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How to Make Beautiful Pysanky

easter-egg-pysanky

Easter Eggs of the Ukraine

Pysanky are part of a beautiful, symbolic Eastern European tradition that originates in the Ukraine. Unlike traditional Easter eggs that are hard boiled and dyed, Pysanky are decorated when raw and age naturally, which allows the yolk and white to become dry. As long as there are no cracks and the pysanky is not damaged, they last indefinitely. Here's how you can make beautiful Ukrainian Easter eggs at home.

* Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons and Lubap. This photo is made available through a CC-BY-SA license .

My Pysanky Experience

I was introduced to this beautiful tradition through my grandmother's collecting of outstanding pysanky. I believe they were made by member of my grandfather's Ukrainian family. They were so delicate and ornate that I was never allowed to handle them as a child, but I was inevitably attracted to them. My grandmother kept her collection in a crystal bowl and in open-air hutch where they received plenty of ventilation and were protected from direct sunlight.

In seventh grade, my class made our own pysanky at Easter time. This is where I was first introduced to the methods. Although mine wasn't traditional, my grandma placed it together with the other eggs in her collection.

Since my introduction in pysanky, I've been fascinated with the traditions, patterns, symbols and history. Every year around Easter, I seem to seek out more information about this beautiful craft.

The History of Pysanka

For more than 3,000 years, the pre-Christian people of the Ukraine have been making symbolic, decorative dyed eggs in early spring.

The word Pysanky comes from the word "pysaty," which means to "write." Pysanka is the singular word and pysanky means more than one.

Historically, the methods for making pysanky were ritualistic. Scientifically or religiously, the egg is the ultimate symbol of fertility. In early spring when the first eggs are laid, farm families would save these fertilized eggs to make symbolic pysanky. Women and girls would decorate the pysanky in the cover of night while singing protective songs. Pysanky decorating was done in private to prevent someone with the evil eye from tainting these auspicious decorations.

Today, anyone can make pysanky, and they have lost part of the significance yet the symbolism remains.

Read more about the process and pysanky-making legends at LearnPysanky.com.

Pysanky Tools and Supplies

To create pysanky, you will need the following items:

  • Fresh, uncracked eggs
  • A kistka or stylus
  • A candle
  • Beeswax
  • Glass jars
  • Dye tablets
  • Several egg dippers
  • Rubberbands
  • Paper towels
  • A soft work surface or egg stand

Note: Use traditional Easter egg dyes, but don't dilute them fully to create stronger colors. Reactive acid dyes needed to color fabrics can also be used to create strong, vibrant colors.

How the Pysanky-Making Process Works

If you're familiar with batik fabrics, you probably understand the process for uses dye resists. This advanced process allows the pysanky maker to capture a wide variety of colors. To create a particular design or preserve a color the area is covered with a beeswax resist.

easter-egg-pysanky

In most cases, the first resist lines are created in white. This can be done my wrapping rubberbands around the equator of the egg and tracing the outline. Many professional pysanky artists draw their initial design lightly in lead pencil, so the lines can be traced with the stylus.

The kistka or pysanky stylus features a small hopper. Traditionally, this is made from copper. The stylus is heated in a candle flame and the hot metal cuts though the beeswax block. The stylus can then be heated again to liquefy the beeswax and create fine resist lines on the egg. After the initial lines are created, the egg is dipped in the first color of dye, which is usually the lightest.

After the first layer of dye is applied, the pysanky maker created a second layer of resists. If the first dye color is yellow, designs applied at this time will be the same color. Once the second series of resists is applied, a second layer of dye is added. This process continues until the egg is completed or the darkest dye color is added.

* Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons and Lubap. This photo is made available through a CC-BY-SA license .

Do You Pysanky?

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/5b/UkiePysanky2006.jpg

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/5b/UkiePysanky2006.jpg

Symbolism of Pysanky Colors

The color red traditionally symbolizes life, joy and the sun.

The color yellow represents wealth, fertility, bountiful harvests.

Orange is frequently featured in pysanky. This color is said to present strength and passion.

Warm brown hues are used to represent the fertile soils of Mother Earth.

Black is a powerful color found on many traditional pysanky. It often represents death, respectfully remembrance for the dead and the darkness of eternity.

The color green is said to represent spring and and the bounty of plant, as many pasanky makers were farm families.

These dyes were traditionally prepared in clay jars using natural material, such as willow leaves, apple twigs or oak bark. Dyes were created using secret family recipes. However, chemical dyes are the norm today.

Read more about the symbolism of pysanky colors at the House of Ukraine. This page opens as a PDF.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons and Lubap.This photo is made available through a CC-BY-SA license .

pysanky star

pysanky star

Symbolic Pysanky Motifs

Symbolic motifs featured on traditional pysanky include a variety of page, pre-Christian motifs and universal symbols found across the world. Like many cultures in the Middle East, Mediterranean and North African region, people in the Ukraine are somewhat obsesses with the malevolent forces of the evil eye and are always devising ways to protect themselves and their families from their power.

Popular pasanky symbols include geometric symbols, animals, plants and celestial motifs like stars and medallions that represent the sun. Like many pagan traditions, Ukrainian farmers had the utmost resent for Mother Earth, so the majority of symbols are centered around nature

The stylized sun represented as a circular medallion is one of the most important symbols and represents the life-giving power and warmth of the sun that ripens the crops and makes the flowers bloom.

The broken cross or swastik motif is another benevolent symbol frequently featured on pysanky eggs. Tripods with branching hooks that capture evil spirits are also featured frequently.

Trees or branching tree of life motifs are also found frequently in main designs and decorative borders.

Stags, roosters, horses and birds also also popular symbols.

Beautiful geometric stars and rosettes are used alongside leaves, flowers and other botanical motifs.

Christian symbols, such as crosses, churches and fish, were added later.

View illustrations of popular pysanky symbols at GraphicOriginals.com.

Removing Your Pysanky Resist

Once the egg is dyed and all the desired designs are added, it's time to remove the beeswax resist. This is accomplished by gently heating the egg in your candle flame. Hold the egg to the flame for a brief second, and gently buff the soften wax off using a paper towel. Repeat this process until all of the beeswax is removed and your beautiful designs are magically revealed.

Finishing and Storing Pysanky

Once the wax resist is removed, many artists coat their pysanky with varnish, lard and other substances that produce a lovely shine.

Because pysanky are raw eggs, they must be stored in a well ventilated location. If stored properly they will last for decades or longer. For best results, pysanky should be handed carefully and never rattled or shaken. may experts recommend turning the eggs approximately twice per year.

My grandma always kept hers out of direct light. The UV rays in sunlight fade colors and may also lead to gas buildup, which could create exploding rotten eggs! :)

Many specialty companies sell wooden egg stands and gilded stands for displaying your prized pysanky.

Read more about finishing and storing your pysanky at LearnPysanky.com

A Pysanky-Making Tutorial from YouTube

Resources for Making and Learning about Pysanky

Have you made pysanky before? - Would you like to try it?

Deborah Minter from U.S, California on March 31, 2018:

Beautiful designs! Ive' seen pysanky before, but didn't realise what they were, or how they were made. A beautiful tradition!

Pat Goltz on March 10, 2013:

A wonderful lens! Thanks for sharing!

MelloKnitty LM on March 03, 2013:

What beautiful eggs!

QuiltFinger (author) from Tennessee on July 19, 2012:

@Kathleen Hiler: Certainly, you could. I believe people paint wooden and ceramic eggs with these designs. Thanks for stopping by.

norma-holt on April 18, 2012:

Congrats on LOTD. This is great information and a well done lens. Featured on Blessed by Skiesgreen 2012 and also on Squidoo LOTD Lenses 2. Hugs

CarlittoDunaway on April 18, 2012:

I have a hard time believing that these are real eggs!

julia007 on April 13, 2012:

Very interesting Lens! And the photos are really beautiful!

Deadicated LM on April 12, 2012:

Great Lens, a lot of good information and photos; you do beautiful work.

goo2eyes lm on April 10, 2012:

i have not done it. since it is made from fresh eggs and there is a possibility that they will explode because of gas build up, i'd rather cook the eggs first and paint. nobody has to know that i used hard boiled eggs. blessings and congratulations for winning the purple star. check your you tube title again. thanks for sharing and i learned a lot.

Vicki Green from Wandering the Pacific Northwest USA on April 10, 2012:

Pysanky eggs are so beautiful and it was fascinating learning about the origins of the tradition. Congratulations on LOTD.

Alex Graham on April 09, 2012:

This was wonderful and beautiful!

I sent it through on fb and google+

Thanks,

Alex

LaurisB LM on April 08, 2012:

Great lens! We still have some of these incredible eggs which my husband's sister made over 50 years ago! They are amazing! I've never tried to do it myself but am thinking this would be a fun project to learn next year.

kayla_harris on April 08, 2012:

Very useful articles!

flycatcherrr on April 07, 2012:

I've given this a go once, many years ago, but these are so beautiful I'm inspired to try again. Thanks for a gorgeous and information-packed lens! *blessed*

blue22d on April 06, 2012:

Beautiful. Seen these but didn't know what they were called. Great share!

anonymous on April 06, 2012:

Absolutely gorgeous! Congratulations on LOTD!

Blessed

bossypants on April 05, 2012:

Beautiful and informative lens, well deserving of LOTD! Congratulations! I remember seeing these eggs as a child. And, once we understood that you could use non-hardboiled eggs, we decorated some eggs that way (although not in traditional Pysanky), and they did last -- without smelling badly -- for many years! (No one believed it, at the time.)

Clairissa from OREFIELD, PA on April 05, 2012:

Congrats on LOTD! Pysanky is beautiful. I have always admired these and someday I will make them. Thanks to you. :) Blessed!

AJ from Australia on April 05, 2012:

A beautiful tradition - thank you for sharing this. Easter blessings to you.

Vikki from US on April 05, 2012:

Congrats on lotd!

SophiaStar LM on April 05, 2012:

I have never made a pysanky before they are beautiful! And I love the meanings behind the colors. Congratulations on a wonderful lens and LotD!

anonymous on April 05, 2012:

No I haven't, but my best friend was a beautiful artist and she made the most beautiful eggs. She tough her son, and since he was little he has given my mother one every Easter. Blessed!

BeatMaker2020 on April 05, 2012:

Wow, incredible lens. The fact that I can relate to this, being a russian orthodox christian myself makes it all the more interesting to read. :)

DebMartin on April 05, 2012:

Stunning! d

anonymous on April 05, 2012:

this is beautiful! thanks for sharing

anonymous on April 05, 2012:

this is beautiful! thanks for sharing

JZinoBodyArt on April 05, 2012:

Impressive lens! I really have to try this now!

PennyHowe on April 05, 2012:

Fantastic lens. It looks very interesting and at some time I really would like to try it. The eggs are absolutely gorgeous. Thanks again for sharing. Congrats on your Lens of the Day award!

Perrin from South Carolina on April 05, 2012:

I had never heard of it. Very interesting! Thanks for educating us. Congrats on LOTD!

Frankie Kangas from California on April 05, 2012:

How very beautiful. I've never heard of pysanky so am grateful for the education. Blessed. Bear hugs, Frankster

FactoryGirl777 on April 05, 2012:

Very interesting! The pictures are beautiful!

MelonyVaughan on April 05, 2012:

A beautifully-written lens. The history adds to the content and the descriptions are beautiful! Well done!

secondhandrose lm on April 05, 2012:

Excellent lens. The designs are absolutely beautiful. Polish designs are very similar. I also paint wood and pottery eggs with the designs. Although the paint is not as bright as the dyes, there is no danger of breakage.

Kathleen Hiler on April 05, 2012:

No..but am wondering if I can use a ceramic egg to do this with.

Itaya Lightbourne from Topeka, KS on April 05, 2012:

Very beautiful! Congrats on getting Lens of the Day for this wonderful article! :)

ifeelgod lm on April 05, 2012:

I am stunned! I have NEVER seen these before and they are beautiful. Thank you for a great lens and congratulations on your LOTD designation

In Him,

JMb <><

http://ifeelgod.org

Heather Burns from Wexford, Ireland on April 05, 2012:

wow, beautiful pysanky! I have seen it, but never have seen how to do this before. really amazing lens.

vintagefiori on April 05, 2012:

The Ukrainians really have some beautiful ancient rituals and culture.

anonymous on April 05, 2012:

Never heard of it before but it does look interesting.

tryme1 on April 05, 2012:

I would simply have no idea how to even conceive of things like this, let alone have the creativity and ability to make them.

AliciaMae on April 05, 2012:

I'd be worried about the exploding egg possibility! I've seen amazing things done with blown out eggs, too, though. My aunt used to make fairy scenes inside them, putting the cut out portion on hinges to open it.

anonymous on April 05, 2012:

Very beautiful art :) I've never heard of it before reading this lens.

andreaberrios lm on April 05, 2012:

These are very beautiful and it looks like fun! Thanks for sharing.

Bercton1 on April 05, 2012:

interesting and fun stuff! Thanks for sharing!

futureme lm on April 05, 2012:

Will remember to try this for the future, when my youngest children are a little older!

JoshK47 on April 05, 2012:

How positively beautiful! Thanks for sharing this with us, well deserved LotD and blessings from a SquidAngel!

Matt Warren from Cheshire, UK on April 05, 2012:

great stuff!

sousababy on April 05, 2012:

Beyond my skill set . . but lovely to behold. Congrats on LotD!

dahlia369 on April 05, 2012:

These traditions are very special and well worth being presented like this, thank you!! :)

nuddenhashim on April 05, 2012:

Master!! Teach me...

Ellen Gregory from Connecticut, USA on April 05, 2012:

Nice lens. I think this take a lot of patience an a steady hand.

anonymous on April 05, 2012:

These are beautiful, what a wonderful display, gorgeous colors, wonderful lens. Thanks for sharing

aquarian_insight on April 05, 2012:

I have never made pyansky before but these are gorgeous. Congratulations on LoTD.

writerkath on April 05, 2012:

Congratulations on your LOTD! Ochyn Xoroshaw! (phoentic as best as I could to say "Very Good" in Russian! :) *Blessed!*

jwcooney on April 05, 2012:

Fun lens, congrats on LOTD! It was fun to read about these eggs, and I especially liked reading about the symbolism of the pysanky colors.

agoofyidea on April 05, 2012:

Congratulations on LOTD! The detail on these eggs is amazing.

anonymous on April 05, 2012:

Great lens, thank you!

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Cindy from Pittsburgh Pa on April 05, 2012:

I've seen these pysanky eggs but have never tried it, they're spectacular. Congrats on your feature!

hypermomma on April 05, 2012:

Beautiful lens :)

suzy-t on April 05, 2012:

I had never heard of them before. What a wonderful tradition and a great lens. Congrats on LOTD. Blessed...

Julia Morais on April 05, 2012:

First time I've ever heard of pysanky. Great lens.

SquidooMBA on April 05, 2012:

Great job and congrats on LOTD!

jlshernandez on April 04, 2012:

I have never heard of pysanky but these are exceptionally beautiful. Thanks for sharing. Blessed*****

pheonix76 from WNY on April 04, 2012:

Interesting -- thanks for sharing this tradition and congrats on LotD! Have never made pysanky before, but maybe will try one day.

intermarks on April 04, 2012:

No, this is my first time learn about pysanky. It is beautiful. Thanks for creating this lens.

dumutu on April 04, 2012:

Those designs are beautiful. Thank you for sharing.

Happy Easter.

gatornic15 on April 04, 2012:

The eggs are really beautiful. Congratulations on lens of the day...and Happy Easter!

Peggy Hazelwood from Desert Southwest, U.S.A. on April 04, 2012:

These eggs are beautiful! What a lot of work it takes to make one Pysanky egg!

Mim Art on April 04, 2012:

Never tried - but would love to. You make it look incredible!! Great lens! Congrats on being Showcased in the Spring and Easter Crafts. Happy Easter!