Pysanky eggs (pronounced peh-SAN-keh) are intricately decorated Easter eggs originally made in Ukraine. The folk patterns employed symbols and colors which gave special meaning to each design. Pysanky eggs were traditionally only made for Easter and thought to bring good luck and protection all the year through.
This egg-decorating activity provides the ideal setting for discussions about the power of symbols, and how culture and time can change the meaning of symbols. Don't let the calendar limit this craft. With a little creativity you can design Pysanky eggs for all seasons and holidays.
What You Need:
- Eggs – not boiled, at room temperature
- Pin or paper clip
- Egg cartons
- Short candle
- Powdered dyes from an art store or from pysanky kits, or you may use Easter egg dye kits (you can make these from food coloring – follow the recipe on the box)
- Cotton swabs
- Kistka tool: take a pencil with an eraser and push a small nail into the eraser – this will make a tool to draw the wax onto your egg
What You Do:
- Make sure your eggs get to room temperature.
- Use a pin to poke a hole in the top and bottom of the egg. Use a paper clip to poke the yoke and then swish the egg around to break it up.
- If you have a medicine syringe you can fill it with water and squirt it into the egg which will force the egg out of the shell. If you do not, place a straw over the top hole and blow into the egg until all of the contents are removed. Rinse your egg with warm water. Then place it into the microwave for 20 seconds.
- Put a dab of glue over your holes so the dye won't go into the eggs. Let this dry. Be sure not to smear the glue around the egg because the dye will not adhere anywhere the glue has been.
- Prepare the powdered dyes as per their directions – they will last for many years if kept in a sealed jar. If you are using Easter egg dye, prepare as directed.
- Light the candle (keep sleeves and long hair away from the flame) and warm the nail of the kistka.
- Dip the nail head into the melted wax and quickly draw onto your egg to make your pattern. Re-dip your kistka as needed.
- Lower the egg carefully into your yellow dye. Let it soak for 5 minutes and then remove it to dry. Then apply wax to yellow areas in new patterns.
- Dye your egg orange, again letting it soak for 5 minutes. Use the same method to dye it red, blue and black.
- When your egg is dry after the last color, hold it next to the flame until the wax is melted and gently rub the wax off with a rag. Do this until you have removed all the wax. You now have a finished Pysanky egg.
Many Pysanky artists use natural dyes that originated as closely guarded family secrets. You can experiment with beet juice or boiled onion skins to see what effect they will give and to develop your own family dye recipe!