Pysanky – General Tips

So I’ve teased you a bit about pysanky… let’s get going on this!  Here’s a few general tips.

I’ve been doing this for quite a while… 14 years?  15?  13?  But come this time of year, and I still search google and youtube and vimeo and pinterest and see what I can find.  Lately, I’ve found a new tip or two…

Equipment:  I always buy from the Ukrainian Gift Shop… quality supplies and speedy service!

Eggs:  I started off just using storebought eggs for my pysanky.  Avoiding those with clear spots (which won’t take dye), wavy ends where the hen pushed a little hard (not the prettiest), and calcium spots (another surface imperfection).  The problem with storebought is that the eggs have rolled along on little rubber tracks.  You can’t see them until you dye, and then the rubber tracks resist the dye.  Usually, you can still get a fair product by the time you hit the black dye, but I’d recommend you just find some home grown eggs if you can.

All I had ever done was rinse them off, and proceed with the wax process.  This year I found someone who puts the eggs in vinegar.  Vinegar will eat away at the shell, so you just leave it until it is well covered in tiny bubbles.  Then remove it and dry it off.  Supposedly, this helps the eggshell take the dye.  I’m testing it… but it sounds logical.

Dye:  Every year you must remix your yellow, gold, and orange dyes.  Why they tend to “slime” and other colors don’t, I don’t know… but I’ve had other colors last much longer than those colors.  Someone on the net suggested using the dye double strength.   Aniline dyes are so strong, that’s usually not necessary, but I wonder when I’m giving classes if it would just speed up the process a smidge?  I haven’t done it yet, but I’ll keep it in mind.  I have found the weaker dyes (as in 3 years old) lend a denim look to their lighter colors as well.  Which is something to keep in mind for artistic difference!  Would half strength do the same?  I don’t know!

Patterns:  I’ve done everything from traditional, trypillian, fabric design, quilt design, Native American motifs.  I’ve made eggs look like penguins and I’ve made eggs that resembled artists’ work I’ve admired.  If  you need a basket full of eggs and don’t have the 2-3 hours/egg to fully create a traditional pysanka… Make a basketful of vining leaf eggs using different intensities of the same color.  Drop the egg in the dye for 5 seconds, and draw your vine.  Put it back in for 15 seconds and draw some leaves.  Back in for 30 seconds and more leaves.  Back in for 45 seconds and more leaves. (Times are approximate!)  You just want darker and darker color for each set.  When you’re done with your vines/leaves, drop it in a pint of water with a tablespoon of bleach in it.  Keep an eye on it, and remove when pale.  Remove wax as normal.  You can do a large quantity of these relatively fast, and people will be impressed!

Wax:  Just use the dark beeswax… it makes it so much easier to see…

Kistkas:  Delrin medium is my favorite.  I’ve never used an electric kistka… I *like* using a candle…

The “problem” I see when I teach a class, is people get caught up in copying my design exactly.  Even though I tell them not to, to look at other examples in the books and catalogs I have laying around, people always want to make their eggs look like my eggs.  When their confidence appears later in the class, then they branch out and differences appear!  I love this part!  Pysanky is much like doodling.  Keep going and fill in the open space with lines, dots, crosshatching, waves!  The more the merrier!  There is nothing *wrong* in pysanky… just have fun, be creative, and be yourself!

Tomorrow… the photo tutorial!  Tonight, enjoy last year’s video where I recreated (ha!) Jan Brett’s The Easter Egg section on pysanky.


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