I have always loved to dye Easter eggs. I’m sure you’ve seen the little dye kits that come with dye tablets, a little wire egg “dipper”, a white crayon, and some stickers. I went all out with those. I mixed the colors, specialized in rainbow eggs. I was never happy with the results from the crayon. The theory is the wax repels the dye, but it was really hard to get anything you draw to come out. The lines are uneven and there are bits of wax everywhere. As much as I tried new techniques, I felt egg dying was kind of limited as an art. (In my head it was a mindless craft, still enjoyable and even nostalgic, but not an art.) Plus at the end, the egg shell is peeled off, so it was temporary.
A few years ago, a friend invited me over to do egg dying. I walked in to a much more elaborate set up than I was used to, including candles and little wax tools. Introducing: pysanky! A Ukrainian egg dying technique.
It blew my mind.
These eggs are BEAUTIFUL! And the shell is hallow (egg blown out) so they last.
Fair disclaimer. This technique takes time and a steady hand. Essentially, you use the kistka (a wax pot on a handle) to draw on the egg. The candle heats up the pot and keeps the wax melted so it comes out of the hole in the bottom of the pot. They come in different gauges to make thinner or thicker lines.
The color work is done in layers. The first is white. Add wax to the egg wherever it should remain white.
Then you dye the egg the first color. The dyes for this technique is a heavier dye than the children’s kits. There is an order to use the dyes in so they cover each other and it isn’t as intuitive- I would have thought the lightest colors are before the darker. That is mostly true, but there are some that are surprises. For example, green is before red.
Add more wax, and anywhere it is added will preserve the first color you dyed. Repeat the dye and wax steps as desired. You end up with an egg mostly covered in wax.
Finally, carefully melt the wax off, getting the egg just hot enough to start the wax melting and wipe off the wax. Get it too hot and the egg can explode.
There are people who do this every day as professional and use a wide variety of eggs (chicken, ostrich…) They have a much steadier hand and work much more quickly than me. This year, I only finished one.
Still, my friend and I have made it a tradition around Easter to clear our schedule for a few hours, get together, sit, chat, and dye.
I also love to get these out at Christmas time to use them as ornaments. Right now, just on a little mini-tree, but maybe some day I’ll have enough to cover a big one. Who knows? It’s more about the process right now, but the result is pretty as well.
What about you?
How do you celebrate Easter?
Do you hand make any holiday decorations?