Semen Tlusty: Aspen toy drives the devil away
Yavoriv toy turns up from non-existence. Artists who want not only to revive the four hundred year-old craft but who also have the ambitions to force out Chinese toys of poor quality from the Ukrainian market have appeared in Lviv region. Semen Tlusty from Ivano-Frankove of Yavoriv district in Lviv region is among these daring people. With a group of people he makes colored violins, small horses with or without carts; angels, children’s furniture, ducks, rocking horses, birds with moving wings and landrails. Each item has a brochure certificate. The author says that it is safe to play with his works and the prices for them are not very high – about 30-50 UAH each.
— We will force this plastic and Chinese hazardous toys out of our market. Our toys are made from aspen because this wood even drives the devil away. You know who is killed by an aspen stake? Vampires are. So the children were given these toys starting from their childhood for evil not to touch them. And because of this the aspen toy has the strength of a guardian talisman.
— Will there be enough aspen to revive the toys?
— Aspen is a kind of material that is not used anywhere for construction purposes. There’s enough aspen to last us for the next hundred years. Will we live as long? I am already 52 (laughs).
— You works are rather colorfully painted. What colors and ornaments do you use for toy decoration?
— Our decorative art is the second famous in Ukraine. Petrykivsky ornaments take the first place and Yavorivsky’s are at the second one. Our ornament is called “verbivka” (verba means willow in Ukrainian) – because the ornaments look like willow twigs. There have always been a lot of willows in Yavoriv which grow on sand. So, people made toys, sold them and made their living by this, as the soils there have never been fertile because of the sand.
There are four colors in the ornaments: green, red, blue and yellow. Red is for fruit and berries. Green is for grass and leaves. Blue is for the sky and water. Yellow means the sun. I do not use any other colors. I have even ordered a shirt in these colors to match the toys and also have ornamented my straw hat with these patterns.
— Do you ornament your works yourself or you have some assistants?
— I ornament toys and make the templates for them myself, because I am still teaching the future artists. Now I teach girls to make ornaments because the work with a circular saw is definitely not for them. And as for the boys and men, it is they who will be occupied directly in making toys. Thus they will have a place of employment and will travel to different exhibitions with me. I’m even preparing a kind of a uniform for them – national shirts embroidered with Yavoriv ornaments.
I am completely independent because I am educated and have experience. In addition God gave me a kind of a gift – to be able to play with toys at the age of fifty. You know, I have worked in different areas during my life. I used to restore ancient things which were 500-1000 years old; my brothers and me decorate restaurants in imitation of ancient times, build churches and take moderate payment for all this so God helps us.
— When did you start making toys?
— Not long ago, in 2008. I have found a person who has money and is sponsoring me. He will be my client number one and he is also going to be involved in selling.
— How do you find the conditions for your business at the Ukrainian market?
— We already have both enemies and admirers. But we will not give in and our horses will definitely live. And we want to have a representative office for our toys in each of the Ukrainian region centers.
— Do you have a representative office somewhere at present?
— Our toys are already available in Lviv studios. We also have an agreement for Kiev. We will be given a place in some busy region. We don’t need much: just two walls are enough to make an exposition with more than a hundred toys.