Tramway

tramway3Yesterday I visited Tramway, an arts venue in the south of Glasgow. Formerly a tram depot, the space is big and bare enough to allow ample breathing space for contemporary art exhibitions, but still bears traces of its past life.

Before electric trams came in, they were pulled by horses which were stabled, oddly, in the floor above the tram shed. The slopes up which they trudged to their hay now lead to a workshop space. When the last trams were taken out of service in 1962, about 250,000 people turned up to watch the procession of vehicles make their last journey, some putting a penny on the track by way of a squished souvenir.

tramway2The old metal tracks run the length of the main exhibition room, currently inhabited by Cathy Wilkes‘ work – a frozen theatre-like assemblage of tatty, forlorn figures and bits of detritus. Her work sits well in the space, with an unnerving edge which adds to the slightly sinister impression I have of tram tracks (ever since a childhood visit to Barcelona, where I learnt that Gaudi died after being hit by a tram – a feeling recently confirmed by poor Berlioz’s death in The Master and Margherita).  tramwayI spent the remaining afternoon with Glasgow Knit ‘n Stitch group, who meet in the cafe every Wednesday and Sunday. We knitted and talked socks, Glasgow history, wool shops, politics and mitred squares. An afternoon well-spent!

Aside from contemporary art and knitting groups, Tramway hosts music, film and performance.

Tramway – 25 Albert Drive, Glasgow, G41 2PE

Glasgow!

Here are a few photos from my first two days living in Glasgow, which I’ve mainly used to find routes (with the exception of swimming) across the Clyde, visit the Burrell Collection and Kelvingrove, get a bit lost on the buses and scout out the best wool and fabric shops (Marjory’s and Mandors so far).

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Yesterday I visited the Burrell Collection, which is set in the middle of a very woody park south of the Clyde. On the way to the museum I attempted to befriend these beautiful young Highland cattle by complementing them on their bangs. I’m not sure whether they could see, or understand me.Glasgow02

Amongst an impressive array of Chinese pottery, ancient Egyptian carvings and Rodin sculptures, the Burrell collection includes walls and walls of tapestries. I’m going back tomorrow for more.Glasgow03Linen silk/ silver-embroidered waistcoat, made in Britain 1615-18. Amongst the symmetrically-curling foliage and flowers sit caterpillars and butterflies. Continue reading

Spend less, Mend more

One way to slow the pace of fast fashion is to mend more. Adding patches, mending zips, sewing buttons back on and stitching tears all prolong the life of an item of clothing, and stem the tide of buying more. It also takes little time, saves money and is much easier to do than you might think (but if you’d rather not do it yourself, it’s also easy to find tailors/ drycleaners who provide mending services).

In the process of packing my bags for Glasgow and preparing for the course, I’m making sure all my clothes are in good shape, and getting a bit of sewing practice in too.

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holey pocket: before

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holey pocket: after

I learnt most of my mending tips and tricks from my granny’s little pink ‘Make Do and Mend’ pamphlet, which contains specific instructions on different types of fabric and wear, with very helpful illustrations. I’ll blog some more information and images when I’ve remembered which box it’s packed in.

In the meantime, here are a few half-decent instructions I found online.

How to sew on a button – Instructables

Fix a zip – Wikihow

How to patch a hole – Martha Stuart

Sitting on the grass, drinking kvaas

I’m back from Kyiv* now, with a happy and exciting visit still fresh in my mind. This is partly thanks to the beautiful music I’m listening to now, discovered on my third day.

Wandering past the Golden Gate – the historic gateway to the old city of Kyiv – I came across a group of singers and musicians playing what I now know to be traditional Ukrainian instruments. I stopped to listen for a moment, then a few, then leant against a tree to enjoy the sweet voices and trill of the lute-like kobza, which to my ears sounded like something from a past era. As it turns out, many of the instruments, tunes and lyrics used by these musicians have changed little over centuries, with the knowledge being passed on both by word-of-mouth and in written form.

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As the evening unfolded, I found myself sitting on the grass, drinking kvaas (a weak beer made from fermented rye bread) in a circle of new friends, humming along to songs I didn’t understand, but, by the end of the evening, had started to learn.

kievjuly13Having made the acquaintance of Taras, Valeriy and their friends, I went to two more of their concerts over the course of the week, one at the Ivan Gonchar museum, the other at the book museum in Pechersk Lavra, the large twelfth century monastery complex on the edge of the Dnipro river. Both concerts were organised to raise money for the Ukrainian troops, something that many Kievans I met feel very strongly about, believing there to be a real danger of Putin’s soldiers invading Eastern Ukraine. Personally, I think that the addition of more troops can only lead to more division and violence, in a volatile situation which has already led to over 1,500 deaths. I hope peaceful means can be found to prevent the gyre from widening further.

During the Soviet era, when Ukraine was part of the USSR, the Ukrainian language was supressed, as was any expression of traditional folk culture which suggested a greater loyalty to something other than the Soviet state. Indeed, Ukrainian musicians frequently came under attack, with kobzars and bandurists being specifically persecuted, and even being executed under Stalin in the 1930s. Despite this, the musical tradition has survived, and perhaps because of it, is passionately celebrated and defended by a a number of talented musicians. Banduras and kobzars are still produced under a Guild system in Kyiv.

kievjuly11kievjuly10In my last post, I included a clip of a performance of ‘De Libertate’ – ‘Of Liberty’, a song I’ve been enjoying without understanding it’s meaning or origins. I’m including it here again with the lyrics. Thanks to Dmytro for this translation.

Of Liberty – an 18th century poem by Hryhorii (Gregory) Skovoroda

Що є свобода? Добро в ній якеє? What is freedom? What good does it have?
Кажуть, неначе воно золотеє? Some say it is like gold.
Ні ж бо, не злотне: зрівнявши все злото, No, I say. All the gold of this world
Проти свободи воно лиш болото. Compared to the freedom is only dirt.
О, якби в дурні мені не пошитись, Oh, I’d never want to become a fool
Щоб без свободи не міг я лишитись. Left without freedom.
Слава навіки буде з тобою, Let the glory ever be with you,
Вольності отче, Богдане-герою! The father of freedom, Bohdan** the hero!

 

*I’ve changed my spelling from Kiev to Kyiv, since the latter better reflects the Ukrainian pronunciation.

** Hryhorii Skovoroda mentions Bohdan as a positive historical figure, but this connotation is not as widespread now.

Embroidery practice

Earlier this year I attended a Jacobean crewelwork class at Hampton Court Palace – a Christmas present from my benevolent sister.

I’ve finally just got round to finishing off the piece, being in need of a) a kick up the backside and b) some serious needle practice for the textile conservation course starting in September. Conservation stitches are quite different to embroidery – the priorities being support and discretion – but I think any practice is useful.

The course was fantastic for learning a variety stitches in a short space of time, and from a professional embroideress. However, I was a bit disappointed we weren’t shown some original examples, and used cotton rather than the more traditional linen.

peacockThe piece includes the following stitches:

  • back stitch
  • satin
  • stem
  • split
  • french knots
  • chain
  • seeding
  • bullion
  • long and short
  • padded satin
  • fly
  • herringbone
  • closed herringbone
  • ermine
  • battlement couching

I added a stitched epitaph, inspired by the Victorian samplers that usually read something along the lines of this, for example: “Elizabeth Irwins work age 10 March 5 1848. All you my friends who now expect to see A piece of work performed by me cast but A smile on this my mean endeavour Ill strive to mend and be obedient ever”.

I make no such promises!

Cockpit Arts – Holborn

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Abigail Brown’s papier mâché parrot

The array of handmade delights on offer at Cockpit Arts Open Studios left me too befuddled and incoherent with awe to mumble anything more profound than the odd “mmm, lovely” or “that’s really nice”. I occasionally remembered to take pictures inbetween drooling over crafts (actually, I did see someone literally drool on Katharine Morling’s work), so here are a few of my many, many favourites.

Click on the images for a direct link to the artist’s page.

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Fanny Shorter’s nature/ anatomical-inspired textile prints

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BeatWoven. These woven patterns are based on pieces of music (see the sound waves?).

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Mariko Sumioka Jewellery

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Katharine Morling

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Clara Breen’s necklaces made from shredded maps

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Action Space art, made by artists with learning disabilities

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Nette’ leather goods

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Mica Hirosawa

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Carréducker llp handmade bespoke leather shoes.

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Sophie Manners, who kindly gave us a little weaving lesson on her Harris loom.

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Sophie Manner

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Laura Long’s textile interpretations of children’s drawings

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Kerry Hastings

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Abigail Brown

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Abigail Brown

Cockpit Arts Open Studios

I’m really looking forward to Cockpit Arts Open Studios this weekend. Their 2012 (somehow I missed last year) evening in Deptford was AMAZING – we got to amble into studios and work spaces, ogle at looms and printing presses and paints, then ask the makers nosy questions. There was also some tasty food to be had, oh, and lots of beautiful handcrafted things to buy. As you might expect from a place full of talented and creative individuals who share a love for the beautiful and useful, the atmosphere of the studios is pretty wonderful too.

The Holborn studios are open this weekend, then Deptford next weekend. See you at both!

Glasgow

Screen shot 2014-06-02 at 08.52.01In September I’ll be moving up, up, up to Glasgow, to study textile conservation. It’s a two year MPhil course combining historical and scientific research with hands-on skills; it involves everything from learning how to display and store fragile textiles, to gaining an understanding of the ethics and compromises involved in conservation projects. This broad and challenging mixture is exactly what I want out of a career, and after visiting the studios on an open day, I finally took the plunge and applied last year. Having bitten my nails through the last few months, I’m still slightly delirious after recently being offered a place on the course. Some big changes are afoot!

I’ll be sad to move out of London, and away from family and friends, but can’t wait to make a start towards a career as a textile conservator and get to know a new city. I’ve only visited Glasgow for five days altogether, so there are many things I’m yet to explore. Lately I’ve been simultaneously reflecting on the places I know and love in London, and the places I’m yet to discover and fall for in Glasgow, so here are ten of each.

(in no particular order)

Ten places I’ll miss being able to stroll down the road/ hop on the Underground to visit:

1. William Morris Society and Emery Walker Trust, Hammersmith. I’m trying to make the most of the time left helping at these two gems, making lino cuts for workshops (in previous blog posts here and here) and learning how to use Morris’s original press.

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2. Leighton House. The recently re-opened house of the Victorian artist Frederick Leighton – worth visiting just for the ‘Arab Hall’ decorated in tiles from Syria, Turkey and Pakistan.

3. Golders Hill Park, Hill Garden and Pergola

4. Queen of Sheba Ethiopian restaurant, Kentish Town. Wonderful curries and fresh roasted (in front of you) coffee.

5. Victoria and Albert Museum. My favourite museum to wander/ wonder around.

6. Walthamstow marshes and the Lea Valley

7. Yildirim Bakery. This little place on St James Street, Walthamstow, does excellent freshly-made Turkish breads filled with cheese, lamb, spinach or potato.

8. International Supermarket, Walthamstow High Street. I sincerely wish I could take this well-stocked, well-priced little Turkish supermarket with all its fresh tomatoes, coriander, mint, fennel, pointed peppers, birds eye chillis, scotch bonnet chillis, lemons, water melons, sweet mangoes, quinces, plums, pomegranates, olives, cous cous, pistachios, flat breads, orange blossom water and rose petal jam with me to Glasgow. I realise now how spoilt I’ve been to have it on the doorstep.

9. Camden Arts Centre. Good for an interesting variety of contemporary art and working or lazing in their peaceful garden. Just round the corner from the Freud Museum too.

10. I can’t decide. The William Morris Gallery, The Windmill Portugese Restaurant in Walthamstow, British Museum, Somerset House, National Portrait Gallery, Alison Jacques Gallery, both the Tates, the Hayward..

Ten places in Glasgow I’m looking forward to visiting for the first time:

1. House for an Art Lover. This house was designed by Charles Rennie Macintosh, who also designed the beautiful Glasgow School of Art which sadly suffered fire damage in May.

2. The Mackintosh House. A reconstruction of Charles Rennie and Margaret Mackintosh’s house.

3. The Modern Institute. A contemporary art gallery mentioned in a recent article on Glasgow’s generally fantastic art scene.

4. Centre for Contemporary Arts. The programme includes exhibitions, film, music, literature, spoken word and festivals.

5. The Burrell Collection. I’m particularly interested in (surprise surprise!) the textiles in this enormous and varied collection gathered by the shipping magnate Sir William Burrell.

6. Botanic Gardens

7. Bibi’s Mexican restaurant. I’ve never been to a Mexican restaurant, so I’m looking forward to trying a new cuisine at a highly-recommended eatery.

8. Tenement House Museum

9. The Yarn Cake and all the other Glasgow wool shops I will soon be happily foraging in.

10. Orkney and Shetland. Not in Glasgow, I know, but after moving 400 miles, another 200/400 to visit these beautiful islands shouldn’t be too difficult.

The Textile Conservation course at Glasgow has its own blog here – textileconservation.academicblogs.co.uk and Hannah Sutherland, who will also be joining the course in September, has an excellent blog that can be found here – hannahsuthers.com.

Kiev: Maidan

Walking through the centre of the city on the second day of my trip, I unwittingly wandered down Khreschatyk Street and into Maidan, where riots earlier this year led to the overthrowing of the government.

Maidan01Maidan02Although the streets have been peaceful for a while now, the effects of the protests and violence remain tangible. Blockades constructed from piles of tyres block off traffic at both ends of the street and square, and walls and stacks have been built from bricks taken up from the pavement. The pavement may be gone, but now pedestrians wander freely down the wide, previously traffic-filled street. A few years ago I took part in a large protest in London against the rise in tuition fees, and remember most of all how strange it felt to walk down the middle of the Strand, normally blaring with cars and buses. I imagine Kievans experience the same sensation now in Maidan.

Maidan03Maidan04Maidan05Now the area has become a strange sort of tourist attraction, with visitors having their photos taken in front of tanks and burnt-out cars. There’s even the odd ice cream seller. Shrines consisting of multicoloured clusters of candles in glass jars, keepsakes and photos remember those who died.

Maidan06As I approached the main square I was puzzled by the smell of burning, but then, seeing tents, realised that many protesters are still occupying the area. The bonfire smell came from the cooking of meals rather than tyres (I’d heard rumours that pigs and chickens were also being kept in the square but saw none during my visit).

Maidan07Maidan08Maidan11Maidan09After sheltering from the rain under the tall Independence monument, I wandered out of the square again, stopping to ask a man for directions. Since my Russian (let alone Ukrainian) and his English didn’t quite meet in the middle, he called a friend out from the tent to translate.

Before I knew it I was inside, drinking tea and eating homemade cake with Ted, Alicia and Anastasia, sitting amongst pillows and sleeping bags in a large, dimly lit tent. My hosts were from different parts of the country, and different walks of life, but had been brought together by a common cause. We didn’t talk politics too much (I think their occupation speaks for itself) but I was sad to learn that political unity had loosened familial ties; one woman had become estranged from her family in Donetsk because of their difference in opinion. I placidly accepted gifts of a book, an “I love Tymoshenko” pen and a rosary (we didn’t talk religion either) and made my goodbyes.Maidan10

Kiev: National Museum of Ukrainian Folk Decorative Art

NatMusUkrFolkArt13Perhaps my favourite museum I visited in Kiev, the National Museum of Ukrainian Folk Decorative Art is situated within the grounds of Pechersk Lavra, a huge monastery complex founded in the 11th century on the banks of the Dnieper.

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Entrance to Pechersk Lavra

This post is simply an overview of the museum and its contents, but I hope at a later date to research Ukrainian costume and its making and history in more detail, probably by picking one of the pieces below to start my research. Please comment if you are interested in any particular costumes or elements.

The incredibly informative and well-illustrated folkcostume.blogspot has a number of posts about Ukrainian dress and embroidery, so I recommend having a look to find out more about the items featured here.

Rushnyk

The Folk Museum (as I’ll refer to it from now on) has a huge display of embroidered rushnyk (pronounced ‘rooshnik’). As I mentioned in my last post on the Ivan Gonchar Museum, these strips of cloth have traditionally played an important role in rituals throughout life, being used in baptisms, weddings and funerals.

Rushnyk were traditionally made by individuals for use within families, but their organised production also developed into a sophisticated textile industry during the 20th century, enjoying considerable growth in the 1960s and 70s. State-run factories were set up, which later became part of the “Ukrhudozhprom” (Ukrainian Art Industry), under the Ministry of Local Industry. The rushnyk displayed here largely come from these factories. I’d love to know more about how their production and design differs from family-made rushnyk.

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NatMusUkrFolkArt04Hand-embroidered linen rushnyks (рушники) made in the “Red beam” factory (фабрика “червоний проминь”), New Sanzhary, Poltava region, 1951 – 67.

This chest was displayed in the rushnyk room, so I assume it could have been used to store textiles.

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Carved and painted wooden chest, early 20th century, Ivano-Frankivsk region

Costumes

The museum displays 28 sets of Ukrainian folk costumes from the 19th to 20th century. Organised by geographical region, they are displayed as full outfits, with all the jewelry and accessories to go with the clothes. I’d be interested to know whether they came to the museum as full outfits, and if not, how it was decided to put items together. Most are women’s outfits, which were generally less likely to be made from factory-produced textiles than men’s clothing.

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NatMusUkrFolkArt06Women’s outfits, late 19th – early 20th century, Vlasivka village, Zinkivsky District, Poltava region. Detail: Wrap-skirt, or ‘plakhta’ (плахта)

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NatMusUkrFolkArt08Late 19th- early 20th century costumes, Sumy region.

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NatMusUkrFolkArt10 Early 20th century, Chernigiv region.

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NatMusUkrFolkArt12 Late 19th – early 20th century, Volyn region

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Svyta (overcoat), 1917.

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Svyta (overcoat), 1930s, Vydrychi village, Kamin-Kashyra district, Volyn region.

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NatMusUkrFolkArt17 NatMusUkrFolkArt18 Late 19th – early 20th century, Yavoriv district, Lviv region

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Mans costume, early 20th century, Kosiv district, Ivano-Frankivsk region

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NatMusUkrFolkArt21 NatMusUkrFolkArt22 NatMusUkrFolkArt24NatMusUkrFolkArt23 Two early 20th century costumes from Torgovytsia village, Gorodenkiv district, Ivano-Frankivsk region

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late 19th – early 20th century, Nyzhni Kryvchi village, Borshchiv district, Ternopil region

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NatMusUkrFolkArt27Late 19th – early 20th century, Chernivtsi region

Rugs

There’s an impressive array of handwoven rugs at the museum, most with colourful floral designs.
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NatMusUkrFolkArt3018th century, Poltava province. Wool, handwoven.

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19th century, Kyiv province. Wool, handwoven.

Carved tools

I think more museums should display the tools used to make and maintain the objects on display – after all, they determine an object’s appearance and present state. At the Folk Museum I found a printing block and these beautifully-carved ironing implements. If anyone can guess/knows how these ‘rubels’ are used please let me know!

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Printing block, 19th century, Poltava province. Wood, handcarved.

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Implements for ironing – ‘rubel’ (рубель), Kyiv province. Wood, handcarved.

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In descending order: back of a cart, 19th century, Poltava province; back of a cart, 19th century, Kyiv province; back of a sleigh, 1870s, Poltava province.

Painting

During the 20th century, many Ukrainian artists made drawings and paintings inspired by folk art. They drew upon motifs and subject matter in textiles and ceramics to make a genre of art which also fed into and was influenced by trends in the international art scene. Many chose to re-imagine and keep alive folk tales by depicting them in paint.

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“Bird on Guelder Rose”, T. Pata (1884-1976), 1951. Gouache on paper.

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Y. Mironova (1929-2010), “проводжала дівчинонька” (The Girl’s Farewell), 1970. Gouache on paper.

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M. Prymachenko (1909-97), “Wedding”, 1959. Gouache on paper.

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N. Bilokin (1894-1981), “Wedding Procession”, 1938. Gouache on paper

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Ceramics and glass

As with textiles, Ukrainian ceramics have a long tradition; pottery from as early the Neolithic era has been discovered here. The Folk Museum houses a whole range of plates and vessels and sculptures, but my camera was most attracted to the animal-shaped ceramics on display.

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‘Two-faced lion’ vessel, late 18th- early 19th century, Kyin province.

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Ceramic goat, 1967, Kyiv

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Late 18th-early 19th century plate, Sunki and Dybyntsi villages, Kyiv region.

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O. Hriadunova (1898-1974), Kyiv, 1940s-50s.

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O. Zhelezniak (1909-63), ceramic sculptures, 1960s, Hrybovaya Rudnia village, Chernihiv region.

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Glass containers, 15th -18th centuries