A brief introduction into creating pysanky
Pysanky are made using the batik process—wax resist using multiple dyes. They are not painted eggs. “Pysaty” is the root word for pysanky and it means “to write”; when an artist is working they are said to be “writing eggs”. The simple egg becomes a work of art by using timeless geometric patterns and symbols. Traditional patterns and symbols carry many meanings that have evolved through the centuries.
There is an ancient legend in Ukraine of a monster that is chained to a cliff. Each year the number of pysanky made is counted, and if there is a decline his chains are loosened and more evil is released into the world. But, if more pysanky are made, then his chains are tightened restricting the amount of evil released.
Wonderful artists are still creating traditional pysanky and carrying that legacy forward. The designs that I create now are considered art eggs instead of pysanky, but I do still love to incorporate many of the ancient symbols and the creating process is the same.
To begin with, I start with a plain egg that has been emptied; the hole is sealed with a beeswax plug. Generally, I will divide the egg into sections depending on the design. If the design involves a pattern, I will measure it all out to make certain that all the pieces of the design work out evenly.
Then the process of waxing and dyeing begins! For all the parts of the design that are to be white, I will write over the egg with melted beeswax using a tool called a kistka. The kistka has a funnel that the melted wax flows through to write. The wax will protect that part of the white egg from further dyes and it will remain white. Even though the waxed line is dark, in the end, it will be white. The wax is only covering the eggshell; it is not coloring it.
The egg goes through a round of dyeing & waxing for each color that is to be part of the finished design. After the final dye bath, the egg is mostly covered with the dark beeswax.
Now the egg was dyed gold and I covered with wax the areas that are to be gold in the end.
Here the egg was dyed chartreuse and I covered with wax the areas that are to be that light green in the end. In a few spots, I wanted a darker green so I just dropped in dye to those small areas instead of dyeing the whole egg.
One of the interesting facets of this process is that the further along in the process that you go, the less of the design shows. I did not get photographs of the pink and rhodamine dye stages, but the egg shown here has been completely waxed and has had its final background dye bath. Now, the egg rests for a time. The eggshell is porous, and it is good to allow the pores to close themselves back up into their “rested” state.
Now the egg is ready to have the wax melted and wiped off. Before doing that, I like to rub olive oil over the egg. I have found that the oil really helps maintain the clear vibrancy of the dyes through the heating and wiping off of the wax.
This is the exciting stage! When ready, the egg is heated by using a candle flame or a heat gun to melt the wax, and then it is wiped off. This is always such an exciting time, getting to see the design revealed from beneath the dark layers of wax; the once plain egg now is transformed into a delicate beauty.
Thank you for showing an interest in the process I use! If you would like more information about learning to create your own eggs I highly suggest looking up Lorrie Popow's Youtube channel. She is a very special egg artist who has done so much to teach others about how to begin their own journies in learning to do this cherished art.