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March 30, 2012

Pysanky Egg Dying for Easter!

This Easter I had the good fortune to learn about a Ukrainian craft technique called Pysanky. The name comes from the verb to write, as you use a stylus (called a kistka) to write with wax on the egg shell.

The eggs are first blown out through holes at each end to be hollow, so they will last indefinitely.

You start with the lightest color, usually white. Everything that you want to remain white, you cover with wax, using the kistka. Then, you dye the egg, in the next dye bath, going in progressively darker colors, and add more wax. Wherever there is wax, the dye will not be able to penetrate. This preserves the part of the design under the wax. In the end, you will have an egg with a great deal of wax on it. Then, using the side of a candle flame, you melt away the wax, revealing the colors that were protected underneath. This results in a brilliantly colored and often very intricately designed egg!

The dyes used in Pysanky are also not your traditional pills-from-a-kit variety that one buys around the Easter holiday in America. These chemical dyes are super saturated, producing noticeably more vibrant colors than regular food dyes. Because the eggs are hollow, they floated atop the dye, unlike the hard-boiled ones I had traditionally been used to, so they had to be spun on the surface of the liquid dye to achieve a uniform look.

Below is an egg from our night that is mostly covered in beeswax, and is in the later stages of dying. The beeswax tended to turn dark from the flame as it melted in the kistka -- you can see that as well on my white egg above that I had just started decorating.

As the wax is melted off of the finished egg, it's absorbed by wiping with a paper towel. The designs are revealed as if cleaning a mirror It's breathtaking to realize the final look.

Our hostess Yvonne created a lovely graphic tonal egg in blues and black that was stunning.

Here's a link to the Meetup event that I attended:

It was my first time joining the "Etsy Mob" and the people that were there were warm and welcoming artists and teachers. I look forward to getting together with them in the future!

If you'd like to learn more about Pysanky, check out this site with instructions, sources for materials, and patterns:

What are some of your favorite Easter traditions, and what are their origins? Please share by leaving a comment on my blog.

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