Pysanky (Part Two)

To continue learning about the process of creating pysankyread more!

IMG_0057Over the years, my designs, as you can see above, have often varied from the usual Ukrainian theme of geometric comprehensiveness, in which every millimeter of the egg is dedicated to a part of the overall pattern that makes for an aesthetic whole, like the egg in the bottom right that I made for my mom’s birthday. An egg like the Northwestern insignia is still complicated and needs forethought, but it is nowhere near as tough to make as an egg covered in thin lines that intersect and are supposed to stay straight across the elliptical surface of the shell. Then there’s the fact that one egg uses only one dye and the other three.IMG_20140527_110428_749In itself, applying several dyes doesn’t actually create that much more work, because it’s just a matter of lowering the egg into a jar of dye and pulling it out after a bit and patting it dry.

What multiple colors require, however, is more planning and a good conception of the way the pattern will come together in various steps. Which parts of the egg are you going to cover in wax to protect one color, and what parts will you leave negative (blank)? One of the reasons you rarely see primarily white pysanky is that all the white on the egg has to have been covered with wax at some point. In theory it isn’t actually any more work to cover huge swaths of shell with wax while the egg is still undyed, but for some reason it is mentally daunting to have to wax so much of the egg at once before moving on to another color — that’s why many traditional patterns are comprised of many lines or small swirls and other geometric figures, because thick bands of color on another color mean that the whole band was filled with wax at one point.


Note the little imperfections in the broad swaths of wax-protected color — another reason to avoid them?

And all the wax that you put on the egg has to come off afterwards, unless you’re going for the stained glass effect. In the Croatian method, if you remember, the one-dye process of boiling water actually did remove the wax. What I didn’t mention in Part One is that it also cooks the egg. And you can’t preserve a hard-boiled egg to put on your mantelpiece, as far as I know. There are chemical methods to removing the wax too, but I’ve always worried about their effect on my skin, the egg’s dye, or the environment. You could also put the egg in the oven at low heat and quickly remove the egg as the wax softens but before the egg cooks, but I’ve never tried it. I stick with the tedious and intensive method of holding the egg up to a candle and melting bits of wax slowly before wiping them off with paper towel.

Once all the wax is off, it’s time to varnish the egg so the dye will be less likely to bleach overtime, and to give it a nice glossy finish. After the varnish dries, you have to remove the egg’s innards. I’m not positive if this is completely necessary, because I do remember reading somewhere that eventually the egg would just dry up since the shell is permeable, but I’m not sure if that would still apply with the coat of varnish, and anyway I don’t think it’s worth testing out when I give all my eggs away as gifts. So I make two small holes at either end of the egg with a little hand-powered drill, called a pin-vice, use a darning needle to puncture the yolk, and blow through one hole to get all the yolk and whites out. With a little care you can get a thin stream of water to enter the egg, which helps rinse everything out, and then you let the egg dry. Finally, the egg is done! Except for the cases where I’ve had a small bird’s nest on hand, I’ve always let the egg recipient figure out how they want to display the creation. I’ve seen wire stands, little glass cups, and also the Christmas ornament solution, where you somehow attach a string to the top so it can hang on the tree.

One thought on “Pysanky (Part Two)

  1. Pingback: Pysanky (Part Three) | Raxa Collective

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