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Project

Ukrainian Easter Eggs

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Introduction

For more than 50 years, Eva Tomiunk has been making pysanky -- intricately decorated Ukrainian Easter eggs. Eva learned the art form (which originated around A.D. 980) when she was just eleven years old, and today, her creations are treasured around the world.

The process involves applying multilayered designs to the surface of an egg using hot beeswax and a stylus, then dipping the egg in a series of dye baths, progressing from lighter to darker hues. One egg may take anywhere from three to 11 hours to complete. Each image and color has a specific meaning, and the finished pysanky symbolize life, hope, happiness, and rebirth.

Materials

  • Pencil
  • Egg
  • Hot beeswax
  • Kystka or electric stylus
  • Spoon
  • Dyes, room temperature
  • Candle
  • Cotton swab or small paintbrush
  • Tissue
  • Cloth
  • Varnish
  • Small paintbrush
  • Pin
  • Rubber ear syringe (optional)
  • Fine wire, for hanging

Steps

  1. Step 1

    Using a pencil, draw faint lines on the egg to serve as guidelines for any areas of the design you want to leave white. Hold the egg on a table with one hand, and draw with the other. Don't erase pencil marks, as this may scratch the egg.

  2. Step 2

    Apply beeswax to the egg with a kystka, following the pencil marks. Heat the kystka's head in a candle's flame, then scoop up a bit of beeswax. (An electric stylus does not have to be heated.) Keep the kystka at right angles with the egg so that the wax flows evenly. Refill as necessary.

  3. Step 3

    Using a spoon, dip the egg in the lightest dye you will use on the egg. Keep the egg in the dye for 5 to 7 minutes. The area where the wax was applied will resist the color of the dye.

  4. Step 4

    Reheat the kystka, and draw the lines that you want to appear in the lightest color, then dip the egg in the next lightest color. Repeat this process for each dye color, working from the lightest to the darkest. To fill in a space that is larger than the hairline width of your stylus's line, use a cotton swab or a small brush to dab the area with dye. Pat dry with a tissue, then cover the newly colored areas with wax, using the kystka.

  5. Step 5

    When you have completed your pattern, hold the egg to the side of the candle's flame for a few seconds until the wax starts to melt. Don't hold the egg directly over the flame; the egg will turn black from the carbon. Use a cloth to wipe away the melted wax, a bit at a time, revealing your design.

  6. Step 6

    Apply one coat of varnish to seal the color.

  7. Step 7

    Blow out the egg: Make a small pinhole at one end of the egg and a slightly larger pinhole at the other end, making sure the pin breaks the yolks. Place the egg over a bowl, and gently expel its contents using a syringe or by blowing with your mouth. When dry, give the egg a second coat of varnish. To hang, insert a fine wire through the pinholes.

Source
Martha Stewart Living Television

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Reviews (12)

  • successb440 28 Mar, 2009

    You can purchase complete kits from www.candy-lane.com. We found these kits at this site and at a good price.

  • colormebeth 17 Mar, 2008

    I have collected these eggs for years, my first one bought while touring behind the Iron Curtain in the '70's. Last year I finally got to take a class at a local Russian Orthodox Church and, while I loved every minute of it and will continue to practice regularly, it is not a craft that you will just pick up and whip out. It takes patience and practice. We used caligraphy pens from a local craft store. My eggs are far from perfect but every one I do gets a little bit better. Good luck!

  • jennymaxlatteri 15 Mar, 2008

    this is awesome! my family is ukrainian and my grandpa showed me how to do them but it's been almost 20 years and forgot some of the details. i always try to do them to keep the tradition. we always used a pencil. we stuck a pin in the eraser and used the flat part for decorating with wax. thanks pop pop maxin.

  • kraftgg 15 Mar, 2008

    I noticed it too and also wondered where the article was that went with it. Perhaps it will be airing this week?

  • DorianGray 12 Mar, 2008

    There was a basket with easter eggs in a basket on the homepage few days ago when I looked. The egs were bluish or grayish as I remember. I did not have time to look at the article then, and now that I came back I can't find it anywhere. They changed the website. Does anybody have an idea where the article is?

  • LaLaAndrew 11 Mar, 2008

    Love this idea. This has led me to a lot of online reading about the Ukrainian Easter Eggs and I'm now waiting on the Kistka and other supplies to arrive. Can't wait to get started!!! Many beautiful and artistic eggs shown on websites.
    Thank you for getting me started.
    LA Andrew

  • Poolsineyes 10 Mar, 2008

    Once your design is complete, put several layers of varnish/shelac on your egg to help preserve the design! We decorated pysanky during Lent at the church on Wednesday nights. We then decorated the church on Pascha with the decorated eggs!

  • pastorswife1 8 Mar, 2008

    The pysanka is a beautiful ancient art. I have been creating these for 47 years and it never ceases to amaze me that each one is just like a snowflake. Even if the designs are similar... they are never exactly alike. It's very comforting and relaxing to do this. You should take a workshop and teach your children. Quite rewarding!

  • ManicCat 26 Feb, 2008

    I love the photo. This style of quick strokes is very typical of the Lemko region (in the Carpathian mountains). My grandmother brought this tradition with her to America. Instead of using a kystka, the Lemko woman utilized the head of a seamstress's pushpin. Since the pin tip cannot hold a reserve of wax, the strokes were applied quickly (from thin to thick) before the wax could harden.

  • ManicCat 26 Feb, 2008

    I love the photo. This style of quick strokes is very typical of the Lemko region (in the Carpathian mountains). My grandmother brought this tradition with her to America. Instead of using a kystka, the Lemko woman utilized the head of a seamstress's pushpin. Since the pin tip cannot hold a reserve of wax, the strokes were applied quickly (from thin to thick) before the wax could harden.

  • LidiaC 21 Feb, 2008

    After emptying egg, attach toothpick to wire or cord. Insert in [filtered word] of pierced egg.This will keep wire,etc from pulling out.

  • Heidi_Bingham 20 Feb, 2008

    I Just learned how to do this art last year. I'm still a novice at it, but it so fullfilling to wipe off the wax at the end and have this beautiful piece of art!!! I recomend taking a class to learn.