Every Easter, I display my mother’s treasured Ukrainian eggs that she decorated over 20 years ago. Although my mother was 100% Welsh, one of her hobbies was creating these amazing eggs, called Pysanky.
Pysanky is an ancient and beautiful form of folk art from the Ukraine. It is the art of decorating eggs using beeswax and dyes. In Ukrainian households, near Eastertime, eggs are created as gifts for family and friends.
Hot wax is applied to the egg using a kistka. The kistka is a tool used to draw hot wax onto the egg. Kistkas can be purchased, or built by the user. Some are simply a stick with wire holding a tiny stick perpendicular at the end of the larger piece. This type of kistka is dipped in hot wax. Another type is a copper or brass cone attached to the end of a stick. Wax is then placed in the cone. The cone is heated until the wax melts and flows out the end of the cone.
You begin the design by drawing on a plain white egg with hot beeswax. These lines will protect the white when egg is dyed. When the designs to be white are complete, the egg is dipped into yellow dye and then dried. The kistka is used to draw the designs to remain yellow and then the egg is dipped into the next dye bath. The process continues, alternating waxing designs and using dyes that progressively get darker. The most popular Pysanky, end with the black dye. Once the black dye is dry, the egg is held over the side of a candle flame and gently continue to wipe off the melted wax revealing the beautifully designed multicolored egg. The final process is to seal the egg with a coating of shellac or varnish. A small board with three nail groupings (which my dad made for my mother) holds the suspended eggs while they dry.
My mother would work on these eggs year round. You must have a very steady hand and a lot of patience. Each of these eggs would take her over 5 hours to create. Some symbols and designs have specific meanings, but there is much room for your own creative expression. My mother designed eggs for each of my daughters which are personalized with their names.
To be honest, I attempted this art, but I became discouraged after I broke my first egg which represented over 3 hours of work! I still have all my mother’s tools and dyes…so maybe someday I will have the patience of my mother…
So each year, I lovingly place these works-of-art in Easter baskets where they can be admired by all. Thanks Mom!