It has been a while since I have tried my hand at any kind of crafty thing, so when a friend of mine (Thanks Virginia!) told me about Egg Painting classes last weekend I jumped at the chance to get involved. Our hens lay 14+ eggs a day so I am not short of a blank canvas in that area. We gathered in the upstairs office of The Taylor Farm, in nearby Londonderry Vermont, to learn the Art of Pysanky, the Ukranian tradition of decorating eggs. Traditionally, Ukranian women would gather in secret, decorating these eggs at night, with the belief that they could transfer goodness to the design and therefore ward off evil. By giving a pysanka you give a symbolic gift of life, with the design of each pysanka chosen to match the character of the recipient.
Pysanky Eggs, both modern and traditional.
Symbols used to decorate these eggs vary, from birds (fertility and the fulfilment of good wishes), horses (wealth and prosperity) and flowers (wisdom, elegance and beauty) to geometric forms (relate to Christian beliefs such as the triangle representing the Holy Trinity) and the Sun (life, warmth and the eternal love of God). As this tradition dates back to Pagan times, these symbols' meanings have developed into Christian beliefs.
Ukranians have been decorating eggs in the Pysanky (taken from the verb pysaty 'to write') tradition for thousands of years. The decoration is created by writing on the egg with beeswax using a kystka (stylus). A small amount of wax is inserted into a small hole on the top, that allows the wax to drip through the point of the kystka as it is heated, allowing fine lines to be drawn on the egg. This is essentiallly a batik-style method that requires overlaying of light to dark colours of dye in stages after each element of the design is drawn onto the egg with wax. The overall effect is a detailed and vibrantly coloured pattern that transforms the egg into a veritable work of art.
So, once you have drawn on your first pattern with wax, the egg is dipped in dye.
Once the dye has been cast, the egg has to sit out and dry before you can write on it again with your next pattern element.
Once you have drawn on each element of your desired pattern, and dyed the egg accordingly, it goes into a low temperature oven to melt all the wax off...
...and reveal your finished design!
Ta Da!! Apothecary Fox Pysanky. I have to state here that they look WAY better in the flesh as I am a terrible photographer.
Now, let me make it very clear. We were NEVER going to get even remotely close to the kind of detailed decorations on these jewel like creations, but we certainly left with an intense respect for the craft of this ancient art form. Tricky, fiddly, frustratingly time consuming and unbelievably addictive! I won't begin to give you a tutorial but I found a really simple and useful guide here if you would like to have a go. I promise you will love it.