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.
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.
- The kistka is warmed in a candle flame melting the beeswax in it. This is applied to the egg.
- 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.
- Then the egg is dipped in the next dye bath (this time it is black dye).
- To remove the beeswax, the egg is gently heated with the candle.
- Finally the wax is wiped off with a paper towel (or cloth).
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?”
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.
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.