Posted by: Kath Usitalo | April 22, 2011

Pysanky: Eggstreme Decorating

A variety of pysanky egg designs by Vera Samycia

Pysanky is the art of turning a plain egg into a colorful, intricately decorated egg.

Vera Samycia demonstrates the art of pysanky at the Chicago Visitor Center

Vera Samycia of Schaumburg, Illinois, learned the traditional Ukrainian craft from her mother, and she demonstrated the wax-resist method of applying the design—and her steady hand—earlier this month at the Chicago Water Works Visitor Center.

Pysanky is rooted in Easter, but over 400 of the folk art eggs are exhibited year ’round at the Ukrainian National Museum of Chicago where, says Vera, “I’ve got a whole wall of them” on display.

Vera makes the eggs throughout the year, and is beyond busy in the weeks leading up to Easter. Handcrafting the eggs is an involved process that utilizes a stylus called a kistka to apply the design in wax, and then dying the eggs in layers.

Design details are added in stages with the kistka, and more dying is done, until the egg is covered in wax. The wax is then melted away to reveal the colorful pattern. Other Eastern Europeans create similarly decorated natural and wooden eggs, but the intricate wax method is attributed to Ukraine.

Vera shows one of the works in progress; eggs in different stages of completion are on the table

I can barely accomplish a two-toned effect while dipping eggs in cups of dye; I’m sure if I tried my hand at pysanky I’d get the sequence wrong and end up with a solid black egg.

Thank goodness for talented artists like Vera who carry on these traditional folk arts.

NOTE: On the second Friday and Saturday of each month Illinois artists demonstrate and sell their work at the Chicago Water Tower Visitor Center  just off Michigan Avenue (the address is 163 E. Pearson St.).

The historic building is significant because it is one of a few structures to survive the devastating fire of 1871. Pick up brochures and maps, buy half price tickets to shows through Hot Tix, and refresh at the restrooms and cafe.

An assortment of Ukraine pysanky and other decorated eggs from Poland we've collected over the years; in the Detroit area you can buy them at Polish Art Center in Hamtramck

Visitor Info Click: Chicago

Note: I’m beginning to bust out of Michigan, THE Great Lakes State, to explore and occasionally share stories from the other states (Illinois, New York, Ohio, Indiana, Wisconsin, Minnesota and even Pennsylvania) plus Ontario, that touch the freshwater seas.

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