Wooden Eggs


Pysanky are beautiful, but they crack, fade, leak and break. Ukrainian craftsmen came up with a simple remedy–wooden pysanky.  They may not have the talismanic power of real eggs, but they are attractive and keep much better.....and longer.

Many different sorts of decorated eggs have been fashioned from wood.  Wooden eggs have been painted and carved, and have had things inlaid into them and glued onto them. Just about everything possible has been done with wooden eggs.

PAINTING:  The most common mode of decoration of wooden eggs is painting. These wooden pysanky are most commonly made by the Hutsul peoples, and are life-sized, but can also be found in other regions of Ukraine: 

    Traditional Wooden Painted Eggs: simple wooden eggs are painted to resemble real pysanky, with many colors and floral or geometric motifs. 

    Hutsul Painted Wooden Eggs: simple wooden eggs painted with the intricate designs characteristic of Hutsul pysanky.  Hutsul pysanka colors are usually preserved – white, yellow, green, red and black.

    Hutsul Wooden Eggs: these are simple wooden eggs with designs painted on them, but the background is not covered over with paint.  Thus you have (mostly) geometric designs on natural wood, in the manner of Hutsul decorative woodcraft   They are quite pretty and very modern-looking.


    White Wooden Eggs: also produced by the Hutsuls, these life-sized wooden pysanky have the same color scheme as Hutsul embroidery, and use motifs found in Hutsul ceramics and pysanky.   

    Petrykivka Eggs:  these wooden pysanky come from the village of Petrykivka, in the Dnipropetrovsk region, the heartland of Ukraine.  Artisans there have long decorated all sorts of wooden objects with the “petrykivs’kiy rozpys,” floral designs created with broad strokes of red, yellow, blue and green.

    Modern Painted Wooden Eggs: these remind me of diasporan pysanky in that they preserve some traditional elements of Ukrainian design, but often in a crazy-quilt manner, with a bit of Hutsul and a bit of Petrykivka and then a dash of original material.  

   Intricately Painted Wooden Eggs: some artists have created their own fantastic works of art, using wooden eggs as their palette.  These eggs are usually much larger than life, and can have intricate designs.

    Lacquered Eggs:  Ukrainian artists have long created lovely little miniatures – usually small boxes – utilizing the lacquer method. Pysanky are made this way as well. An object, wooden or papier-mâché, is given a black coat of paint.  Onto this black background is painted a small, colorful painting, and then several coats of varnish (lacquer) are applied, giving the object a smooth, glossy finish.  These are usually much larger than real eggs, and can be quite large

CARVING/APPLIQUE:  Another approach to wooden egg decoration is carving the wood, and gluing thingS onto – or into – wooden eggs:

    Wooden “Nakleyanky”:  all sorts of things have been glued to wooden eggs for artistic effect.  Beads and golden braid are common, as well as sequins, rick-rack and decorative ribbon. 

    Carved Wooden Eggs: the creation of designs by incising and carving wood is called “rizba” in Ukrainian.  Beautiful wooden eggs are sometimes created this way.

    Inlaid Wooden Eggs:  also known as “encrustation” in Ukraine, this is a form of rizba in which the wooden surface is carved, and then small items–beads, mother-of-pearl, copper wire, colored woods– are placed into the carved spaces. 

You can view albums of photos of all these sorts of egg on the following pages.  You can either click through directly via the links above, or go to the Gallery.


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