Ukrainian traditional embroidery is one of the main clothing crafts in this country. It is said that embroidering can increase person’s energy field and thus, helps to maintain good health. People in Ukraine really believe in that, especially those who have spent decades practicing this craft. Yuriy Melnychuk is one of the few men in Ukraine – because most Ukrainians consider embroidery to be women’s work – who became a skilled craftsman. He embroiders, teaches other people how to do it, and gathers his own collection of vintage samples of embroidered costumes and embroidery patterns.
So, who says embroidery is woman's work? Yuriy Melnychuk has been embroidering for over 20 years. And he has not only created embroidered masterpieces but has also trained many others in this art.
“Embroidery calms the nervous system in our crazy times. For women and men, it requires concentration and focus. Embroidery, in fact, is an active meditation”, says the craftsman.
Melnychuk’s favorite pieces have nothing to do with gender or age – they only have to be satisfying.
“I feel this tremendous harmony, greater strength, knowledge, and wisdom. Actually, these three components are ones that we need to cultivate in ourselves”, says Yuriy Melnychuk.
The director of a museum, where Yuriy works, says the embroidery master is one-of-a-kind.
“He lives, inspired by this. Embroidery for him is not just a technique and something beautiful but symbolism and the philosophy of life. This is very unusual. Perhaps, there is no one like him in the world today”, says Peter Gonchar, director of The national center of folk culture “Ivan Honchar Museum”.
Yuriy also studies ancient symbols embroidered on canvas. Traditional Ukrainian embroidery often reflects geometric patterns, flowers, The Tree of Life, even the swastika.
“This is an image of perpetual motion, endless renewal – the image of the Sun that moves”, says Yuriy Melnychuk.
On the occasion of his 50th birthday, Yuri presented his collection called “Embroidery Like Life” at the Ivan Gonchar Museum, where he's worked for more than 20 years. This exhibition features over 150 types of embroidery, including outfits for dolls and traditional Ukrainian towels.
“The end of the 19th century – that's one type of embroidery. And the 30’s years of the 20th century – it's exactly the opposite. You would think this is embroidered in another country and this is the same village”, adds Yuriy Melnychuk.
Yuri gives lectures on embroidery in schools and has been invited abroad. The embroidery master’s dream is to create a center of Ukrainian embroidery and costume to bring folk art closer to everyone.
“We know that embroidery, work on the potter's wheel, and weaving are three crafts that increase our energy field. And a few short hours of work, if we practice them all the time, we have no problems with healthy”, explains Yuriy Melnychuk.