Pysanky, or Ukrainian Easter eggs, are written, rather than painted or decorated. According to Walter Ciszkewycz, an employee of the Ukrainian Museum-Archives in Tremont, “the word Pysanka is derived from the Ukrainian word pysaty (Писати), which means to write.”
To make these intricate works of art, the pysanka-maker utilizes a writing tool, or kistka, and draws the initial lines of the overall pattern using melted beeswax (like one would use ink). The wax serves to keep the predetermined white parts of the egg white, even as the clean chicken egg is then put through several dye baths to color the shell. After each dye bath, the areas with the most recently dyed color are covered in wax to protect that color from the next dye bath. The egg is dyed, beginning with the lightest color and ending with the darkest. Once the final layer of color is applied, the egg is carefully heated to melt away the wax, and the beautiful pattern is finally visible.
Historically, the tradition of pysanka-making is part of celebrating the pagan ritual of praising the coming of spring. It has a deep history in Ukrainian culture, and common pysanka decorations include solar motifs with the sun as the focal point.
The current exhibit on display at the Ukrainian Museum-Archives showcases the work of Ohio-based artist Tanya Osadca, a native of Ukraine whose work replicates original antique pysanka patterns to help preserve and archive this Ukrainian tradition and its designs.
The Ukrainian Museum-Archives is offering pysanky-making classes as part of its yearly Easter Bazaar. The classes are every Friday and Saturday from March 15-April 13, except for March 29 and 30. Class details, including times, cost, and number of people required to fill a class, are available on the museum’s website. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 216.781.4329 to sign up.
—Rebecca Petrilli, Photos courtesy of Ukrainian-Museum Archives