Psyanky

I think I first learned about pysanky when I worked as a student at the Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village. Pysanky are Ukrainian Easter eggs and word pysanka means egg-writing in Ukrainian. The “writing” is done in beeswax with a stylus called a kistka which creates a wax resist for the dye.

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Supplies needed (dye not included)

Traditionally, the motifs and patterns used on the eggs are highly symbolic and are chosen to send a message to the recipient.  

My sister and I watched a demonstration of psyanky being written by Oksana Zhelisko at the Paint Spot earlier this month. This egg was a fairly simple example because it was just two colours, green and black.

  1. The kistka is warmed in a candle flame melting the beeswax in it. This is applied to the egg.20170402_130927
  2. Once all the areas to be left white are covered with beeswax, the egg is dipped in dye (in this example it was green) and then beeswax is applied to all areas that will be green. 20170402_132948
  3. Then the egg is dipped in the next dye bath (this time it is black dye).20170402_133832
  4. To remove the beeswax, the egg is gently heated with the candle.20170402_134709
  5. Finally the wax is wiped off with a paper towel (or cloth).20170402_134851

I have tried it myself and know it is not easy so I have a lot of respect for those who can do this well. I thought it would be cute to take a picture of my pysanka with the cat when he promptly knocked it onto the floor and broke it. As my daughter said “How could you not see that was going to happen?”

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While it is usually considered to be a folk art, a local artist, Neil Lazaruk, elevated it to fine art in his exhibit at the Alberta Craft Council, Neo-Ovo: New Directions in Egg Design. These fascinating eggs still use symbolic motifs but go beyond traditional Ukrainian designs.

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If I was to write an egg for the readers of my blog it would say have a very happy Easter with health and good fortune to come.

Fountain Pen purchased in Mexico

My faithful readers (yup, both of them) may have noticed that last week I didn’t end with a “coming next week” teaser. That was because I hoped I would be inspired during my trip to Oaxaca, Mexico for this week’s topic and I was not disappointed.

One day as we were wandering the streets of Oaxaca I noticed some pens in a shop window. I went into El Aguila Librería y Papelería (The Eagle Bookstore and Stationery), an old-fashioned stationery store with everything behind wood and glass cabinets. Through broken Spanish and charades, I was able to communicate that I was interested in a fountain pen that I could refill myself without a cartridge (cartucho). They showed me a lovely pen that only cost 200 pesos ($13.70 Canadian dollars in today’s exchange rate) that fills with a syringe action. The shop assistant filled it with some blue Parker ink so that I could try it out. Parker still seems to be a big name in Mexico because they made a big deal about showing me a Parker pen too.

There is no brand name on this pen but the nib says 18KGP which indicates that it is 18K gold plated, although it doesn’t really have a gold colour. The other letters on the nib may be BAXR but I can’t find anything on the internet about it so it is a bit of a mystery where this pen was made. The ball on the end of the nib makes it much smoother to write with than my flex nib Noodler’s pen. The slim design has a nice balanced feel for my hand. I probably would have chosen a different colour but it only came in black. My one other complaint is that the cap is very stiff to pull off.

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This post almost didn’t happen because my luggage was held up in Calgary but fortunately did finally arrive yesterday with the contents, including my pen, safe and sound.

If this pen were a person it would be an mysterious Spanish woman with perfectly coiffed hair who can wear high heels on cobble stone streets without wobbling a bit.

UPDATE:  I have continued to try to figure out the brand of my fountain pen and think I have discovered the answer. It seems to be a Baoer, a Chinese brand of fountain pens. There isn’t much information about the company except that the pens are inexpensive and work well.

Wooden Paper Memo Pad

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A friend at work (thanks Neil!) gave me a wonderful memo pad from Lee Valley Tools made of paper thin sheets of wood. I had never seen anything like this before but apparently it is an old Japanese craft called Kyougi. (It seems like Japan produces some of the nicest stationery products.)

If raw, unprocessed food is considered good, how about unprocessed paper? Instead of breaking down wood into wood pulp to be made into paper, this paper is made by shaving a block of wood into thin sheets. The result is absolutely beautiful paper that looks and smells just like what it is, wood. It is hard to imagine that originally this lovely paper was just used to wrap food.

I love how the production of this paper not only keeps a traditional craft alive but also is part of sustainable forest management as the paper is made from trees thinned from managed forests.

I see this paper as having great craft potential, especially if you wanted to make a card with a woodsy feel. However it is very brittle and tends to tear along fold lines. This may be exacerbated by our dry climate.

So what does it feel like to write on wood? Except for the fountain pen, which feathered quite a lot, it was surprisingly easy to write on with very little bleed through to the other side.

If this paper were a person it would definitely be a true nature lover wearing a plaid shirt and hiking boots with the lovely faint smell of fresh cut wood that this paper actually has.

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Coming up next week:  Pilot FriXion Erasable Pen