Enter the Munich High End 2016 show.
Among hundreds of mainly black 'n' boxy gear on play and display, one exhibitor stood out by a million miles. In the Zoo, the concatenated series of large exhibition halls, Ukrainian company Volya occupied one of the temporary sound booths. In front two charming girls in little black dresses adorned with floral patterns lured visitors to stop. On a table there were colourful leaflets with the same floral pattern as a small egg-shaped loudspeaker. It looked like a nice gimmick to have a speaker painted thus but nothing more. That impression changed momentarily as we were invited into the booth and came eye to eye with the Volya Bouquet in a dimly lit space.

This was the most uncommon loudspeaker we had encountered in our entire lives. The Bouquet is tall, i.e. 197cm. The Bouquet is curved like a comely lady, with swelling hips, a small waist, long neck and donning a short pony tail. The Bouquet is colourful like nothing else. The Bouquet shines like a Washington apple. And the Bouquet is a proper 5-driver 4-way loudspeaker. Coming out of our deer-in-the-headlights daze, we were soon introduced to Dmytro Klysak, founder of Volya Audio from Dnipro in the Ukraine. He first asked us to sit down for a listen. Knowing next to nothing about the speakers except for the first visual impression, the sound was more than pleasant. In fact even in the terrible structure of a thin-walled tradeshow booth, the sound was good, well balanced and the portrayed images were believable. Now we had a very lively conversation with Dmytro.

He is not only a passionate music lover but passionate about his cultural heritage and helping those who need help. This and friend and fellow music lover Yevhen Kozhushko led to the start of Volya which in Ukrainian becomes воля or freedom. As the company's first product, both men began to think way out of the box. They wanted to build a speaker that not only sounded great but made an artistic statement even without sound: an artful musical sculpture. Loudspeakers should be devoid of reflective inner surfaces and free of mechanical resonances. One can achieve this with internal padding, braces and perhaps a boat hull spine backing a flat-panel front. These men had already been there and done that. Now they wanted something else. As they looked around the house, up came the shape of the traditional Ukrainian копи́стка spoon carved from wood and furnished with a hook so it may hang off a pot's rim. Dmytro and Yevhen live in the province of Dnipropetrovsk known for its Pertykivka painting style which originates from the village bearing that name and dates back at least to the 17th century. This style is based on bright floral designs and applied to houses, walls and everyday houseware like spoons and plates. Though traditional, the painting method evolved over the centuries in brightness and how more modern paints are used but it stays very true to its origins.  

It is remarkable that floral decorations of basic houseware are so widespread throughout the world and almost go back to the beginnings of mankind. Adorning simple things in a specific style designates their origin, be it a village, specific maker or time period. Ukrainian Pertykivka differs from Polish Zalipie though it is just as colourful.

Here in Holland the monochrome Delft Blue and more colourful Makkum styles now are purely commercial endeavours. They haven't been folkloric in a long time. Sadly authentic Dutch folk art painting died out in the 18th century. At right is a later reproduction of a painted wooden spoon in the original Dutch Hindeloopen style. So... a spoon shape decorated with traditional floral patterns would become a modern loudspeaker. As we'll see, it ended up far from as bizarre a concept as it might have read on paper. Yevhen set out to design the enclosure, find suitable drivers and crossover parts. Dmytro set out to find an artist to paint it.

Yevhen arrived at a design that would CNC the enclosure from MDF pieces up to 5cm thick. For drivers he turned to Accuton and decided to only use theirs and not a mix of manufacturers. Accuton are known for their ceramic and diamond-coated membranes as well as for being hard to get to sound pleasant. Only a well-designed balanced crossover prevents their dreaded harshness from the hard materials employed. In the final design, Yevhen Kozhushko needed 5 drivers. A duo of 280mm ceramic-coated Kevlar woofers sit in the bowl section of the spoon to have the upper woofer fire down a little and the lower woofer up a bit. This 60cm wide and deep bowl vents at the back in a short wide port. In the slim handle aka neck, a 25mm diamond tweeter and 50mm diamond midrange mount slightly tilted forward. Above these two a 220mm midbass driver aims slightly down at the listener. Yevhen very cleverly used the spoon's various contours to time-align his drivers. We can only imagine how many prototypes it took to arrive at the final shape.

Meanwhile Dmytro commissioned one of the top painters of the Pertykivka style, Lyudmila Gorbulya, to execute the very detailed paint work. In much folk-oriented painted houseware like plates and cups, the painter follows a standardized pattern to insure that all products exhibit only very small differences. Break one, replace it and nobody should be any the wiser. With hundreds of very similar products to make, a painter's muscles develop a sort of memory, enabling the artist to do the work nearly 'automatically'. With Volya's Bouquet being a stereo set of very limited production, both speakers were to look practically interchangeable. That's a huge challenge considering the convoluted large surface that curves this way and that; and how this must be done entirely by hand. Lyudmila really understood how to make the speakers look as astonishing as they do. She chose not to paint the entire surface but to leave crucial edges unpainted to enhance the designs' shape. Working with bright colors on a black background makes her floral pattern even more expressive. Leaving the outlines of the spoon shape black enhances the absolute 3D strength of this sculpture. It takes her half a year of hard work to finish a pair before multiple layers of super high-gloss lacquer protect it. Talk about limited edition by sheer necessity, not as a marketing stunt!