Friday, April 7, 2017

We're All Ears :: April Inspiration :: Eggs

A longstanding tradition in our family has always been to dye hard boiled eggs for Easter. I have done the Paas pellets, tie-dye, sponging paint, wax crayon resist, stickers, rubber bands, onion skins and cabbage for a natural color, and all colors of food dye you can think of. There was even that one Easter when the kids were little and I bought up every 100% pure silk tie from Goodwill, cut them up and wrapped the un-boiled eggs in them covered in a muslin coat so that the silk pattern would transfer to the egg (it really does work!)...just like Martha Stewart!

Since my boy is now a too-cool-for-school freshman in college and my girl is now old enough to drive herself away from my nutty arts and crafts, I wonder if this year I will be able to convince anyone to join me in some good old fashioned fun. They did it last year. Cross your fingers and toes they will do it with me still.

I have always loved the intricacies of the designs on Ukrainian pysanky eggs.

These detailed designs are done with a wax resist method. It looks painstaking to me. I am not that patient so I am not sure that I would do well with this craft. The patterns are simple, repetitive and bold.
"Simply put, it is an Easter egg decorated using a wax resist (aka batik) method. Its name derives from the Ukrainian verb “pysaty,” meaning “to write.”  (“Pysanka” is the singular form; “pysanky” is plural.)
But it is much more than that.  Ukrainians have been decorating eggs, creating these miniature jewels, for countless generations. There is a ritualistic element involved, magical thinking, a calling out to the gods and goddesses for health, fertility, love, and wealth.  There is a yearning for eternity, for the sun and stars, for whatever gods that may be."  
I like the idea that this ritual is handed down through the generations. I like that in the process there is a sort of magic, like when the images start to take shape as the patterns are formed. Eggs by themselves are full of possibility, but the symbols make these even more special.

The symbols are written on the eggs using a stylus that has a pin attached to it. These symbols were passed down from generation to generation, starting with more ancient pagan symbols that were adopted by religion. The writing of these symbols makes each egg like a little note. Then the eggs are dyed. Finally they are heated in an oven or with a flame to get the wax to heat up revealing the patterns.

There is a high level of precision in this craft....again, I wouldn't have the patience to not rush it or break the egg! It was not something done for fun, like dying hard-boiled eggs with my kids, but was done by highly skilled women. Today the tradition of pysanky are passed on to young children as soon as they can hold a utensil so that this wonderful cultural act can live on in the writing.

The colors all meant something as well. Lighter, brighter colors with a lot more white were given to younger people who have more of their story to write. Darker, more somber colors were given to older people. The colors were dyed one after the other in a very particular sequence so that at the end when the wax is removed the reveal is spectacular!

WHITE  Signified purity, birth, light, rejoicing, virginity.
YELLOW  The symbol of light and purity. It signified, youth, love, the harvest and perpetuation of the family. It is the color consecrated to the light deities, and the sun, stars, and moon. It the Christian symbol of reward and recognition.
GOLD  Spirituality, wisdom
ORANGE  The symbol of endurance, strength, and ambition. The color of a flame represented passion tempered by the yellow of wisdom. It is also the symbol of the everlasting sun.
PINK  Success, contentment
GREEN  The color of fertility, health, and hopefulness; of spring, breaking bondage, freshness, and wealth. In the Christian era it represents bountifulness, hope, and the victory of life over death. Green is the color of Christmas, Easter, and the Epiphany.
RED  The magical color of folklore signifying action, charity, and spiritual awakening. It also represented the sun and the joy of life and love. Pysanky with red fields or motifs are often given to children. In the Christian era it represents the divine love and passion of Christ, hope, passion, blood, fire, and the ministry of the church.
BLUE  Represented blue skies or the air, and good health, truth, and fidelity.
PURPLE  Represented fasting, faith, trust, and patience.
BROWN Represented Mother Earth and her bountiful gifts; earth, harvest, generosity.
BLACK Represented constancy or eternity, the center of the Earth, the darkest time before dawn. Black also signified death, fear, and ignorance.

So the challenge to you is this... use the EGG as your Muse for April, in whatever form you would like. Pick the rainbow colors that you remember as a child, or stick to more natural egg imagery as a sign of life and rebirth and the continuance of nature awakening in the spring. Or just a simple egg shape. Have fun with it! See you on April 21st... until then... Happy Easter! Happy Passover!


  1. Ohhhhhh wow! Such amazing artwork! I would not have the patience to do this, but so amazing to look at. Wonderful inspiration my dear!

  2. Soon after marrying into my husband's Ukrainian family, I attempted to make pysanka for Easter. Such a difficult task! Your post reminded me that I need to locate our Pysanky eggs for this weekend's celebrations. Beautiful!

  3. Pysanky has always amazed me - I love the intricacy of it all. What a great inspiration!

  4. Erin, you always come up with the coolest inspirations.