Pysanky creates egg-cellent ornaments
Art and heritage come together as Kiski Area Intermediate School art teacher Joan Wesolosky teaches the ancient egg-decorating method of Ukrainian pysanky.
Wesolosky will teach two Beautiful Egg Workshops, which benefit the Honors Art Club, March 7 and 14.
“I call it Beautiful Egg Workshop because it includes the traditional with new,” Wesolosky says. “It is Ukrainian and pysanky in origin. At the turn of the century, there were lots of Eastern Europeans in this area. It is part of Western Pennsylvania.”
The workshops have been filling quickly with some returning from prior sessions. The first class of 20 people is full. There are just a few slots available in the second session.
Pysanky is an ancient Ukrainian word that means “to write.” Intricate, symbolic decorations were used to promote health, fertility and wealth.
The elaborate, colorful eggs are traditionally given to family and friends at Easter, and they are sometimes given as gifts for special occasions such as birthdays, weddings or at Christmas.
Many other Eastern European ethnic groups decorate eggs for Easter, including those from Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia.
“I do love teaching this project because of the heritage,” Wesolosky says. “It's a way of passing on a tradition. It's festive. It's personal. They can put a name on the egg. They can put a symbol on it. They're decorative. People tell me they remember their grandparents having the eggs. Some of my students say they still have these in their churches.”
Wesolosky teaches the traditional batik process using beeswax and dye to her eighth-grade elective-art students and to those who participate in her workshops. Her students in the spring decorate them as Easter eggs, while her fall students decorate them as Christmas ornaments.
The wax is applied using a electric wax pen known as an kistka. An egg lathe holds and spins the egg.
“The eggs are very geometric,” Wesolosky says. “It's all practical geometry. You block off the lines. The outline is white and you dip the egg in the color for 30 seconds to three minutes depending on how much color you want. You damp-dry it, and then dip in the next color. Anything under wax has the original color. The eggs are heated to 230 degrees in the oven and the wax comes off. The lines will be white.”
Class participants can select three color options to use on their eggs.
“I have 12 different colors of dyes,” Wesolosky says. “They will make a complete egg in one class. I will varnish it or they can varnish it at home.”
Debbie Black is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.