Explore the exciting craft of making your very own Ukrainian Easter egg or "Pysanka". Decorating eggs has been a tradition passed down through the ages for over two thousand years and is embedded in many cultures and traditions. It's great for the individual artist or for the whole family.
What it's all about
Traditions are often passed down from generation to generation and the art of making a Pysanka is no different. Decorating eggs has been around for over 2000 years and has been embedded in many cultures and traditions but none are quite as well known or mysterious as the Ukrainian Pysanky. Pysanky are traditionally made by using a hand held device called a kistka, or stylus, where bees wax is melted and applied to the enamel of an egg thus blocking dye from changing the color. This technique is called the "wax resist technique" and is the most popular.
Eggs, kistka (stylus), beeswax, egg dyes, white vinegar, small wide mouth jars with lids, candle, stainless steel tablespoons, hard "h" pencil, tissues, toothpicks, heat gun or hair dryer, and clear gloss varnish (non water based).
Choosing the egg: This is the beginning but a very important part. You could just pick any 'ol chickin egg and go to it, but you might not have a lot of success. At the supermarket look for organic eggs to make your pysanky. The shells are generally thicker which means that there will be less likelihood of breaking your art before it is finished. Don't be afraid to experiment with other eggs as well. Duck eggs are a little bigger and take dye nicely and the shell on a duck egg is generally thicker than a chicken egg. Beware of rhea eggs and ostrich eggs as their exteriors can be textured or glossy, and may render unexpected results. Be sure to carefully inspect your egg for any cracks before starting.
Boiling vs Blowing: Some artists leave the contents of the egg intact but, if you're not planning on eating the egg, I would highly recommend using an egg blower to remove everything from the inside after all of decorating is done. Easy egg blowers are available and they are very inexpensive. Carefully puncture a small hole in the bottom of the egg, insert the tang of the blower and blow gently.
Making a proper pysanka is an art in itself but the novice can begin by learning about how the materials work. In principle, it is an easy process where wax is melted in the kistka, or stylus, and applied carefully to the enamelled surface of the egg which blocks any dye from absorbing into the enamel. Reference books are available as are beginner's kits.
*Prepare your dyes ahead of time and allow them to cool. Prepare them in clean, large mouth jars that you can later close and keep your dye fresh.
*Clean your hands extremely well as any trace of oil or dirt will show on the egg
*Choose bright white, blemish free eggs
*Clean your egg using white vinegar to remove any trace of oil
*Mark your egg carefully and lightly with a hard pencil (the light pencil lines will disappear but never use an eraser as it may block the dye)
*Heat your kistka over a candle flame and scoop a little beeswax into it. Heat it again to get the wax flowing but be careful not to get too much carbon on the very tip as it can clog it over time.
*Draw over the pencil lines keeping the kistka at right angles to the egg surface. Sometimes it's a good idea to move the egg rather than the kistka. When the kistka cools, the wax will stop flowing so you'll have to re-heat it with the candle as you work.
*Dip your egg in the first (lightest) color. Always remember that the darker colors cover the lighter colors except where they are covered with wax. Keep repeating this process until your egg is finished.
*TIP* You can add a very small amount of dye to a very small area using a toothpick and then cover just that spot with wax.
*Once the egg has completed the last stage of dye and is completely dry, heat the surface of the egg until the wax begins to melt. It can then be wiped away using a soft tissue to reveal your final pattern and work of art.
*After all traces of wax have been removed you can then varnish your egg using a non water based clear varnish or aerosol clear coating.