Monday, April 18, 2011

There's a lot to be said for tradition, as I was reminded at an annual gathering to make Ukrainian Easter eggs or pysanky.


About fifty people, who are so ingrained in the fabric of my life that they are all family, came to my father-in-law's home in Venice for a day of egg dying, feasting and beach time.


None of us is Ukrainian, as far as I know. We started doing this years ago when my mother-in-law, who loved art, literature and all things cultural, decided to take a class in the craft, bought the necessary tools and set her vast numbers of friends and family on this annual journey.

She's been gone awhile now, but she would have loved seeing her house filled to the brim with loved ones, having a fantastic time--children skittering around, eyes sparkling, laughing and then settling down to try their small hands at the task.



Some make the intricate, traditional designs that incorporate geometric patterns and symbolic figures. The symbolism dates from pagan fertility celebrations and later Christian beliefs.


Many of our group do free-hand design of anything from abstract to pop. One year, Max, who is an artist, made an egg that looked like ancient Greek pottery.


There's something meditative about the process, which is much more complex than ordinary egg dying. For one thing, the eggs are raw! Yes, that means sometimes there is breakage and tears.

* The dying is batik-method, using non-edible dyes. With a stylus, the person scoops up a tiny bit of beeswax, melts it over an alcohol lamp and draws thin lines of wax to hold color. So if the design calls for white, the first lines are done before any dying. Then the eggs are dipped in each dye (from light to dark colors) for each part of the design to be waxed in that color.


The person in this photo is locking in yellow with the wax.


* When the egg is done, it is soaked in solvent to remove the wax. Dona, the Wonder Woman, who has brought all the equipment for the party for decades, takes home the finished eggs, blows the insides out and varnishes them to bring back the next year. She does this for students in classes at her pottery studio, as well.

* If that's not enough, Dona also makes enchiladas for the annual event. John makes chili. I make deviled eggs (for 50 people that's a lot of peeling!). Other people brought pulled pork, salads, tamales, dips, cakes. We ate well. We created well. We loved each other anew.


Fern, we did you proud.



I read somewhere that pysanky derives from a word meaning to write. So you write on the eggs. I think a bit of the person's spirit, what makes them unique, extends to their eggs.

* I had a contemplative, sensory-filled, fun and satisfying weekend. Hope you did, too.


(PS. Still have trouble with Blogger's paragraph spacing, as I know others are, too. So if this is wonky, that's why)


Unknown said...

So pretty! We do the regular old PASS dying. Your way of decorating is much more exciting.

Happy Easter! :)

Yvonne Osborne said...

Wow! How beautiful. The only question I have is does the process make the egg inedible? If so, when she blows out the inside is it thrown away? Couldn't that be done first and scrambled, or something?

Anyway, this post makes me want to color eggs which I haven't done in a very long time. said...

I loved this. I'm going to try it with my art loving high schoolers.

Rebecca Gomez said...

Oh, what fun. I would love to try a more creative egg dying method this year.

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Karen: It is exciting and daunting--holding a raw egg and trying to think ahead on design and color requires focus. But sooo fun. Happy Easter to you, too!

Yvonne: Inedible, yes. These eggs are not to eat at all. I think some people may blow them out before. That would make the shell very fragile to work with, I should think. Especially, at the end where you rub off the softened wax.

Laraine: It is fabulous fun. I suggest getting a book or printing out some stuff online about the equipment and technique. There are tons of books with examples of how to build the complex designs. I gave the simplified version in this post.

Rebecca: I hope you do try! I love doing this, but you need to get the equipment and instructions like I said above to Laraine. Plan on spending hours lost in the process! It's worth it.

Anonymous said...

This is amazing. I've seen people paint masterpieces on Easter eggs. Its quite a talent. And I'm still experiencing paragraph spacing troubles with Blogger too.

Donna said...

Beautiful eggs, beautiful tradition, which reminds me of our much more prosaic rituals. When our children were little we laughed our way through whatever impossible technique Dudley's came up with that year. They NEVER worked (or we couldn't do it), so we had PAAS on hand as well.

The hard-boiled eggs would become Golden Egg gravy on Easter morning: the whites of the eggs in white sauce over toast with "golden" crumbled eggs yolks on top.

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Stephen: I am stunned by some of the eggs that come out of our parties, especially from the kids who get really into it.

Donna: It is truly a beautiful tradition--far more involved than ordinary egg dying.
Sounds like your egg gravy was a tradition, too!

Davin Malasarn said...

Tricia, this is so cool! Now I want to learn. I've always liked decorating easter eggs for some reason. I like the smallness of the egg and the fact that you can be whimsical with what you do or you can take it very seriously. I'm going to be reading up on pysanky.

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Domey: It's so much fun. Maybe next year, you should just come to our party in Venice. You'd be welcome.

kathrynjankowski said...

What a lovely tradition! Thanks for sharing.

Davin Malasarn said...

That's so incredibly nice of you. Thank you! :)

Anonymous said...

How creative. I haven't colored eggs in so long...I miss it.

My blog has the same paragraph problem.

I first delete all the paragraph spacing. Then I hit return at the beginning of the paragraph (not at the end of the paragraph, or else there will be two spaces instead of one). If that doesn't work, I switch to html view and delete
(break) codes that might be the culprit.

Anonymous said...

Oops, my comment got messed up. Before (break) I typed in < br > (without the spacing), and in my comment the code actually made a break.

VR Barkowski said...

So gorgeous! I've always wanted to learn this technique for coloring Easter eggs (or, as they're known in the PC Seattle Parks Department: spring spheres). What a wonderful tradition.

storyqueen said...

so gorgeous!

I would love to learn to make them someday.

As for the weekend....where the heck did it go??


Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Kathryn: Thank you!

Domey: Really, you could. We do it every year the week before Easter, so let's keep in touch.

Medeia: First, it runs all the paragraphs together in one big, ugly lump. When I make breaks, sometimes it stretches them way apart. Sigh. I have done it in html but so much time gets gobbled up.

Viva: I wish you hadn't moved to the other coast, I'd invite you, like Domey, to drop on by. :)

Shelley: So glad you like! And, hey, you do live on this coast, so you get the invite for next year, too.

Unknown said...

These are great. I especially love the Coca Cola one. :D

Sherrie Petersen said...

What a fun tradition! These are the most beautiful eggs!

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Stina: I love that one, too. The people who come are so creative and clever.

Sherrie: It is soooo much fun. You would love it.

Liza said...

What a lovely post! Such a tribute to your mother-in-law, and so much joy and fun. I love that you all gather this way.

Bish Denham said...

Okay, this is something I think I could get into. And how wonderful is it that your mother-in-laws tradition is being passed on?

Phoenix said...

I had never heard of pysanky until a friend had it at her birthday party a few weeks ago! I ended up showing up late to the event and was unable to dye any eggs, but they were so colorful and beautiful that I was just enthralled! Thank you for posting more about this so I could get even more of my pysanky fix. :)

Robyn Campbell said...

Incredibly beautiful, Pat. *wishes she lived close* I would love to learn this art. It looks to me as though a bit of the person's spirit extends to these eggs.

Thank you for sharing. I loved looking at each one.

Blogger! Bah humbug!

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Liza: It is as tribute to Fern in many ways, and I'm so glad to be able to still be part of it.

Bish: Isn't it wonderful? You should definitely try it.

Tracy: Oh, I hope your friend does it again and you get to design an egg. It's amazing.

Robyn: We always have a pile of fantastic eggs. I wish you could be here, too!

Jo Schaffer said...

That is so very cool.
My dad is an artist and so is my hubby. We get out the paints for eggs every year too-- it is so much fun!

LynNerdKelley said...

Fascinating, Tricia! I'm so intrigued. Those are beautiful works of art. I'm so glad that the eggs are preserved. I bet you have quite a beautiful collection. Do you keep them in a special glass display case? This would be something super cool anyways, but what I really love about it is that 50 family members get together to do it together. What a super family tradition and a great way for all of you to keep in touch and bond again every year.

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Jo: I love the sound of your tradition, too. Art soothes and refreshes and invigorates and all kinds of good stuff.

Lynn: Thank you. Yes, we have bowls and cases full--in multiple houses! I have one in a small glass case that I made years ago of a spider in a web.

Maria Cisneros Toth Blog said...

Hooray for tradition! What a special gift and legacy Fern has left behind for her family and friends to enjoy, share, and pass on to future generations. It all starts with one person. I'm sure Fern was smiling down from heaven! Sounds like a very special lady! :-)

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Maria: She was exceptional, and I miss her deeply.