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An Brief Overview of the Process


This will be just a basic overview of the process of creating a pysanka. Even a simple design can take several days from laying out the design in pencil to finishing the egg with a protective coating. The egg that you choose must be smooth and clean and have a strong shell. It is getting more and more difficult to find suitable eggs at the grocery store. Sometimes medium size eggs are a much better choice than large. I have found several farms that raise chickens but it is still an ongoing quest because there are fewer as time goes by.

You only need a few tools: a candle, beeswax, dyes and a kistka. The kistka, traditionally, is a small wooden dowel with a copper funnel fitted in a small hole at the tip and wound with copper wire to hold it in place. The funnel is to hold the beeswax as you heat it near the candle flame. The tiny hole in the funnel makes the tool act like a pen with the melted wax being the ink.

These are two of the kistkas I use. The one at the top is called a delrin kistka because of the composition of the handle-a special plastic that can withstand heat. The funnel in this kistka is metal, I have three sizes, fine, medium and large. The electric kistka I purchased soon after I began making pysanky. I knew it would be so much easier to have the funnel at a steady temperature without having to put it back near the flame so often. The tip is the same size as the delrin but it is held in place with a screw. This enables me to have 5 different sizes of interchangeable tips.

Sometimes I work on a whole egg; indeed this is the traditional way. I then will empty the egg after it has been coated. Then there is no danger of the egg cracking because of built up gases later on. Usually I work on a shell that has already been emptied. The hole must be sealed with wax and the egg weighted down in the dye. The end result is the same-a tiny masterpiece of art.

The first thing I do is divide the egg into equal sections with a pencil, depending on the design.

I then wax all the lines of the design that I want to remain white.

The egg is placed in yellow dye. For this design, the petals around the center are yellow so I wax them. Green is placed in the spots to remain green with a small brush or cotton swab, then waxed.

Orange is the next color. You can see that there are no splotches of green, the orange removes the extra dye. The pine needles are drawn; they will be orange.

The next color is red. The area around the petals in the star is to be red so the entire center is waxed to keep out the final dye.

The final dye, black, is to be the background color. It covers everything that has not be previously waxed. This is the end of the dye sequence.

The egg is held to the side of the candle flame; just close enough to melt the wax. It is wiped off with a tissue. Now you can begin to see the design in full color!

The finished egg. The wax has been removed and the egg coated with varnish and allowed to dry several days. This protects the dye and ads a bit of strength to the egg. This tiny treasure is now safe for many years, always displayed out of direct sunlight.

The process is the same for all eggs. The dyes progress from light to dark. If there are more colors, then there are more dye baths. The more intricate the design, the longer it takes to lay out and wax each color. The egg must be the right temperature or the wax will not stick to the egg and seal the pores. Every particle of shell must be covered for each color or the next dye will seek out the smallest spot and dye it that color. This is just a brief explanation. Each step requires skill and patience but the reward is worth the effort.

If you would like to try your hand at making a pysanka, kits are available from The Ukrainian Gift Shop and other sources. Please email me if you would like to, I will be glad to help if I can.

First step-Clean and Empty Eggs

Here is another dye process in photos-an ostrich egg.
Copyright 1999 Barbara Novak