Postcard from Ukraine : Pysanky

Khristos Voskres! Христос воскрес! Χριστὸς ἀνέστη! Happy Easter to all who celebrated over the weekend.

This year was the first time that I tried my hand at making pysanky, decorated eggs that are an essential element of the Ukrainian holiday. This tradition is much older than Christianity, attested by the fact that painted eggs are part of the Persian vernal equinox celebration, Nowrouz. Pysanky is one of the most distinctive Ukrainian arts, and every region has its own design and technique. The motifs can be religious–angels, Virgin Mary with a baby Jesus, a cross, or more commonly, flowers, leaves, birds nesting in tree branches and geometrical motifs. The design is first made with beeswax and then the egg is colored.
pysankycherry blossoms 2016-1

As you can see, I first colored my egg yellow and then added more wax on the parts I wished to remain yellow. After this was done, I colored the egg red.

Photography by Bois de Jasmin

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51 Comments

  • zephyr: Victoria, your egg is very spring-like and pretty; It’d be hard to crack it open and eat it!

    Hope you had a great Easter! May 4, 2016 at 9:11am Reply

    • Victoria: It’s not to be eaten. The egg is emptied before the design is applied. It’s a purely decorative thing. May 4, 2016 at 2:15pm Reply

      • zephyr: Silly me! So I guess you just put little holes at the ends and blow out the contents. This way, at least, they become mementos and you can save them for future Easters. May 4, 2016 at 11:50pm Reply

        • Ida: In Poland “pisanki” are not always emptied. Some eggs can be boiled in dyes (my family preferred natural dyes, like onion peels for brown or beet juice for pink) and then decorated by scratching all sorts of things on their surface with a sharp tool. May 5, 2016 at 6:53am Reply

        • Victoria: Yes, exactly. You put a small hole at the narrow end and a slightly larger one at the wide end. Shake well and then blow out the contents. Then the egg is washed in a mixture of water and vinegar.

          We also color eggs to be eaten during the Easter meal and occasionally put simple designs on them, but those kinds of eggs are no longer called pysanky (literally, “drawn” or “written on”). They’re called krashanky, ie. “colored ones.” In Ukraine pysanky are exclusively the artistic objects. Of course, mine is a poor example of it; I should post pictures of the real thing. May 5, 2016 at 7:05am Reply

        • Victoria: Here is the real deal:
          Pysanka with Flowers and Birds May 5, 2016 at 7:12am Reply

          • zephyr: Just amazing – I wonder how long it took to create that one! She definitely had to plan the process out on that one. Thanks for sharing, Victoria! May 5, 2016 at 7:28am Reply

            • Victoria: This is a wooden egg, by the way. Slightly more durable for a planned transportation to Belgium. 🙂

              Yes, it’s quite amazing, because all elements of the design flow into each other. May 5, 2016 at 7:33am Reply

  • Tijana: Воістину воскрес, Victoria (or as we say in Serbian very similarly Ваистину васкрсе!).

    Beautiful eggs, I hope you enjoyed your Easter weekend! This year, it fell on my birthday so I was celebrating two events!

    <3 May 4, 2016 at 9:14am Reply

    • Victoria: Happy belated birthday, Tijana!
      Of course, I must ask what perfume you were wearing. May 4, 2016 at 2:15pm Reply

      • Tijana: Thank you! I received, as a slightly early birthday gift, a bottle of MFK’s Oud Satin Mood, which of course I had to use right away! I’ve been testing and loving it for several months, but the price tag just kept holding me back! I was so happily surprised when I got it!!! May 4, 2016 at 5:37pm Reply

        • Nora Szekely: Happy birthday Tijana!

          I tried Oud Satin Mood a few weeks ago and it is indeed a unique scent. Glad, you received it as a gift, it’s always wonderful to get a present that is just what the heart desires. May 5, 2016 at 4:46am Reply

          • Tijana: Thank you Nora! You are absolutely right! 🙂 May 5, 2016 at 5:55am Reply

        • Victoria: What a perfect gift! Enjoy it. 🙂 May 5, 2016 at 2:18pm Reply

  • Julie: Victoria, you had beautiful results for your first time!
    This looks like so much fun. Thank you for the glorious pictures. May 4, 2016 at 9:15am Reply

    • Victoria: The design could have been neater, but I just did it freehand. There was a fair in the main square and the masters offered free classes. I couldn’t pass it by. May 4, 2016 at 2:17pm Reply

  • spe: Beautiful design and color choices, Victoria! Happy Easter!

    One of my aunts gave me some decorated eggs from the Ukraine. They feel like a light weight wood and have intricate, lacquer designs with flowers and geometric shapes. May 4, 2016 at 9:15am Reply

    • Victoria: Yes, there are wooden ones too, and they are decorated and then lacquered. I bought a few of those, from different parts of Ukraine. May 4, 2016 at 2:18pm Reply

  • Claudia: Beautiful colors! The technique reminds me of crayon resist I used in grammar school! May 4, 2016 at 9:59am Reply

    • Victoria: I’m going to look it up. I’m not familiar with crayon resist. May 4, 2016 at 2:19pm Reply

  • Phyllis Iervello: I am glad you enjoyed your Easter. The photo is absolutely beautiful and the eggs are decorated perfectly! May 4, 2016 at 10:38am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you very much! 🙂 May 4, 2016 at 2:19pm Reply

  • Patricia: These are so pretty, Victoria! Do you blow out the contents of the egg before painting? May 4, 2016 at 12:00pm Reply

    • Victoria: Yes. You make two small holes on both ends, shake the egg and then blow out the contents. It’s washed well and degreased before being used for a pysanka. May 4, 2016 at 2:21pm Reply

  • OperaFan: So beautiful….. Happy Easter to you, Dear V! May 4, 2016 at 12:33pm Reply

  • LenaD: You are so artistic! May 4, 2016 at 1:01pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you, Lena. Mostly curious. May 4, 2016 at 2:22pm Reply

  • Amalia: Ἀληθῶς Ἀνέστη! or Ἀληθῶς ὁ Κύριος! is the response in Greece that means “Truly, He is Risen/Resurrected!” I wish you health and happiness to you and your loved ones and make the most beautiful pysanky for many many many years! May 4, 2016 at 2:00pm Reply

    • Victoria: Same to you, Amalia! I wish you and your family happiness. Hope that all of your wishes will come true. May 4, 2016 at 2:28pm Reply

  • Aurora: What a stellar result, the egg looks so festive! Is it a special kind of wax? May 4, 2016 at 2:22pm Reply

    • Victoria: Pure beeswax. The little tool to paint with it looks like a tiny funnel, so the wax has to be 100% pure, or else the funnel gets clogged. May 4, 2016 at 2:29pm Reply

  • Alicia: I have several wooden eggs from Ukraine with geometric designs, but none as joyful as yours. Happy Easter, dear Victoria. All the blessings of the season on you and yours. May 4, 2016 at 5:14pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you, Alicia! Best wishes to you too. May 5, 2016 at 2:17pm Reply

  • Neva: It’s an interesting technique and the result is absolutely amazing. I love the earthy colors you chose! I hope you had a beautiful Easter with your family. May 4, 2016 at 5:15pm Reply

    • Victoria: It was yellow and red, but together they make a sienna shade. Thank you, Neva. May 5, 2016 at 2:18pm Reply

  • Priya: I love this! Your page is so pretty and vintage! 🙂 May 4, 2016 at 5:20pm Reply

  • Michaela: Happy Easter! Late, but wholeheartedly.
    Congratulations for the beautiful decorated egg! May 5, 2016 at 3:37am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you so much, Michaela! May 5, 2016 at 2:19pm Reply

  • Nora Szekely: Happy Easter!

    In Hungary, we celebrate the roman catholic date so we had Easter in March this year. However, we also decorate eggs! People used to do it with beeswax, nowadays some first dye the whole egg then put on stickers. 🙂 I tried both methods with my family as a child.
    My grandparents used to hide the eggs (and some chocolate for added motivation) in our weekend house’s garden and my brother and I went on a treasure hunt. Thanks for reminding me of the importance of traditions. May 5, 2016 at 4:43am Reply

    • Victoria: Such a lovely tradition! No wonder you remember it all so vividly. May 5, 2016 at 2:20pm Reply

  • Karen A: Very pretty! Batik on an egg! Happy Easter and a joyful spring. May 5, 2016 at 8:01am Reply

    • Victoria: I was thinking of batik too. Not something I’ve tried before, but now I’m curious. May 5, 2016 at 2:21pm Reply

    • SilverMoon: Hi Karen, when I read about the technique applied, I thought exactly the same. My mother used to do beautiful batik stuff from table mats to skirts (this was back in the 1970s). But never on eggs.

      Victoria, what an amazing first attempt. I’m curious about what is done with the eggs? In the old German tradition (my mother is German), hollowed out eggs are also beautifully dyed and painted, little match sticks with tied treads were slipped into one of the holes and the eggs were hung on some dried branches in a pretty vase or jar. This was typical decoration at Easter time. Sort of like a spring version of a Christmas tree. May 7, 2016 at 9:00am Reply

      • Victoria: They are usually lined in a shallow basket or arranged on plates or hung from branches the way you describe.

        Thank you. I see the mistakes, of course, but I’m still happy to have tried the technique. May 10, 2016 at 11:25am Reply

  • mj: Past (Catholic) Easter I went to Vienna and enjoyed the Easter Markets there. There were many different beautifully decorated eggs and lots of pussy willow branches! After reading your post on Willow Sunday I understood why there were so many. I come from a country full of palms, so willow branches in Palm Sunday are kind of exotic for me.
    In Spain, the tradition of painting eggs is not common but in Asturias, in Northern Spain, where the “Fiesta de los Güevos Pintos” (painted eggs holiday) is very popular. Usually they paint the eggs with Asturian motives: traditional architecture and dresses, but I’ve seen eggs painted with football team seals! May 6, 2016 at 3:35am Reply

    • Victoria: Fascinating! The egg painting tradition is so old, and I was curious to see the similar designs on the Persian eggs painted for Nowruz. I will have to look up the “Fiesta de los Güevos Pintos”. May 6, 2016 at 6:22am Reply

  • Natalie: Wow,that was your first attempt, how beautiful! You must be quite the artist. We got painted wooden Easter eggs from my Ukrainian grandmother which are keepsakes. May 6, 2016 at 1:00pm Reply

    • Victoria: You’re very kind! I had a lot of fun with it. May 6, 2016 at 3:16pm Reply

  • Erry: Batik on eggs! How fascinating! I see batik almost everyday but never thought that the technique can be applied on eggs. May 13, 2016 at 6:54pm Reply

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