stove. Stove as a symbol of fireside comfort and dove as a symbol of loyalty, harmony and love. On the stove there were the images of oak, periwinkle, or viburnum, that symbolized male and female unity, the family. A nest with chicks is a sign of having children in the family.

The desire of people to live in abundance gave rise to frequent images of peacocks. Peacock is a rare bird, and ordinary peasants could not afford the luxury of having a bird of paradise. This was the privilege of the nobility. So, the peacock, that was the embodiment of a sweet satiated dream, a desire for future enrichment and prosperity, could often be found in the elements of painting.

Pottery

In every hut in front of the stove there was a shelf with the best dishes, which had a festive and ritual purpose. They were not used for daily household needs, but only for major holidays, such as Easter, Christmas, weddings or funeral ceremonies.

The painting of dishes has a centuries-old tradition. The most common motifs of the dishes of Podillya region were “comb”, “grapes”, “pinecone”, “spruce”, “ cockerel”. Rather typical for the region of Podillya is the image of a bird on a branch with leaves, or two birds located symmetrically in relation to the branch. One could also find there striped dishes, decorated with several wide multicolored stripes of green, ocher, deep-brown and white engobes with concentric lines and curves.

Each pottery center adhered to the local traditions, so it had its own stylistic features: the general shape of the dish, shape of the crown, the quality of the material, the size of the product details and their ratio, nature and features of painting, etc. On these grounds, one can even determine the origin of the pottery.

Clothing tradition

Women of the region of Podillya have traditionally worn an embroidered shirt, a woven wraparound skirt (plakhta), an apron, a hem, and boots. They usually used namitka as s headwear, which was a long, thin fabric wrapped around the head and tied in the back. Later, women began to wear headscarfs.

Women’s shirts had narrow stripes of embroidery on both sides of the bosom, from the collar to the waist. The top of the sleeves, closer to the shoulder and the bottom of the sleeves were also decorated with the embroidery. The shirts embroidered with black or dark red threads are the oldest ones. In the XIX century some new colors such as blue, yellow and green, started to be used in the decoration of shirts.

On top of the shirt, women wore a woven red or black plakhta, and in later times a skirt. The obligatory attribute to a plakhta or a skirt was an apron. Cloth homespun belts were tied around the waist. On their feet women had yuft boots: black on weekdays, yellow or red on holidays.

The main women’s jewelry was a necklace. Wealthier women wore expensive coral necklaces featuring up to ten rows. Such a necklace was indicative of the wealth of the hostess’s family, worn only on holidays, carefully protected and shared equally from the mother to her daughters. The necklace of poorer women was made of multicolored glass beads. The central decoration of the woman’s neck was a silver ducat, a coin-shaped ornament with a metal bow.

The young girls braided their hair in two braids and twisted it with a crown. Unmarried girls could wear wreaths of flowers decorated with ribbons. The married women had to cover their heads with headscarfs.

Weaving

Woven products were widely used in the region of Podillya to decorate the interior of the hut. They performed not only a utilitarian function, but also had an aesthetic value, testifying to the skills of the hostess to keep the hut.

For a long time carpets of two types were woven here, with floral and geometric ornaments. There are types of carpets of special value in this region called flowerpot. They can be found in the regions of Volyn and Bukovyna, but it is in Podillia that they have acquired a special appearance. The flowerpot is one of the most typical and favorite ornamental motifs in the folk art of the locals. On the carpet there were 3, 5 or even 6 flowerpots with plants arranged in a row. Images of birds, people and genre scenes are introduced into the composition. Local carpets give us very interesting examples of geometric patterns as well. In the Novoushitsky district, for example, there were carpets made, the central field of which consisted of three wide transverse sections with the traditional motif of “ram’s horns”. Within the modern Vinnytsia region and in the southern districts of the Khmelnytsky region, carpets with large diamond-shaped figures were woven.

The carpets hung by the locals under the windows were called “zalavnyky”. They were made with high artistic skill in bright colors. “Zalavnyky” were used not only to insulate the home, but also had a protective function, because the bright colors were to drive away evil spirits. The benches in the hut were covered with a sheet or blanket made of thick linen or hemp home-woven cloth. It was made simpler, because used to wear out faster. Such woven things were called “nalavnyky”. The wall near the stove or above the bed in Podillya was decorated with woven carpets.