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How to Make Beautiful Pysanky

Updated on December 22, 2015

Easter Eggs of the Ukraine

Pysanky are part of a beautiful, symbolic Eastern European tradition that originates in the Ukraine. Unlike traditional Easter eggs that are hard boiled and dyed, Pysanky are decorated when raw and age naturally, which allows the yolk and white to become dry. As long as there are no cracks and the pysanky is not damaged, they last indefinitely. Here's how you can make beautiful Ukrainian Easter eggs at home.

* Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons and Lubap. This photo is made available through a CC-BY-SA license .

My Pysanky Experience

I was introduced to this beautiful tradition through my grandmother's collecting of outstanding pysanky. I believe they were made by member of my grandfather's Ukrainian family. They were so delicate and ornate that I was never allowed to handle them as a child, but I was inevitably attracted to them. My grandmother kept her collection in a crystal bowl and in open-air hutch where they received plenty of ventilation and were protected from direct sunlight.

In seventh grade, my class made our own pysanky at Easter time. This is where I was first introduced to the methods. Although mine wasn't traditional, my grandma placed it together with the other eggs in her collection.

Since my introduction in pysanky, I've been fascinated with the traditions, patterns, symbols and history. Every year around Easter, I seem to seek out more information about this beautiful craft.

The History of Pysanka

For more than 3,000 years, the pre-Christian people of the Ukraine have been making symbolic, decorative dyed eggs in early spring.

The word Pysanky comes from the word "pysaty," which means to "write." Pysanka is the singular word and pysanky means more than one.

Historically, the methods for making pysanky were ritualistic. Scientifically or religiously, the egg is the ultimate symbol of fertility. In early spring when the first eggs are laid, farm families would save these fertilized eggs to make symbolic pysanky. Women and girls would decorate the pysanky in the cover of night while singing protective songs. Pysanky decorating was done in private to prevent someone with the evil eye from tainting these auspicious decorations.

Today, anyone can make pysanky, and they have lost part of the significance yet the symbolism remains.

Read more about the process and pysanky-making legends at LearnPysanky.com.

Pysanky Tools and Supplies

To create pysanky, you will need the following items:

  • Fresh, uncracked eggs
  • A kistka or stylus
  • A candle
  • Beeswax
  • Glass jars
  • Dye tablets
  • Several egg dippers
  • Rubberbands
  • Paper towels
  • A soft work surface or egg stand
Note: Use traditional Easter egg dyes, but don't dilute them fully to create stronger colors. Reactive acid dyes needed to color fabrics can also be used to create strong, vibrant colors.

Classic Ukrainian Fine Tip Kistka
Classic Ukrainian Fine Tip Kistka

A kistka is the tool that you use to draw thin beeswax lines on your egg. These lines resist the dye and become your design. Traditionally, it has a wood handle and a copper funnel. You heat the metal part on a candle and use it to scrape beeswax. Then, it can be heated again to let the melted wax flow through onto your egg.

 
Hansi Organics 100 Percent Organic Hand Poured Beeswax Premium Quality, Cosmetic Grade and Triple Filtered 5 oz
Hansi Organics 100 Percent Organic Hand Poured Beeswax Premium Quality, Cosmetic Grade and Triple Filtered 5 oz

I suppose that you could use other types of wax, but beeswax is in important part of the tradition. It makes a strong resist, it can be applied thickly or thinly depending on the size of your kistka, and it has a fine warm smell that make the process even more special.

 

How the Pysanky-Making Process Works

If you're familiar with batik fabrics, you probably understand the process for uses dye resists. This advanced process allows the pysanky maker to capture a wide variety of colors. To create a particular design or preserve a color the area is covered with a beeswax resist.

In most cases, the first resist lines are created in white. This can be done my wrapping rubberbands around the equator of the egg and tracing the outline. Many professional pysanky artists draw their initial design lightly in lead pencil, so the lines can be traced with the stylus.

The kistka or pysanky stylus features a small hopper. Traditionally, this is made from copper. The stylus is heated in a candle flame and the hot metal cuts though the beeswax block. The stylus can then be heated again to liquefy the beeswax and create fine resist lines on the egg. After the initial lines are created, the egg is dipped in the first color of dye, which is usually the lightest.

After the first layer of dye is applied, the pysanky maker created a second layer of resists. If the first dye color is yellow, designs applied at this time will be the same color. Once the second series of resists is applied, a second layer of dye is added. This process continues until the egg is completed or the darkest dye color is added.

* Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons and Lubap. This photo is made available through a CC-BY-SA license .

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http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/5b/UkiePysanky2006.jpg
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/5b/UkiePysanky2006.jpg

Symbolism of Pysanky Colors

The color red traditionally symbolizes life, joy and the sun.

The color yellow represents wealth, fertility, bountiful harvests.

Orange is frequently featured in pysanky. This color is said to present strength and passion.

Warm brown hues are used to represent the fertile soils of Mother Earth.

Black is a powerful color found on many traditional pysanky. It often represents death, respectfully remembrance for the dead and the darkness of eternity.

The color green is said to represent spring and and the bounty of plant, as many pasanky makers were farm families.

These dyes were traditionally prepared in clay jars using natural material, such as willow leaves, apple twigs or oak bark. Dyes were created using secret family recipes. However, chemical dyes are the norm today.

Read more about the symbolism of pysanky colors at the House of Ukraine. This page opens as a PDF.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons and Lubap.This photo is made available through a CC-BY-SA license .

pysanky star
pysanky star

Symbolic Pysanky Motifs

Symbolic motifs featured on traditional pysanky include a variety of page, pre-Christian motifs and universal symbols found across the world. Like many cultures in the Middle East, Mediterranean and North African region, people in the Ukraine are somewhat obsesses with the malevolent forces of the evil eye and are always devising ways to protect themselves and their families from their power.

Popular pasanky symbols include geometric symbols, animals, plants and celestial motifs like stars and medallions that represent the sun. Like many pagan traditions, Ukrainian farmers had the utmost resent for Mother Earth, so the majority of symbols are centered around nature

The stylized sun represented as a circular medallion is one of the most important symbols and represents the life-giving power and warmth of the sun that ripens the crops and makes the flowers bloom.

The broken cross or swastik motif is another benevolent symbol frequently featured on pysanky eggs. Tripods with branching hooks that capture evil spirits are also featured frequently.

Trees or branching tree of life motifs are also found frequently in main designs and decorative borders.

Stags, roosters, horses and birds also also popular symbols.

Beautiful geometric stars and rosettes are used alongside leaves, flowers and other botanical motifs.

Christian symbols, such as crosses, churches and fish, were added later.

View illustrations of popular pysanky symbols at GraphicOriginals.com.

Removing Your Pysanky Resist

Once the egg is dyed and all the desired designs are added, it's time to remove the beeswax resist. This is accomplished by gently heating the egg in your candle flame. Hold the egg to the flame for a brief second, and gently buff the soften wax off using a paper towel. Repeat this process until all of the beeswax is removed and your beautiful designs are magically revealed.

Finishing and Storing Pysanky

Once the wax resist is removed, many artists coat their pysanky with varnish, lard and other substances that produce a lovely shine.

Because pysanky are raw eggs, they must be stored in a well ventilated location. If stored properly they will last for decades or longer. For best results, pysanky should be handed carefully and never rattled or shaken. may experts recommend turning the eggs approximately twice per year.

My grandma always kept hers out of direct light. The UV rays in sunlight fade colors and may also lead to gas buildup, which could create exploding rotten eggs! :)

Many specialty companies sell wooden egg stands and gilded stands for displaying your prized pysanky.

Read more about finishing and storing your pysanky at LearnPysanky.com

3 Kistkas, Beeswax, Cleaning Wire & Instructions Egg Decorating Kit
3 Kistkas, Beeswax, Cleaning Wire & Instructions Egg Decorating Kit

As with any art of craft project, you can buy the supplies little by little or you can purchase a simple kit that give you everything you need to get started. It one also includes basic designs that you can do free handed or with help from rubber bands and other tools.

 

A Pysanky-Making Tutorial from YouTube

Have you made pysanky before? - Would you like to try it?

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    • Pat Goltz profile image

      Pat Goltz 4 years ago

      A wonderful lens! Thanks for sharing!

    • MelloKnitty LM profile image

      MelloKnitty LM 4 years ago

      What beautiful eggs!

    • QuiltFinger profile image
      Author

      QuiltFinger 4 years ago from Tennessee

      @Kathleen Hiler: Certainly, you could. I believe people paint wooden and ceramic eggs with these designs. Thanks for stopping by.

    • norma-holt profile image

      norma-holt 5 years ago

      Congrats on LOTD. This is great information and a well done lens. Featured on Blessed by Skiesgreen 2012 and also on Squidoo LOTD Lenses 2. Hugs

    • profile image

      CarlittoDunaway 5 years ago

      I have a hard time believing that these are real eggs!

    • profile image

      julia007 5 years ago

      Very interesting Lens! And the photos are really beautiful!

    • Deadicated LM profile image

      Deadicated LM 5 years ago

      Great Lens, a lot of good information and photos; you do beautiful work.

    • goo2eyes lm profile image

      goo2eyes lm 5 years ago

      i have not done it. since it is made from fresh eggs and there is a possibility that they will explode because of gas build up, i'd rather cook the eggs first and paint. nobody has to know that i used hard boiled eggs. blessings and congratulations for winning the purple star. check your you tube title again. thanks for sharing and i learned a lot.

    • PNWtravels profile image

      Vicki Green 5 years ago from Wandering the Pacific Northwest USA

      Pysanky eggs are so beautiful and it was fascinating learning about the origins of the tradition. Congratulations on LOTD.

    • blogalexg profile image

      Alex Graham 5 years ago

      This was wonderful and beautiful!

      I sent it through on fb and google+

      Thanks,

      Alex

    • LaurisB LM profile image

      LaurisB LM 5 years ago

      Great lens! We still have some of these incredible eggs which my husband's sister made over 50 years ago! They are amazing! I've never tried to do it myself but am thinking this would be a fun project to learn next year.

    • profile image

      kayla_harris 5 years ago

      Very useful articles!

    • flycatcherrr profile image

      flycatcherrr 5 years ago

      I've given this a go once, many years ago, but these are so beautiful I'm inspired to try again. Thanks for a gorgeous and information-packed lens! *blessed*

    • blue22d profile image

      blue22d 5 years ago

      Beautiful. Seen these but didn't know what they were called. Great share!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Absolutely gorgeous! Congratulations on LOTD!

      Blessed

    • bossypants profile image

      bossypants 5 years ago from America's Dairyland

      Beautiful and informative lens, well deserving of LOTD! Congratulations! I remember seeing these eggs as a child. And, once we understood that you could use non-hardboiled eggs, we decorated some eggs that way (although not in traditional Pysanky), and they did last -- without smelling badly -- for many years! (No one believed it, at the time.)

    • Scotties-Rock profile image

      Clairissa 5 years ago from OREFIELD, PA

      Congrats on LOTD! Pysanky is beautiful. I have always admired these and someday I will make them. Thanks to you. :) Blessed!

    • Rangoon House profile image

      AJ 5 years ago from Australia

      A beautiful tradition - thank you for sharing this. Easter blessings to you.

    • choosehappy profile image

      Vikki 5 years ago from US

      Congrats on lotd!

    • SophiaStar LM profile image

      SophiaStar LM 5 years ago

      I have never made a pysanky before they are beautiful! And I love the meanings behind the colors. Congratulations on a wonderful lens and LotD!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      No I haven't, but my best friend was a beautiful artist and she made the most beautiful eggs. She tough her son, and since he was little he has given my mother one every Easter. Blessed!

    • profile image

      BeatMaker2020 5 years ago

      Wow, incredible lens. The fact that I can relate to this, being a russian orthodox christian myself makes it all the more interesting to read. :)

    • profile image

      DebMartin 5 years ago

      Stunning! d

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      this is beautiful! thanks for sharing

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      this is beautiful! thanks for sharing

    • profile image

      JZinoBodyArt 5 years ago

      Impressive lens! I really have to try this now!

    • PennyHowe profile image

      PennyHowe 5 years ago

      Fantastic lens. It looks very interesting and at some time I really would like to try it. The eggs are absolutely gorgeous. Thanks again for sharing. Congrats on your Lens of the Day award!

    • ClassyGals profile image

      Cynthia Davis 5 years ago from Pittsburgh

      Beautiful Easter eggs that appear to be works of art. Blessings**

    • CamelliaPenny profile image

      Perrin 5 years ago from South Carolina

      I had never heard of it. Very interesting! Thanks for educating us. Congrats on LOTD!

    • Franksterk profile image

      Frankie Kangas 5 years ago from California

      How very beautiful. I've never heard of pysanky so am grateful for the education. Blessed. Bear hugs, Frankster

    • FactoryGirl777 profile image

      FactoryGirl777 5 years ago

      Very interesting! The pictures are beautiful!

    • MelonyVaughan profile image

      MelonyVaughan 5 years ago

      A beautifully-written lens. The history adds to the content and the descriptions are beautiful! Well done!

    • secondhandrose lm profile image

      secondhandrose lm 5 years ago

      Excellent lens. The designs are absolutely beautiful. Polish designs are very similar. I also paint wood and pottery eggs with the designs. Although the paint is not as bright as the dyes, there is no danger of breakage.

    • Kathleen Hiler profile image

      Kathleen Hiler 5 years ago from Mountain Home

      No..but am wondering if I can use a ceramic egg to do this with.

    • ItayaLightbourne profile image

      Itaya Lightbourne 5 years ago from Topeka, KS

      Very beautiful! Congrats on getting Lens of the Day for this wonderful article! :)

    • ifeelgod lm profile image

      ifeelgod lm 5 years ago

      I am stunned! I have NEVER seen these before and they are beautiful. Thank you for a great lens and congratulations on your LOTD designation

      In Him,

      JMb <><

      http://ifeelgod.org

    • Heather426 profile image

      Heather Burns 5 years ago from Wexford, Ireland

      wow, beautiful pysanky! I have seen it, but never have seen how to do this before. really amazing lens.

    • profile image

      vintagefiori 5 years ago

      The Ukrainians really have some beautiful ancient rituals and culture.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Never heard of it before but it does look interesting.

    • profile image

      tryme1 5 years ago

      I would simply have no idea how to even conceive of things like this, let alone have the creativity and ability to make them.

    • profile image

      AliciaMae 5 years ago

      I'd be worried about the exploding egg possibility! I've seen amazing things done with blown out eggs, too, though. My aunt used to make fairy scenes inside them, putting the cut out portion on hinges to open it.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Very beautiful art :) I've never heard of it before reading this lens.

    • andreaberrios lm profile image

      andreaberrios lm 5 years ago

      These are very beautiful and it looks like fun! Thanks for sharing.

    • Bercton1 profile image

      Bercton1 5 years ago

      interesting and fun stuff! Thanks for sharing!

    • futureme lm profile image

      futureme lm 5 years ago

      Will remember to try this for the future, when my youngest children are a little older!

    • profile image

      JoshK47 5 years ago

      How positively beautiful! Thanks for sharing this with us, well deserved LotD and blessings from a SquidAngel!

    • Wedding-Music profile image

      Matt Warren 5 years ago from Cheshire, UK

      great stuff!

    • sousababy profile image

      sousababy 5 years ago

      Beyond my skill set . . but lovely to behold. Congrats on LotD!

    • dahlia369 profile image

      dahlia369 5 years ago

      These traditions are very special and well worth being presented like this, thank you!! :)

    • profile image

      nuddenhashim 5 years ago

      Master!! Teach me...

    • LiteraryMind profile image

      Ellen Gregory 5 years ago from Connecticut, USA

      Nice lens. I think this take a lot of patience an a steady hand.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      These are beautiful, what a wonderful display, gorgeous colors, wonderful lens. Thanks for sharing

    • profile image

      aquarian_insight 5 years ago

      I have never made pyansky before but these are gorgeous. Congratulations on LoTD.

    • writerkath profile image

      writerkath 5 years ago

      Congratulations on your LOTD! Ochyn Xoroshaw! (phoentic as best as I could to say "Very Good" in Russian! :) *Blessed!*

    • jwcooney profile image

      jwcooney 5 years ago

      Fun lens, congrats on LOTD! It was fun to read about these eggs, and I especially liked reading about the symbolism of the pysanky colors.

    • agoofyidea profile image

      agoofyidea 5 years ago

      Congratulations on LOTD! The detail on these eggs is amazing.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Great lens, thank you!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      hi friends, to know about sports

      visit..http://msnbc-sports.blogspot.com/

    • vetochemicals profile image

      Cindy 5 years ago from Pittsburgh Pa

      I've seen these pysanky eggs but have never tried it, they're spectacular. Congrats on your feature!

    • hypermomma profile image

      hypermomma 5 years ago

      Beautiful lens :)

    • suzy-t profile image

      suzy-t 5 years ago

      I had never heard of them before. What a wonderful tradition and a great lens. Congrats on LOTD. Blessed...

    • Julia Morais profile image

      Julia Morais 5 years ago

      First time I've ever heard of pysanky. Great lens.

    • SquidooMBA profile image

      SquidooMBA 5 years ago

      Great job and congrats on LOTD!

    • jlshernandez profile image

      jlshernandez 5 years ago

      I have never heard of pysanky but these are exceptionally beautiful. Thanks for sharing. Blessed*****

    • pheonix76 profile image

      pheonix76 5 years ago from WNY

      Interesting -- thanks for sharing this tradition and congrats on LotD! Have never made pysanky before, but maybe will try one day.

    • intermarks profile image

      intermarks 5 years ago

      No, this is my first time learn about pysanky. It is beautiful. Thanks for creating this lens.

    • profile image

      dumutu 5 years ago

      Those designs are beautiful. Thank you for sharing.

      Happy Easter.

    • gatornic15 profile image

      gatornic15 5 years ago

      The eggs are really beautiful. Congratulations on lens of the day...and Happy Easter!

    • Scarlettohairy profile image

      Peggy Hazelwood 5 years ago from Desert Southwest, U.S.A.

      These eggs are beautiful! What a lot of work it takes to make one Pysanky egg!

    • Mim Art profile image

      Mim Art 5 years ago

      Never tried - but would love to. You make it look incredible!! Great lens! Congrats on being Showcased in the Spring and Easter Crafts. Happy Easter!

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