Jana van Vliet Ostaptchouk, from Yohari

Hi, I am Jana from Yohari. I am handcrafting all the pieces you find in this shop, and I also write stories and tutorials. For a few years now, I work and live in a beautiful village in Sweden.

If you recognize some diverse influences in my work, that is no surprise. From my father’s side, I carry Russian and Ukrainian genes, while my mother’s line goes all the way back to the Korean Chosŏn dynasty. (Sometimes also spelled Joseon)

choson joseon

Woman from the Choson dynasty

The history of Korean people in Russia is little known outside the country. It was one of those tragic episodes in history when a large population was deported to far and barren regions. In this case, they were Korean refugees who fled to Russia from war with Japan, in the early 20th century. During the 1930s, Stalin picked them up and dumped them in the most remote parts of the country. That’s how my family ended up in Turkmenia. You can read more about it in this Wikipedia article.

I grew up in a small town near the Caspian Sea, where cultures, ethnicities, and lifestyles mingled and fused into a unique blend. My taste for colors, oriental vibes, and an eclectic style reflect that atmosphere. Like many girls from my generation in the Soviet Union, I learned to knit, crochet, sew clothing and embroidery in my childhood. Even after all this time, my hands still remember every stitch and enjoy the feeling of that great sense of the thread moving through fingers.

Like many other kids in those days and circumstances, I spent a lot of time with my grandma’s, both my Russian and Korean one. I will always be grateful to these exceptional women for everything they have taught me and for their influence on who I became.

At the age of 14, I was picked up as a gifted kid during a local math competition. That event has led to my moving 3,000 km away from home to study in a specialized school in the major academic center of the Soviet Union.

street in Akademgorodok

A typical street in Akademgorodok

There, in Academgorodok in Novosibirsk, I discovered the fascinating world of science and met many amazing and truly unique people.

But life in Russia never was smooth and easy. Soon my dream to become a scientist was abruptly ended by the post-perestrojka crisis.

At the turn of the millennium, the exchange of a few messages on a tourist’s website led to an unexpected romantic story that ended with a happy marriage, now lasting for 20+ years. It also took me to the Netherlands, where I could pick up my scientific path again.

my PhD


For many years to follow I was involved in dedicated scientific research, got a Ph.D. in Genetics, and had a successful career. But nevertheless, I recently decided to leave science. It literally burned me out. So our family moved to Sweden and settled in a quiet village surrounded by beautiful lakes and amazing nature. Here I found the peace of mind to turn my hobby into a small business and to share my passion and pleasure.

In my creative work, you may recognize the many influences in my life that contributed to my personal interpretation of mixed media art. I combine gemstones, beads, glass, metal, wood, fabric, yarn, leather, old jewelry pieces, and whatever else can be collected to create a balanced design. It is pure joy and meditation to play with those elements and make them complement each other.

Reviving childhood memories, I recently picked up crocheting and started to experiment with fiber art techniques. During the hard post–perestroika period, I reused old clothes, sweaters, and any suitable piece of fabric to make something nice and original for my daughter and me. Now I apply that approach in my mixed media work. Exploring boundless variations and combinations, turning scrap into beautiful and colorful objects, and finding unrevealed charms in ordinary things – these are my creativity mottos.

In my efforts to be earth-friendly and sustainable, I prefer to use natural materials and look for hidden treasures in small shops to support artists and local businesses, up-cycle used materials to a new life, and re-use packaging.

There is so much beauty around us. You just need to open your eyes and heart to see it. There are also no limits to our imagination and creativity. And when you follow this flow, you will find endless sources of inspiration, ideas, and ways to explore and express it. This remains fascinating to me every day. And that is what I like to share.

Yours, Jana van Vliet Ostaptchouk