It’s been a very cold winter, and spring never really made an appearance.  We seemed to plunge directly to summer, with temperatures in the 80s in April.  This is not only NOT normal for Michigan, but it made it hard to stay indoors and write my pysanky.....

My inspirations/sources this year were many and varied.  The first pysanky I made were those for my nieces and nephews (we’re up to fourteen third generation Petrushas this year, thanks to the birth of Lisa’s new daughter, Victoria Kalina, in February). The boys’ egg I copied from this year’s UGS (Ukrainian Gift Shop catalog); I was intrigued by its bright greens.  I found the pattern for the girls’ egg in my old standby, Zenon Elyjiw's “Sixty Score of Ukrainian Easter Eggs.”  It is a diasporan pattern, and much more labor intensive than I initially thought.......

My hope this year was to master the art of the white (bleached) pysanka.  It is an interesting technique–the egg is initially dyed gold, and that color is used as the primary outline color (as white would be on an ordinary pysanka).  A simple color sequence follows, usually including green and red in traditional patterns, and then the egg is bleached back to white. More modern design often incorporate black as well, and sometimes a greater number of colors overall. I’ve made two of these designs so far this year; one from Elyjiw, who has many in his collection, and another I copied from a friend's design.  The latter is not a traditional pattern, but special anyway, as it depicts kalyna (viburnum) leaves and berries, and was a special gift for my niece Kalyna.

I used Elyjiw as a source for many of my designs this year.  As I’ve studied pysanky more, I’ve developed a great appreciation for traditional designs.  I chose a variety of designs, although many of them were what Elyjiw calls “diasporan”–patterns and pysanky he’s collected in the Ukrainian diaspora.  These patterns may be truly traditional, with their origins forgotten, or designs created by immigrants and mirroring those from their homeland. Since I am making these particular pysanky as gifts, I try to choose patterns that will appeal to the recipients as well as to me.

Of the Elyjiw designs, the striped star (western Ukraine) was a particular favorite–fun to write and fun to look at.  It is unlike any other pysanka I have ever made.  The red wave pysanka was also fun, as I have gotten quite adept at drawing waves.  I could do with less coloring in, though.  Of particular interest in this group is the set of pysanky with blue, purple and green variations.  I took a simple yellow and red pattern  (Kosmach) and played with it.  Not all of the combinations worked well, but the ones incorporating pastel dyes turned out particularly nice.

The floral pysanky, although they look simple, require a steady hand and careful planning to get these simple flowers evenly spaced.  I’ve been making this design for years, varying the colors and looking for new combinations.  This is one of the oldest patterns I have, and it is taken from a set of postcards published by Surma in the early 1970s.

Lastly, I wrote some pysanky from the UGS books; the first in pysanka that set is from the most recent design book, but the rest all harken from UGS’s earlier first two efforts: “Ukrainian Easter Eggs and How We Make Them,” and the first design book.  The pysanky in these early books are much simpler and more traditional than those in the design books that followed. It was fun recreating these patterns again, more than twenty years after I first saw many of them.

The final set of pysanky are my designs, although calling them that suggests some forethought.  The “traditional” one was the result of goofing up an actual traditional pattern; rather than wasting the egg, I improvised.  The brown eggs are my current preoccupation; I enjoy “doodling” them, and just block out a basic division (usually 12 diamonds or barrel) and then get creative.  Most of the motifs are traditional, but occasionally I borrow from other sources.  I’ve begun using dots in more and more of these designs....

Enjoy, and feel free to copy!


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