Pysanky eggs: Practice the key to creating layers of Easter beauty

Union Leader Correspondent
March 25. 2013 4:48PM
Aniline dye and wax are the primary tools for creating pysanky eggs. The design is carefully drawn and masked with wax before each color of dye is applied. (COURTESY)

To take a simple, white egg and turn it into a family heirloom requires a bit of beeswax, some packets of dye, a rubber band, and a whole lot of practice.

Luckily, you don't have to travel to Eastern Europe to buy supplies to make traditional Ukrainian pysanky Easter eggs, or to see incredible examples of the art form on display.

Pysanky is the art of creating elaborately colored and decorated eggs following traditional patterns that include religious and cultural symbols from Ukraine, according to Carolyn Carter, a pysanky artist and teacher from Gardener, Mass.

Starting with a clean, white egg that has either been hardboiled or pierced and blown clean of its raw contents, Carter uses a rubber band and a pencil to draw the lines of the Ukrainian patterns onto the egg. Once the pattern has been drawn, she uses a writing tool called a "kistka" - filled with beeswax and warmed over a candle - to coat the parts of the pattern that are to remain white with the wax.

Then, Carter starts adding color. Starting with the lightest dye first - yellow - she dips the egg into a mixed batch and waits for it to take on the hue she's after. Once the yellow egg is dry, she uses the kistka to trace the parts of the pattern that should remain yellow. On and on this process goes, working through the prism of colors until her color scheme and design is completed. And then, very carefully, holding the egg over the flame of a candle, she melts off the wax and wipes it away with a clean cloth.

"Right before your eyes the egg becomes a jewel in your hand," said Carter, who teaches classes in pysanky in New Hampshire and Massachusetts.

Some of Carter's favorite pysanky creations are on display at the Jaffrey Civic Center through Saturday, March 30. And folks who want to try the art form for themselves can visit The Color Shop in downtown Wilton, where all of the supplies needed to create pysanky are available.

On a table in the middle of the art supply store, there are books, blocks of wax, packets of dye, even the kistka used by traditional artisans. And of course, there are books that carefully lay out the step-by-step process and include samples of traditional pysanky patterns.

"It's pretty intricate but it's actually really easy to do," said employee Jill Day. "We began selling the supplies last year and they were really popular. People make some really beautiful things."

And because the supplies are relatively inexpensive - everything needed to get started can be had for under $30, including the eggs - it's a perfect project for both kids and adults to experiment with.

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