I am very fortunate to have a dear friend who immigrated to Canada from Ukraine about 17 years ago. Today we went out to her place in the countryside to learn how to paint Easter eggs the Ukrainian way. I have always admired the beautiful Pysanky (seen at left) and imagined it took great pains and skill to create them. I didn’t realize, however, until trying to paint one myself, just how much time and skill it actually took. Needless to say, I’d need about 20 years more practice to get half way good enough, but it was so much fun trying the technique and seeing what we could come up with.
In order to create a pattern, beeswax is used to preserve the underlying colour. You have to plan out your design very carefully and know what part of the design you want to be what colour. You slowly layer the colours – light to dark – and bit by bit your design appears as you drawing with wax and then dip the eggs in the dye. I tried to use the Kistka, which is a tool like a stylus, in which you melt small amounts of wax and then the wax seeps through to a point like ink in a pen and allows you to draw on the egg. I found it very difficult and switched to a simple wax crayon. Although the crayon was easier, it also doesn’t allow for much precision and fine, intricate work that the Kistka does.
It is thought that Pysanky originated from ancient times although no examples exist now due to the fragile nature of eggshells. The Christian era designs are the ones with which we are most familiar. Symbolism is at the heart of the designs combining both Pagan spring symbols and Christian resurrection elements. The more symbolic the egg, the more it is revered. As well as being decorative, certain designs can make an egg sacred and it is believed that they have healing and fertility powers. For more on the history and symbolism of Pysanky, please read this in-depth article.
Here are some photos of our morning and some examples of what we came up with.
What a beautiful experience and great memories made. Thank you to my friend, Lena, and Happy Easter to all.