Ukrainian Easter Pysanky!

Traditional Old World Easter Egg Decoration

Ukrainian Easter Egg Design Ukrainian Easter Egg Design Ukrainian Easter Egg Design

Paul,”The Wise Gardener” being of Ukrainian heritage, takes this timely opportunity to present the following fine article authored by fellow Ukrainian Ann Morash, that describes the detailed process of making Pysanky: Ukrainian Easter Eggs! Like so many things from our tradition-steeped Ukrainian culture, it is intricate, rather time-consuming, eternal and unique! Our culture survived the Soviets and the distinct unpopularity of remaining staunchly Eastern-Rite Byzantine Catholic or Eastern Orthodox, in the midst of a godless society. Easter traditions continued throughout the “colorless” years of the USSR, and remain a notable treasure that is enjoyed the world over today!

I fondly remember my own family’s Pysanky traditions, beginning with my grandmother, Pauline Chandoha’s own gorgeous eggs, which she brought with her from what used to be Austria. These decorated eggs were fragile, luminous, and entrancing! My late mother, Anne Chandoha Nawrocki, used to seek out the very best Pysanky designs, on “expositions” to New York City and Montréal Ukrainian districts to grace our New Jersey home during the entire Spring season of “re-birth!” These decorated Easter eggs are truly “lifetime” artifacts that are lovingly entrusted and passed down from generation to generation!

Ukrainians love their folk music, fabulous folk dancing, hearty foods, closely-knit family ties…and tradition! Enjoy this primer on Pysanky. Perhaps you’ll wish to try to fashion an egg yourself this Easter! Even if you don’t, you’ll gain an appreciation and an understanding of an undying artform, that is as exquisite today, as when beeswax & dyes were first scribed onto an egg in the 1500’s! Ukrainian eggs are NEVER mass-produced; they are all individual “works of art”, and works of love! Thank you, Ann, for this wonderful article!

Paul, “The Wise Gardener!”

“H i s t o r y o f U k r a i n e”

Over a thousand years ago, on the vast expanses stretching from the Carpathian Mountains in the west to the Volga River in the east, from the Black Sea in the south to the White Sea in the north, appeared one of the largest and mightiest medieval powers, Kyiv Rus’. For centuries it remained Europe’s solid bulwark against the walls of which crashed and disintegrated tidal waves of countless nomads from the east.

In 882, the almost legendary Prine Oleh the Seer defeated Kyiv Princes Askold and Dir, and rallied round Kyiv the Slavic tribes from the south and north of Eastern Europe. “Whereupon Oleh sat on the throne and began to rule from Kyiv,” reads the chronicle, “and the Oleh said, ‘Let Kyiv be the mother of Rus’ cities’.”

the basic steps roses
You should read through ALL of these at least once before beginning an egg.

preparations | applying the design | finishing up|
displaying your finished pysanky

* preparations . . . . . . . . . .

(1) Cover your work area with old newspapers. Have your cooled dyes in jars on the work area. Set your room-temperature eggs on a soft layer of tissues (fold a couple of tissues over in the middle to make a soft “pillow”).

(2) Clean your egg with a mixture of diluted vinegar – dab the egg with a tissue dipped in the vinegar solution, or dip the egg in a shallow bowl half-filled with the vinegar solution. Dab the egg dry – never rub.Ukrainian Easter Egg Design

* applying the design . . . . . . . . . .

(1) Proceed to draw the basic design on the egg lightly with the pencil. In the beginning, you may wish to use the elastic band around the egg to aid in drawing the lines straight. If you make a mistake with the pencil, do NOT use the eraser on it. Remember, the pencil lines (if drawn on lightly) will not show up in the final design, so mistakes are OK.

(2) Heat the head of the kistka in the flame of the candle for 20-30 seconds. Then scoop a little beeswax into the funnel of the kistka. Reheat the kistka in the flame until the wax is melted. If you leave the kistka in the flame too long, it might catch on fire. (Don’t worry, they are very easy to blow out!)

(3) Especially in the beginning, you should test the wax flow from the kistka on the newspaper before writing any wax lines on the egg. Occasionally, from over-filling, the kistka will let out a large blob of wax. If this should happen on the egg, there is nothing you can do. The wax bonds instantly to the eggshell; even if you try to scrape Ukrainian Easter Egg Designthe wax off, the blob will still appear in your final design. (If you check out my Hints and Tricks page, you can get a useful hint to help make the blob look a little less noticeable.) Don’t feel badly if this happens – even the most experienced egg artist has the occasional blob in their designs. If at all possible, try to incorporate it into the design. If you can’t, remember: any art made by humans is going to have mistakes in it – that’s what makes each egg truly unique.
Ukrainian Easter Egg Design
(4) Apply wax, using the kistky suggested above the design, to the egg. Everywhere there are lines in the design, apply wax. Remember that the pencil lines are just guides, and you won’t be covering all of them with wax. Do the design on both sides of the egg. Use the fine kistka for fine lines, and the heavy kistka for filling in large sections. The dye will not go anywhere you apply wax. You don’t need to re-apply wax every time you dip it in a dye; just apply the new lines for the colour. After applying the wax for a colour, double check your egg to make sure you didn’t miss any lines. Once you have checked, dip it in the next dye stated. Leave the eggs in about 15 minutes, or until it is the desired brightness. Remove the eggs with the spoon, and dab dry with tissues. For regular eggs, the dye sequence is from light to dark. For bleached eggs, the sequence can go either way, because the egg’s final colour is white.

* finishing up . . . . . . . . . .

(1) When you have finished applying wax to the design, dip the egg in the final colour. Wait 15-20 minutes, then remove the egg from the dye, dab it dry, and let it sit a few minutes.
Ukrainian Easter Egg Design
(2) If you are doing a BLEACHED egg, you must follow these steps! Otherwise, you can Ukrainian Easter Egg Designmove ahead to the “Fun part” in part 3. Put the egg in the bleach solution (1 cup of water to 2 tablespoons bleach). Once the eggshell has turned white, gently rinse the egg under cool running water. Stop when the egg no longer feels slippery. Dab dry. Let it sit at least 1/2 hour.

(3) Now comes the really fun part. Take the egg, and hold it near the side of the flame. DO NOT hold the egg over the flame, because carbon will collect on the shell, and darken the design. Wait until the wax looks wet (only a few seconds, usually) and wipe the wax off with a clean tissue. Try to always use a fresh side of the tissue (or a new tissue) for each wipe, or else you’ll just be rubbing wax all over the egg, and it will take a lot longer toUkrainian Easter Egg Design finish your egg.

(4) For bleached eggs, you may find that the wax doesn’t come off as easily as for a regular egg. In this case, you may wish to use a little lighter fluid–pour a small amount onto a tissue, and rub the shell very gently. Be sure to dispose of the tissues properly! And don’t let kids use the lighter fluid!

(5) You may wish to apply a glossy finish to the egg once completed. You may use clear gloss varnish, varathane, or shellac. Apply a very thin layer of varnish with your fingers and set on the drying rack to dry. However, you may wish to test the gloss on a small surface of the egg first, to see if it makes the colours run (some do).

(6) At this point, you may decide whether to leave the egg intact, or drain the insides. You can buy anUkrainian Easter Egg Design egg-blowing device (its fairly cheap) or a syringe to drain the egg. Follow the instructions for emptying that come with the egg blower, or read the brief instructions given on my Supplies page. If you do empty it, you should set the egg on the drying rack to let it fully drain. Once that’s completed, you can put a little dab of white glue in the holes (stick the tip of a pin in the glue, then apply the glue to the hole). Before doing so, however, you should make a decision about how you will display your egg (filling in the holes may cause complications with this).

* displaying your finished pysanky . . . . . . . . . .

Be creative!You can display your creations in egg cups, shot glasses, brandy snifters, baskets, or any other type of container you like. You can even display them on napkin rinUkrainian Easter Egg Designgs! Be creative!! But there are a few places not to store your eggs (see Storage Hints and Tricks). You should choose a relatively plain holder, so that it doesn’t draw attention away from your egg.

If you choose to empty them, you have many other options for displaying. You can also hang your eggs, and use them as Christmas decorations. You can use a toothpick, with a loop of string knotted and glued to the toothpick. Stick the tip of the toothpick through the hole at the top – push it all the way in; then the toothpick will turn horizontal when the string is tightened. Then put a dab of glue around the hole and let it set.

Alternatively (if you empty the egg), you can buy a finding. This is a little fancy piece of metal (gold or silver coloured) which you affix with glue to the top of the egg. It has a hole in the top, through which you can loop some string.

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