Gunia Project: the new life of Ukrainian folk art

Have you been to the National Museum of Applied Arts? Have you seen Carpathian and Bukovinian icons on glass? Have you ever made vytinanki yourself? Apparently, we wouldn’t either, if not for one Ukrainian brand named Gunia Project. He not only creates ceramics, scarves, wicker baskets and jewelry, but with their help he revives Ukrainian crafts, handicrafts and ancient production techniques. In just two years, the Gunia Project team managed to create a trend for Ukrainian primitive art, folk icons, embroidered patterns and embroidered scarves. Read - on the Ukrainian cultural heritage in general. Moreover, they have created something that Ukraine can proudly represent abroad. Have you heard of the plate that the President presented to the Pope? Yes, it was a ceramic makitra Gunia. Let's be honest, we have waited a long time to present the brand's ceramics in our store, because despite its wild popularity, Gunia remains small and its production is quite limited. However, we finally have the opportunity to tell you more about the Gunia Project, because now we have not only candles, but also collection of utensils "Flowers".


Natalia Kamenska and Maria Gavrilyuk started Gunia Project as a hobby. In 2017, tired of working in fashion, Natalia - co-founder of the fashion brand Lake Studio (formerly kamenskakononova) - took a timeout, became a volunteer at the Center for Folk Culture "Ivan Gonchar Museum" and began to explore ancient Ukrainian techniques and crafts in expeditions. During one of these trips to Western Ukraine, Hutsul fur coats were found, which she really liked and with which she decided to make an art project. This is where the history of Gunia began and, in fact, the name of the future brand appeared.

"We do not want to say that Gunia is only about Ukrainian, because our global mission is to tell about the world heritage in a new reading. Yes, because there is still digging and digging, while based on local resources. We are a fish that has finally found water, ”says Natalia Kamenska Wonderzine Ukraine interview.

A little later, Natalia suggested that Maria create a joint collection of scarves with the Ivan Honchar Museum: to transfer elements from traditional embroidered towels to silk - this is how the first Gunia silk scarves appeared. And in early 2019, the girls released a collection of glass and ceramics and made the first presentation at Ukrainian Fashion Week - since then Gunia Project has gradually become a business with its own small team and ceramic workshop. The brand is currently working with 40 craftsmen in 12 regions of the country, realizing its mission: to give a second life to hand-forgotten techniques, as most of them are on the verge of extinction. The girls want to tell the whole world how rich Ukrainian culture is and how fashionable these products can be.


In his work, Gunia pays great attention to naive Ukrainian art. In particular, the naive style of painting dishes from the "Flowers" collection is inspired by carpets from the National Museum of Applied Arts. This museum boasts a truly remarkable collection - it houses 1199 Ukrainian carpets of the eighteenth and twentieth centuries. The central pattern of the collection is, of course, floral - images of stylized flowers or branches with flowers can be seen on carpets from Poltava, Kyiv and Chernihiv. In addition to flowers, you will find Gunia ceramics leva - animals were also depicted on carpets, but on Podolsk. The brand makes the owners of ceramics themselves want to know more about the drawings that adorn it. It seems that it has never been so pleasant to study Ukrainian art.

An important part of Gunia's great idea is to combine elements of folk heritage with functional objects. In addition to the fact that you can use the dishes for its intended purpose, it will, of course, be a great decoration (all plates of the brand have special holes so they can be hung on the wall), the kettle will easily turn into a flower vase and can be stored in a sugar bowl nuts or candy. Therefore, the brand's products are perfect for everyday life. The only thing is that the ceramics are covered with quite delicate gilding, so the masters of the brand advise to treat it carefully and avoid washing in the dishwasher.


Perhaps the most recognizable products of Gunia Project are soybean bird candles - they were the first to "fly" to Ogonyok this year. In the Ukrainian tradition, birds are singers of goodness and love and, of course, a symbol of spring - so with them at any time of year in the house will be warm and cozy. They contain soy wax and natural oils, are hypoallergenic and each of them has its own name and aroma: here and white flower, and apple orchard, and blue night, and silence. So we advise you to choose your first candle live, focusing on the smell. In our team, for example, everyone has their favorite bird.


And yet, utensils play a significant role in family traditions. Grandma's Christmas makita, the same porcelain set, a hand-painted sugar bowl - all these things are passed down in the family from generation to generation. With its products, the Gunia team provided an opportunity to modernize these traditions and add elements of Ukrainian culture to them. Or even to establish such traditions independently to those in whose families they were not. This is especially true for dishes from the Christmas and Easter collections, because on these holidays the whole family usually gathers together at the family table. This Easter, setting the table with Gunia Project dishes, we caught ourselves thinking that we really want to pass these artifacts on to our children later.

Discover Ukrainian folk themes, traditions and crafts together with Gunia Project ceramics. Already on our site!

Photo: Gunia Project