Friday, April 4, 2014

It' s Spring, so it must be Ukrainian Easter Egg Time!

It's Ukrainian Easter Egg time again!  Every year during the weeks before Easter, Ukrainian Easter eggs make their annual appearance.  For me, they are always around, because I was lucky  enough to inherit a collection from my mother and grandmother.  They painted--or wrote, Easter eggs. The name for Easter eggs in Ukrainian is pysanky, which means written.  They eggs aren't painted, they are dyed using a process called batik.  In this process, an area of fabric is covered with wax, then dipped in the dye.  If a second color is desired, another area is covered with the wax, and then dipped into a different color dye.  To remove the wax from the fabric, it is ironed between two pieces of fabric, and the wax is melted off.

Kistka, the tool for writing on Easter Eggs. Source: Yevshan

 An egg in process--the lines are drawn in wax and the egg has been dyed once. The lines that are black, will be white on the finished egg.

When  this process is used in making an Easter egg, a raw egg is used.  Melted beeswax  is applied to the egg using a kistka, a tool that is made from a wooden dowel, split on one end.  A very small copper funnel is inserted into the split, and fastened with copper wire.  To decorate  the egg, the funnel is filled with beeswax, heated by a candle, and then used to apply the wax to the egg.  This is very hard to do well.  The wax hardens inside the funnel, or the wax flows too easily and then comes out in blobs, instead of fine lines.  In other words, making a presentable Ukrainian Easter egg is difficult.  I should know, since I  painted eggs when I was young.  My eggs were horrible, and never improved.  Fortunately there are no examples of the eggs I made in existence, but, there are beautiful eggs in my collection, which I will share with my readers.

This egg was painted by my grandmother, Pauline Haydak in 1979.  She rarely signed her eggs.

Font view of the egg above.

My mother and grandmother and most of my female relatives spent hours painting eggs that were sold in the annual egg sales held at their church.  They also demonstrated egg making in public libraries, departments stores,  community centers and folk festivals in the Minneapolis-St Paul area.  They shared information about Ukrainian history and culture, because in those days, Ukraine was part of the Soviet Union and egg painting was not allowed there.

My mother, Julia Koshuba and Marie Hoca demonstrating egg painting, April, 1938. Source: St Paul Pioneer Press.

Some eggs from my collection:

A modern take combining embroidery and egg painting.

This is a trypellian style egg, the pattern comes from ancient Ukrainian pottery.

I love the geometric designs on this egg.

A very beautiful and complex egg painted by my mother, Julia Koshuba Noznick.

Want to learn more about painting Ukrainian Easter eggs? Watch this UTube video