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Carnegie church has designs on pysanky tradition

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By Jacquie Harris
Wednesday, March 27, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Pysanky, the ancient Ukrainian custom of waxing and dying eggs, has always been a symbol of the coming of spring.

The tradition also is a key part of an annual fundraiser for the Saints Peter and Paul Orthodox Ukrainian Church in Carnegie. More than 500 eggs painted by parishioners were for sale on March 24, with about 700 that were imported from Ukraine.

Michael Kapeluck, 49, of Carnegie, is one of the artists in charge of creating the designs on the eggs. Kapeluck, who has painted the interiors of churches as an artist for the last 25 years, was up to the task of painting the dozens of eggs for the sale.

The art of pysanky is more than 1,000 years old, but the process has remained an oral tradition, passed on through generations. “Since the eggshell is so fragile,” Kapeluck said, “there are no ancient examples.”

“Eggs are blown out now, they didn't used to be because it wasn't good luck to take the yolk out of an egg,” Kapeluck said.

There are many styles of decorating the eggs, from batik, which is the traditional wax and dye process, to petrikyvka, which is a hand-painting process, to even relief art.

“There are some that are bathed in acid to remove color, such as in brown eggs,” Kapeluck said. “There is also a scratch-away method that involves removing the brown color on the eggs themselves.”

Pysanky eggs used to be symbols and talismans of good luck, good harvest, fertility and protection, and these ideals transferred easily to Christian ideals in 988 A.D., when Christianity came to the Ukraine.

“Every kid who went to church in a Ukrainian family learned how to do this when they were growing up,” he said.

This seems to hold true, as this is the 47th year of the sale at Saints Peter and Paul Church.

There are other artists involved, such as Tracey Sally of Carnegie, who is president of the Ukrainian Orthodox League, the organization that sponsors the sale for the church. She also is another active artist in the pysanky tradition.

“I've been an artist for a long time, and I thought that they eggs were pretty,” Sally said. “Now, every egg that I make goes into the sale.”

The church also sold and auctioned chicken, quail, duck, goose, emu, and ostrich eggs. Egg prices ranged from $2, which are painted by children, to $350 for ostrich eggs. Most eggs were between $8 and $20.

“I like to try new things throughout the year,” Sally said. “I research culture areas and different countries. Each egg artist has his or her own style. Every egg has its own personality.”

Jacquie Harris is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.

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