The revealing process of Pysanka Eggs

First lets meet the artist. Cynthia Ann Gedz is from Chautauqua County, New York. She attended Jamestown Community College and graduated with high honors and an Associate’s degree in Art/Liberal Arts. Ms. Gedz spent nearly ten years in Southern California where she attended California Institute of the Arts (CalArts), obtaining her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree before moving to New Mexico, USA. Ms Gedz first began the folk art of Ukrainian pesanka in Southern California at the Ukrainian Art Center on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles in 1988. Her first egg won third place overall in the Easter competition. She took a hiatus from the art form for a while, but by 1997 she was attending shows and demonstrating the method of applying wax to the egg and dyeing it in analine dye baths in Santa Fe and Albuquergue.

Though it may look like it, you see there is no ‘painting’ going on here. That is a misnomer, and the most difficult for others not acquainted with the art form to understand. Of course this is because they see color, but there are indeed ways of getting anything colored without using paint!

To apply wax to the egg’s surface I use the traditional “kistka”, which is a stylus filled with small amounts of beeswax heated over a candle flame. One way observers have described this process is that everything is in “reverse”. When I apply the wax I am utilizing the wax resist method similar to Batiking, which is normally done on fabrics in India, Malaysia and other parts of the world.

Here is the process:

You start by dying a light color like yellow or using the egg shell itself.

Use the kistka to draw the first design. The wax resists the next color to be dyed while the yellow color has been preserved by the wax.

This process continues going from light to dark colors, drawing part of the design each time.

At the end of the process the egg is covered with wax, which really doesn’t look like much, but I find interesting none-the-less

The real treasure is revealed in the next step when the wax is removed.

Carefully warm the egg with the candle

Wipe away heated wax with soft cloth or paper towel

THIS is where the treasure is revealed! Even first timers can appreciate the finished design as the colors are revealed. One doesn’t need to be a professional artist to obtain satisfying results!

This is truly an ancient art. Chards of pesanka have been excavated from grave sites two thousand years old near the city of Trypillia in Ukraine. Here the free flowing and intertined designs called “Trypillian” originated. These artists relied on splintered bones instead of kistkas to apply beeswax, and a limited number of colors from nature that were limited to shades of brown and reds, black and the original color of the egg. More can be said of the design symbolism in most of the pysanka we see today, but it would require another article to explain this much detail. There is story being told with each pesanky design! Also, traditionally Ukraine pysanka would be given as gifts to commemorate almost anything. Births, weddings, the success of crops, they were simply a way to share and show good wishes to those who are cared about. If you are interested in learning this ancient art, ACA will be holding a workshop in the near future. This is a good opportunity for multiple generations to share in a traditional and revered national art form by taking the class together. Recently moving back to Chautauqua County with her family Ms. Gedz is happy to be teaching a class in Ukrainian Pesanka, at Allegheny Center for the Arts, Oct. 19.