The Mount Airy Museum of Regional History held a Batik Easter Egg Workshop yesterday afternoon on the second floor of the museum. The Ukrainian tradition of decorating eggs with wax is called pysanky, and dates back to 1300 BC.
The ancient practice used traditional motifs that date back even further, to 3000 BC, and many examples were provided for the students by the class instructor, Maria Skaskiw.
Skaskiw learned the art of decorating the eggs as a child in New York. She grew up in a Ukrainian community and she said she believes she began the art after her sister began learning the technique.
“I was fascinated by it and the history — it goes back 1000s of years. There are variations on the motifs, endless variations. I also love the legends behind the art form. My favorite legend says that as long as people keep writing the Easter eggs, evil will not triumph in this world,” said Skaskiw with a smile, revealing her passion for the art form.
The students use a kistka, which is the tool used to “paint” the beeswax onto the surface of the eggs. The tool is heated by a candle flame, then dipped in beeswax. The wax is mixed with black soot, so those painting the eggs can see the designs easily on the eggshell.
Skaskiw guided the students through the process, and encouraged them with a reminder that they must “keep a long, steady stroke” when applying the wax, so it will not pool or drip. “The trick is keeping the kistka hot and going straight to the egg when you dip it in the wax.”
Those who made mistakes and smeared or dripped the wax were told by Skaskiw to incorporate the mistakes into the design on the egg. “You could make a flower, or a dot,” she encouraged, as she showed them pictures of motifs that incorporated that sort of design into the egg.
After the egg is painted with beeswax, it is dipped into the first dye, which is a bright yellow color. Then, the beeswax is applied on top of the yellow, preserving the yellow color for later. This process is repeated over and over, until the design is complete. Skaskiw said they can make the designs as complicated or as simple as they would like.
Many colors of dye were available: yellow, orange, dark red, pink, purple, dark green, blue, violet and black.
“In the end, the wax may be covering the egg, making it black in color, but then you remove the wax and it is like, ahhhh, it looks beautiful!”
Andrea Draughn, who attended the workshop with a friend from work, said she is excited to go back to work and show off her egg. Draughn said her co-workers would be “egg-cited” to see the creations.
The Mount Airy Museum of Regional History will offer the Easter Egg Workshop on March 23 from 1 to 4 p.m. The workshop for 15 participants, ages 12 through adult, will be held on the second floor of the museum. The fee of $10 for members and $15 for non-members includes supplies. Home kits also are available for $20. Interested participants should call 786-4478 to enroll.
Reach Jessica Johnson at email@example.com or 719-1933.