Text by L. Baker
Pysanky, or the art of Ukrainian egg painting, is a 2000 year old art form which transforms an egg into an incredibly detailed work of art. The artist will begin with a raw white egg which is a symbol of life and rebirth. They typically use heated bees wax to draw intricate designs onto the shell. After the designs are etched onto the egg, it is then bathed in a series of dyes. The design progresses with additions after each dye color. Once the design is completed, the wax is removed, polyurethane protection is added and the raw egg is blown from the shell. This process can take several hours and can be a very delicate, detailed job, but the end results are spectacular.
Ukrainian Egg symbols and colors have special meanings.
Yellow denotes youth, happiness, and love.
Light blue denotes sky with its life-giving air and good health.
Red indicates sun, happiness in life, hope and passion.
Orange is for the everlasting sun.
Brown represents the earth bringing forth bounty.
Pink indicates success.
Light green denotes breaking or shackles and freedom from bondage.
Dark red represents harvest, gathering fruit in the fall.
There are some essential tools used in Pysanky. The Kitschy, a tool with a various drawing ends attached to a brass handle (you can also purchase electric ones). It is used to draw the beeswax designs on the egg. Another important tool is an Egg Lathe, an instrument which holds each end of the egg firmly in place to make it easier to draw the designs on the surface. An egg blower instrument can also come in handy; it saves on sore cheeks and dizziness. Other essentials are drying racks, paper towels, a Bunsen burner or small hand propane torch, vinegar (to put in the dye), beeswax, polyurethane, a pencil and of course – your egg. Any egg can be used, even Ostrich eggs.
Place your clean and dried egg in the Egg Lathe and begin to draw your grid on the outer shell. With the Kitschy, cover the grid with beeswax and place it in the dye baths until your eggs patterns and colors are complete. Hold your egg over the hand torch flame and let the wax melt. Once the wax is melted, wipe it off thus allowing the colors to show through. Once your patterned and colored egg is done then blow out the insides of the egg and seal it with polyurethane or varnish.
These eggs are stunningly beautiful and can be used as Christmas tree decorations, home ornaments or special gifts.