I love hearing about family traditions. And so with Easter almost upon us, I asked my friend Deanna Martin to share one of hers.
All the photos in this post show eggs that Deanna made and they are just amazing. Her talented dad - Tom Wrenn - took these phenomenal photos.
Next year, I’ll try to show you a step by step tutorial on making these yourself.
For now, though, I asked Deanna to tell you the pysanky story and give you an overall idea of how she does it!
My tradition: Pysanky
By Deanna Martin
During the Easter season, stores are stocked with plenty of creative ways to decorate eggs: tried-and-true dye tablets, egg wrap sleeves, tie dye eggs, glitter-covered eggs, eggs with bling and even eggs with googly eyes and pipe cleaner ears.
I started making pysanky as a teenager growing up in a Slovak family. While the designs can be complex, the process is simple, similar to a batik process used on fabrics.
A tool called a kistka – imagine a pencil with a tiny metal funnel on the tip – is used to scoop up a small amount of beeswax. The funnel is held near a candle, melting the wax inside. The kistka is then used like a pencil to draw melted wax on a white egg, which can be raw or blown out to leave an empty shell. The wax hardens almost immediately, protecting the areas covered and keeping them white.
Pysanky are most often associated with Ukranian designs. But similar to home design –where a southern style home varies greatly from a modern high rise – different styles are associated with different regions of Eastern Europe.
Slovak designs are often made with simple pins instead of kistkas, resulting in simple, yet beautiful, designs.
My great uncle, a Carpatho-Rusyn, would sit at his small kitchen table in an old house in Youngstown, Ohio, using only a pin, a candle and one color dye to make stunning pysanky.
I made the pysanky in the photos here a few years ago for Christmas gifts using a modern electric kistka, which evenly heats the wax and makes the process much faster.
Pysanky are said to have been made since before the time of Christ, so the religious themes often associated with them are a fascinating mix of Christian and pagan symbols and superstitions that can be interpreted in many different ways. An eight-pointed star can represent a rose, or Christ. Triangles can show air, water and fire, or the holy trinity. Dots could be stars, or Mary's tears.
There are symbols for love, unity, protection of children, fertility, good harvest and just about anything else you can imagine. Colors have their own symbolism: white for purity, blue for loyalty, pink for success and other colors for other concepts.
The pysanky I made here are based on traditional symbols and patterns, but the process could just as easily be used to create modern patterns in modern colors, cute Easter symbols (think bunny faces) or any other design.
If you want to try your hand at making pysanky, check out Ukrainian Gift Shop, my favorite online store for supplies.
And if this all seems way too complicated – especially since Easter is this weekend – take heart. You can buy simple egg wraps that replicate pysanky.
Thanks Deanna for sharing this fantastic tradition and your beautiful work. It’s so impressive.
Tell us about one of your family’s Easter traditions…
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