Sunday, March 29, 2009


For those who check my site for recipes you will have to indulge me in one of my other creative passions, Pysanky. Which is a Ukranian form of Egg decorating using a wax-resist method. It is something a dear friend convinced me to learn with her several years ago and one I find wonderfully relaxing. However, in an attempt to not let my several creative pursuits overwhelm me, I have limited pysanky to Easter season, as was the tradition in the Ukraine for hundreds of years. Along with the beauty of the art I also love the history of it. Women did pysanky at night after everyone was asleep (no one could see them created, it was bad luck) at Easter time and many of the symbols are religious in nature. When the Soviet Union took control of Ukraine women created pysanky in secret since it was outlawed. Don't you love the history, if you want to know more you check out this short history of pysanky.

My egg above is not traditional in its design, I really like to do more organic designs, it requires less pencil drawing. This year I made a rocket egg for my son since he loves Rockets. His favorite is the "Mean Machine." This is my process, including how I created an egg out of a goof.

Organic eggs - they have a thicker shell and you get more even coverage of dye)
Art pencil - The lightest possible. The "Get up and DIY" pysanky page recommends using a pencil hardness of 4H or higher. It even has a table to demonstrate differing pencil hardness. This site also give directions on how to do pysanky.
Kitsky* - the traditional wax writing tool, there are a variety of kinds: traditional, delrin and electric and a variety of sizes: small, medium & large. I have all three sizes of Delrin.
Pure Beeswax* - Any other kind may not adhere as well or remove as well
Analine Dye** - you can use others, but this will provide the deepest colors
Jars -
for dye, I use pint canning jars there are other kinds out there
White Vinegar -
for mixing dye and to use to etch eggs
- buy the cheapest the store has. They don't flake or have any extras, plus you use a lot!
Gloves - I use latex, you can use them to hold the egg as you draw on it to keep the oils from your hands from the egg and the dye from your hands, it is also useful to hold a blown egg down in the dye. I also use them when cleaning the finished egg with lighter fluid and then varnishing it.
Plastic Spoons - to get the egg in and out of the dye
Votive Candles and holder - the holder just makes it easier
Soft tooth brush - for cleaning up after an etched egg
Bulb Syringe - I have several from all my kids so it turned out to be a handy tool.
Thumb Tack - the kind with a large top, notice the photo later
Power Drill with a 3/32 bit - you can buy special drills for blowing eggs, I personally just use my husband's power drill.
Taper Candle & Candle stick - only if you use the traditional method of removing wax
Lighter Fluid - to remove remaining wax
Varnish - It needs to be oil based, water-based will make the dye run. Check the bottom of the egg before varnishing the whole egg to be sure.
Drying Stand - This is simply a board with nails pounded in close enough to hold an egg while the varnish dries. You can buy them but if you have extra wood and nails, just make it, it is cheaper. You can find lots of examples online.
Egg Stands to display egg - you can use votive candle holders or shot glasses or purchase stands

*Purchase at the Ukrainian Gift Shop
*Buy at either the Ukrainian Gift Shop or Pysanky Showcase look on the left of PS for the egg decorating link and then click on the egg dye link.

The best part of this art is that once you buy these items, which for the most part are really inexpensive, you don't have to buy much every year. I usually spend about $20 a year, but mostly on fun things that are necessary, but make it easier or just because. This year I got a kitsky holder and fancy egg stands.

Step 1: As light as possible, draw enough of the design on your egg so you know where you want to place your wax. Use the lightest pencil possible.

Step 2: Heat your Kitsky with beeswax and heat over a candle. Make sure to wipe the outside of the kitsky off each time you fill it or you will get a blob of wax guarnteed. If you do wipe it you still sometimes get the blob, just not as bad.

Step 3: Practice writing on a paper before the egg to get the hang of it. Write on the egg on the part of the design you want the first color. In this case I wrote on the egg where I wanted the egg white. (I goofed right after drawing on this section so I then created a new egg based on what was there. You can see a photo at the end) Then dye the egg the lightest color. In my case it was yellow. Then draw on the egg where you wanted yellow. For me that was the words of the rocket and part of the parachute. (See photo at end). Then dye the next darkest color. Since I etched my egg (explained later) my next darkest color for the top layer was black. Then cover the part of the egg you want that color. For me that was both rockets and the rest of the parachute.

Step 4: Before etching the egg, wash as much of the dye off as possible. This can be done just by rinsing in cold water or using a mild soap. I like to use Ivory. This just helps the dye not come off in the vinegar and thus getting as white as possible surface when you are done etching. While not necessary, I like to do it, especially if my egg is a really dark color before I etch.

Step 5: Etch the egg by placing it in white vinegar for about 20-30 minutes depending on how etched you want your egg and how acidic the vinegar. I was impatient this time and should have done it closer to 30. oops -- Still looks neat.

Step 6: When sufficiently etched I use a soft toothbrush (this is a baby toothbrush) to gently scrape the surface of the egg off.

Step 7: When it is off I rinse it the rest of the way clean with cool water before applying anymore dye or wax. Continue the previous process of waxing and dying explained in step 3 until you are ready to dye it the last color. Meaning youhave waxed the parts you want to keep the current color and rest of the egg is going to be the new color.

There are many ways to remove the wax. The traditional way is to complete the egg all the way and then place the egg next to the candle flame and melt the wax and wipe it with a tissue (use the cheapest you can find). I personally find this very tedious and avoid it as much as possible. I came across the following method last year and have fallen in love.

Step 8: So after you have waxed everything that needs to be waxed and you are ready to place the egg in its final color, empty the egg. This method of emptying works whether you use this method for getting rid of wax or the traditional, it just depends on where in the process you do it. There are also a variety of methods for emptying an egg and tools you can buy, this is my method which was created by my dear friend that taught this craft to me. The yoke will need to be broken, I shake the egg really hard until I feel it break, basically instead of feeling like a "ball" is bouncing it just feels like liquid rushing back and forth. You can also break the yoke by sticking a wire into the egg after a hole is punched and stirring it around. After breaking the yoke I pucture a hole in the top and bottom of the egg with a thumb tack.

Step 9: Then take a power drill and using a 3/32 bit drill the bottom hole larger. Go slow and with steady, but not real hard pressure until it breaks through. Since organic eggs have a thicker shell this can take several seconds, especially if you are drilling through the wax as well.

Step 10 - Place the bulb syringe on the smaller top hole and squeeze slowly allowing the insides of the egg to come out. DO NOT USE THE INSIDE OF THE EGG, THE DYE IS POISONOUS! Do this until all the inerds are out. If you want you can squirt a little water inside and shake it a little to rinse it.

Step 11: Cover the holes with wax so they are firmly sealed. If you want and can you can incorporate the hole in the design as I did in the previous photo.

Step 12: Using your gloves or perhaps a full shot glass weigh the egg down in the final dye until it is the color you desire.

Step 13: My egg ended up a little darker than I wanted even though I just barely left it in, so I rinsed it with some water and it turned out the perfect color. Poke holes into the wax on both ends and place the egg on a paper towel in the microwave. Microwave about 10 seconds and remove the egg and wipe the wax off with tissues. Repeat if necessary. Now you see why I like this method and why you must empty first. Use lighter fluid to rinse egg to remove any remaining wax. Then lightly varnish egg. I use my gloved finger, but you can use just your plain finger and then clean up with vegetable oil and then dish soap, whichever you prefer. Just make sure the oil is in a bowl before you use the varnish, your hands can be really messy and you don't want to get your oil bottle dirty. Allow the egg to dry on a egg rack and then, if you want, revarnish the next day. I like two coats, I think it shines more.

Step 14: Display your egg for everyone to see. As you see I have two sides to my egg, it going up and it coming down.

My goof. My kitsky got clogged so I was pounding it trying to get it cleared (I could buy some wire to clean it but it hasn't made my list of purchases yet, maybe next year) and the wax splattered my egg. Since spatter wasn't a part of my design I had to come up with a new design. while not my best work, I think it will look nice in my MIL's egg jar. Last year I made a bunch of eggs and gave them to her to put in a large jar she had with only 3 eggs.

Anyway, that is my process. This may not be the best resource, I would suggest googling "Pysanky" and you can learn even more about it and see all sorts of beautiful eggs from amazing pysanky artists. Mine aren't perfect, but I do enjoy doing it. If you want to see more I have done you can check out my Pysanky Picasa Web Album.

1 comment:

vfg said...

I was finally putting away my pysanky stuff tonight...but must try etching :)

I have to varnish & empty (I do it after varnishing) 18 eggs tomorrow. My 12 visitors + ours. ick. too boring.

I LOVE de-waxing, though. Just love seeing the colors brighten and wiping the beeswax shine around. Makes me super-happy. A lot at once is a pain, though, I do agree.


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