The Egg and I
Mar. 22, 2009 9:21 pm
Updated: Sep. 4, 2009 11:42 am
A few years ago a dear friend taught me how to wax and dye Ukrainian Easter eggs, and being a couple of obsessive crafters with lots of time on our hands, we settled down to make dozens and dozens of eggs. The basic idea is to draw a design on a raw egg with melted beeswax and dip the egg in dye. Then you wax over the color you want to keep and dip the egg in another color. And so on. Finally, you melt off all the wax to reveal the finished design, shellac the egg to preserve the colors, then cross your fingers and blow out the insides.
This ancient folk art had been passed down through generations of Eastern European women, from mother to daughter, and now my friend was sharing it with me because someone had shared it with her. And now I'm sharing it with you.
In the Ukraine, the eggs themselves are called pysanky and they're turned out by the dozens for Easter, to be given away to close family and friends. If my friend and I had been brought up there, we would have begun learning how to make pysanky when we were very young, and we would have learned all about the symbolism behind the designs and the colors.
We would have added our pysanky to the cache of eggs made by the women in our families during Lent, and over the years we would have perfected our skills. And in turn we would have taught our own daughters how to wax and dye these intricate, ancient designs on fragile hens' eggs.
But my friend and I came to this in our adulthood so our eggs reflected our untrained hands, and the patterns and colors we used were informed by personal preference rather than ancient symbolism. And we made up our own patterns, too. We even broke free of the Easter connection and made Christmas-themed pysanky as gifts. Well, at least we still held to the gifting part of the tradition.
Still the bond between woman and girl, ancient tradition and modern crafting, was renewed again and again as we sat together chatting, drawing, waxing, dyeing, and on and on to that breathless moment when we would extrude the raw yolk and white, hoping our eggs would not shatter from the pressure of our expectations.
Easter eggs, ancient and modern, symbolize rebirth and renewal. How fitting it will be when I sit down again this year to make a few eggs and remember my friend, who lost her battle with breast cancer last year. But I'll hear her voice and her laughter in my head. And I'll try not to crack my eggs.
Do you have Easter crafting traditions? I'd love to hear all about them. Please drop me a line and share your stories.
I've posted a step-by-step photo tutorial on my next blog post, The Egg and I - part II.
Pysanky tools: a kitska and a lump of beeswax.
Ukrainian Easter eggs aka pysanky.
Assortment of pysanky, some better than others, all made in friendship and love.