Ukrainian Eggs: Shelling Out Artistry

Ukrainian Easter Eggs

We pride ourselves on employing some of the best graphic artists in the industry, and when one of our team members does something amazing, we have to brag about it. Recently we were blown away by the artistic talents of one member of our team, Elise Anzini.

Elise is one our vinyl wizards here at Rush Order Tees, but on the side, she creates her own incredible artwork…on eggshells! Elise took the time to give us a little inside scoop on a family tradition she takes part in every year around Easter–creating Ukrainian Eggs, otherwise known as pysanky.

The Pysanky Tradition

Ukrainian Pysanky

Pysanky, or Ukrainian Eggs, are a tradition that date back to Pagan times. In ancient, pre-Christian times, the eggs were used to worship the Slavic sun god, Dazhboh. Why eggs? Because birds were the sun god’s creatures, and the eggs were as close as the ancient Ukrainian people could get to them. Decorating the eggs with symbols of nature became custom in Slavic cultures, particularly in Ukraine because of their majestic nature.

At that time, eggs were deemed sacred, representing new birth and holding special powers. The decorated eggs were therefore symbolic of the coming forth of Spring and the ending of Winter. When Christianity was introduced in Ukraine, the tradition continued, and eventually the eggs became associated with Easter and the rebirth of man.

Creating The Designs

Ukrainian Pysanky

Elise has been creating these masterful designs for as long as she can remember–at age 3 she was already learning the family tradition from her mother. Elise explained that when she was a kid, she used stencils from Ukrainian Easter egg books, which you can find in Ukrainian stores and online. While she’s always enjoyed making pysanky as a craft, she got even more into creating to the designs as she got older, especially while studying Illustration at Moore College of Art.

Since the eggs have been a family tradition for as long as Elise knows, her family’s got a pretty technical process down, which she kindly took the time to share with us.

Elise starts with a carton (or several cartons) of eggs, which she recommends buying local, as the shells are normally less brittle. Next, using a tool called an egg blower, she gently drills holes into both ends of each egg, ‘blowing’ out the contents, so that she’s left with just the shell.

She then begins with her design. This is where Elise’s artistic capabilities exceed the norm–she comes up with all of these insanely intricate designs from scratch. Elise pencils her hand-drawn designs straight onto the eggshells. Luckily for us less artistically-inclined DIY-ers, we can still use the stencils found in the Ukrainian pysanky books.

Waxing and Dying

Ukrainian Pysanky

Here comes the complicated part–get ready! After her design is completely drawn on, Elise breaks out a fancy tool called a kitska, which is essentially a pen that heats and melts wax so that you can use it to draw fine lines. With a steady hand, Elise traces over only the parts of the design that she wants to remain white, covering them with the wax. The wax is dye-resistant, so it preserves whatever color is underneath. Then, using special dyes that are sold in Ukrainian stores, the dying process begins.

Logically, Elise starts with the lightest colors first, and works her way up to darker colors. She begins with yellow. After she’s dyed the egg yellow and patted it dry, she traces a bit more of the design, and moves on to the next color, orange. She repeats the process again and again, until she gets to the black dye.

When she’s done the dying, Elise places the eggs in the oven to melt off the wax and gently paper towels them to reveal her beautifully constructed designs. Finally, she finishes them off with a polyurethane varnish to make them shine.

The process can take some time, depending on how many eggs you create. This batch took Elise about 5 hours–but it was worth it! The eggs look like they were created by a machine, not drawn by hand. While they might not connect us to the sun god Dazhboh, they certainly look majestic!

Check out more of Elise’s crazy awesome pysanky designs on Etsy!

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