Growing up I was blessed with a mother who liked to craft. She also has a passion for all things “folk” from folk dancing to folk music to traditional crafts. I’m not talking Joan Baez, I’m talking the various small villages that populate the world that have over the centuries created their own traditions and arts. I got a package from her this year, reminding me of one of my favorite of these crafts- pysanky.
Pysanky is a Ukrainian and Polish technique for dying Easter eggs, and when you’re done, you have elaborate, beautiful creations that look unlike any other type of egg decorating.
In order to get the beautiful designs so traditional to pysanky, a tool called a kistka is used to layer wax over a clean egg’s surface. You then gently dye the egg in your first color. Another layer of wax is added, and the egg is dyed in a second color and so on until all the design is covered in dye. The final dye job will be your darkest color. At the end of it all, the wax is melted off the egg to reveal a parade of colors making up your design.
Having spent years working this, I can tell you that it is not as easy as it sounds. The wax will slip, resulting a section becoming the wrong color and making those clean straight lines is not easy with wax that is prone to drip.
Pysanky has always challenged me to think differently about my projects- particularly how and when colours get used. It usually feels like I’m working backwards when I do pysanky as you should always start with the lightest colors first, dying from light to dark.
Traditional pysanky uses primarily geometric designs and is the classic type you’ll see on the right in the above picture, however more modern approaches can be taken as well. Its impressive the range of finished eggs you can get using this technique.
Be warned, though. The dyes used in pysanky are much more prone to staining and your decorated eggs will be inedible due to the dyes. However, the results are beautiful enough that its worth it.