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Where there is no law, but every man does what is right in his own eyes, there is the least of real liberty
Henry M. Robert

Icons made of knots

Crimean artist Volodymyr Denshchykov works in a unique technique macrame-collage
6 November, 2012 - 00:00

Volodymyr Denshchykov has been working in macrame-collage technique for over 30 years, of which for about 7 years he has been creating icons that are unique. (He is the only person in the world who creates icons with linen thread.) The artist uses a special technique of “knot weaving with man-made fabrics.” Method is patented, but despite the uniqueness of his work, Denshchykov gladly shares his secrets with those who are interested in it.

“People often ask me if I plan to pass my skills onto future generations. I am absolutely willing to do so, but there is simply no sense in teaching macrame. I can suggest some things, help to design a pattern. The essence of teaching is to properly direct student’s imagination. It is difficult because there are things that are impossible to explain. People that are close to me pick up everything much faster because they are with me while I am working,” told Denshchykov.

Author makes every knot in his work manually without using a hook or needles. Patterns of icons are created with knots and anchored using macrame-collage technique. In order for an icon to have some volume Denshchykov uses handmade cloth. Faces of saints are painted on canvas with oil paint.

The artist uses only linen thread because flax is associated with Orthodoxy – it is simple, affordable, and durable. Surprisingly, each work consists of over a million knots – three to six moths are needed to tie them all.

“I usually work not on one icon but on two or three ones at a time,” admitted the master. “If work goes really well on one of them I put the others aside for a while. Now I am working on Volodymyr Mother of God, and belt (portraying the saint to the waist) icon of Alexandr Nevsky. I already have a full-length icon of Alexandr Nevsky (it was made for the Cathedral in Simferopol). I also continue working on 3D projects. I already have two art works in volume: icon of the Holy Virgin that consist of three parts and an Easter egg, similar to Faberge, 70 cm high – it opens up and there is an icon inside it.”

Master’s works have traveled around the world. Now his icons are stored in private collections in Ukraine, Russia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Germany, and the USA. The artist has made over 50 macrame art works. In the Crimea Denshchykov’s works can be seen in an unusual lighthouse-church located in the southeast of the peninsula, in the village of Malorichynske. Icons took their place in the church and people from all over Ukraine come here to look at them. For example, the icon of the Saint Panteleimon the Healer is in the Church of the Resurrection in the village of Bohdanivka near Simferopol.

“It is a great honor for me if one of my icons is kept in a family home or in a church. Now I got an offer to organize another exhibition in Austria in the Saint Nicholas Church in downtown Vienna. I also received invitations to come to the USA, Canada, England, and Sweden. In spring I plan to open an exhibition at the Ukrainian Cultural Foundation in Kyiv.”

Before creating an icon Denshchykov asks the blessing of Metropolitan of Simferopol and the Crimea Lazar or of family priest Father Serhii, guardian of the Saint Nicholas Church in Simferopol. He also fasts if possible.

Denshchykov recently celebrated his 60th birthday. He was awarded the Order “For Merits” by President Viktor Yanukovych. The icon master also received an award from metropolitan Volodymyr – the Order of Saint Prince Volodymyr the Great. The art work of the master is amazing. Many admiring reviews on his work and expressions of gratitude from people in various parts of our country can be found on the Internet.


Volodymyr Denshchykov was born in Kyiv. He graduated from Kyiv Theater University in 1974. From 1975 until 2007 he worked as an actor, director, art director of the Maxim Gorky Crimean Academic Russian Drama Theater. In 2007 he switched to teaching. Honored Artist of the Autonomous Republic of the Crimea, People’s Artist of Ukraine, laureate of the ARC Award in 2009 in the category “Decorative Art.”

By Tetiana AVDASHKOVA, Simferopol