The word “travlenka” (травленка) comes from Ukrainian word travlennia/ травлення, “etching.”  Travlenky are created by waxing eggs and then etching away the unwaxed areas. 

This is not strictly a traditional Ukraine practice, although acid etching was used in the past to create “white” pysanky--colored eggs with a white background. A modern version of this practice has been popularized in Ukraine in recent years.

The technique is simple--cover your design with wax, and place the egg in an etching solution. In the old days it was sauerkraut juice, today vinegar or a commercial acid (muriatic, etc.) can be used.  Let the acid eat away at the shell, and then stop the process by dunking the egg in water or a mild alkaline solution (e.g. baking soda dissolved in water).  Use a brush to clear off etched debris, and you have a travlenka.

The egg pictured at the top of the page was created by Taras Horodetsky on a goose egg; he used a natural dye (black tea) in the etched areas to provide contrast.  On natural brown chicken eggs, such dyeing is not necessary, as these examples by Iryna Vakh show:

You can get nice results with brown chicken eggs and a bit of dye, as in this non-traditional design:

The more traditional version requires the creation of a pysanka in the usual fashion; the last dark color is then removed with acid.  This provides not only a white background, but a small degree of relief, providing an interesting texture to the egg.  An example is this non-traditional goose egg:

An interesting (and more modern) variation on the travlenka can be seen in the work of Tanya Konoval.  She creates Ukrainian folk scenes on pysanky, using degrees of etching to create multiple shades of brown:

With the addition of a bit of color, her works become even more interesting examples of what a travlenka can be:

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Etched Eggs