Saturday, March 6, 2010


I was first introduced to pysanky, or Ukranian Easter eggs, a few years ago by a friend from church. I'd stopped by her place around Easter time and saw that she had the most brightly colored, most intricate, and most beautiful Easter eggs I'd ever laid eyes on. Her husband had served an LDS mission in Ukraine and learned how to make pysanky from some locals, and they'd since made it an Easter tradition in their family.

This year was the first since then that I remembered pysanky in time to order supplies and work on some eggs for Easter. My kit came in the mail yesterday and I couldn't wait to make my first egg. The picture above was my first attempt. It's clearly an amateur job with its imperfect symmetry and uneven lines, but the great thing about pysanky is that it looks cool even when you don't know what you're doing. Check out this pysanky flickr group for pictures of jaw-dropping eggs.

The eggs are decorated using a wax resist method, similar to Batik. You draw on the egg with melted wax, using a special stylus called a kistka, and then dip it in dye. You keep repeating this cycle with different colors of dye (starting with the lightest color and ending with the darkest) until you've got the pattern you want.

So, for example, all the white that you see in my egg above was covered with wax in the first step. Then I dyed the egg turquoise, dried it, and covered all of the turquoise bits you see with wax. Black was my second and last dye color and when that was done, I held the egg near a candle to melt the wax and rubbed it off with a tissue. Watching your design emerge from the melted wax feels like a tiny miracle.

I'm sure we'll be busy with pysanky all month, so I'll be popping in periodically with pictures of our newest eggs, and maybe a photo tutorial of the whole process.

P.S. I ordered this kit from Ukrainian Gift Shop, a family-run business in Minneapolis. I highly recommend them for great products and excellent customer service.

P.P.S. I forgot to mention that blown eggs are used for pysanky. The egg's insides are blown out through a tiny hole in the bottom, which means that the eggs can be kept indefinitely. When I was growing up, we always blew our eggs by mouth-- with is hard to do and I'm sure a possible health hazard. Ukrainian Gift Shop sells hand pump egg blowers that seem to be a much better way to go about it.

1 comment:

RootsAndWingsCo said...

Ha! This is funny because my sisters and mom and I all made some Pysanky eggs last night too!! My fingers are a pretty color of orange, yellow and blue. Our Grandma made some of them about 15 years ago and we've been hooked ever since. That is the same kit I have. But all night we were commenting how lovely the electric Kitskys would be. Could you imagine?