'Eggcellent' art on display at Sewickley library

| Wednesday, March 6, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Jeff Lemley is helping to ensure the world's survival, according to a legend about pysanky, Ukrainian Easter egg decorating.

Ukrainians who live in the Carpathian Mountains are thought to believe the fate of the world depends upon the Ukrainian art form.

As long as the egg-decorating custom continues, the world will exist.

Lemley, of Coraopolis, is doing his part by offering a program, “Learn the Art of Ukrainian Egg Decoration — Pysanky,” from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday at Sewickley Public Library.

Participants will learn to design their own pysanka using a batik method with hot wax. Those ages 8 and older are welcome to participate.

Pysanky typically are made to be given to family members and respected outsiders. To give a pysanka is to give a symbolic gift of life, which is why the egg must remain whole.

The most common designs are those associated with plants and their parts ­— flowers and fruit.

Lemley, an international flight attendant, is teaming up with Charlotte Orient of Moon Township, a retired college professor, and Dee Ruckert of New Sewickley Township, an art teacher in the Ellwood City School District, to show students how to turn a raw egg into a work of art.

Students first will cover with wax every surface on the egg they want to remain white — the batik method.

The process is called “writing,” or pysaty, Lemley said, as the designs are not painted on but written on with beeswax. Students then will use a kistka tool that features a funnel to hold the beeswax. The kistka will be placed over a candle to melt the wax, which then is applied to or written on the egg.

The egg then is dunked into dyes, starting with the lightest color first. Before dipping the egg into another color, any surface on the egg the artist wants to remain the first color again should be covered with wax.

At the end of this process, a large spot of wax will be placed on one end before the artist blows the yolk from the egg.

This is done because yolk can take off the dye on the egg, Lemley said.

The wax then is peeled off the egg, and the design remains.

The dye used is not what most people purchase at stores to make Easter eggs at home, Lemley said. For pysanky, Lemley uses aniline dyes that result in more brilliant colors.

Lemley and his crew will help participants with their designs and have examples on display at the class and also at the library until the end of March.

Lemley said he got interested in pysanky when he took a class 15 years ago at a Carnegie church.

“As a former college art major, it sounded interesting. I've been making the eggs ever since.”

For those who can't take the class at the library, pysanky classes are taught at St. John's Russian Orthodox Church in Ambridge from 7 to 9 p.m. every Friday during Lent.

Joanne Barron is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-324-1406 or jbarron@tribweb.com.

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