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Ukrainian Easter Eggs

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Technique, Tools and Tips

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Start To Finish Sequence

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Pysanky is the art of wax-resist dyeing during which an eggshell receives a series of beeswax designs and dye baths that creates a beautiful end-result.


It begins with a clean, white egg. Pencil guidelines help achieve the symmetrical balance pysanky is known for. 


Melted beeswax is applied to the shell. The beeswax will resist the many dye baths the eggshell will be subject to and still remain pure white.


The eggshell is dyed yellow.


Yellow details have been added and the egg is ready for the next dye bath.


The eggshell dyed green.


Green details are applied with beeswax.


The red dye bath resulted in a rosy pink.


The pink areas are protected by beeswax.


The eggshell dyed blue.


Blue elements sealed by beeswax.


The eggshell received its final color – black.


Removing the beeswax reveals the design.

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– An eraser can be used on an eggshell. Rubber bands placed around the egg can help with alignment. Lightly drawn pencil lines disappear in the dyeing process or when the beeswax is removed.


– Paraffin (candle wax) cannot be used instead of beeswax because it does not adhere properly to the shell. 

– Rinsing the previous dye off by dipping the eggshell in a glass of cool water helps the next color dye true to expectation.


– A few coats of a clear acrylic spray will protect the surface of a finished egg.

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Removing The Egg From The Shell

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Although it is possible for a raw egg to eventually dry to a fine powder inside the shell, it is more likely the egg will explode like a miniature bomb. The gas produced by the rotting egg exerts considerable pressure on the shell. The smelly mess that results when the shell can no longer withstand the stress gives unforgettable clarity to the term – a rotten egg. 

Draining the egg from the shell before the design is created is a personal preference. I find it easier to clean the eggshell beforehand and if unseen imperfections in the shell causes it to crack in the process, the consequence is minimal. The following is the egg-draining method I have use for many years.


Picture above are the tools needed: a bowl to catch the egg, a metal skewer, a medium-small drill bit, a paper towel, an ear syringe, a glass of water, a long corsage pin, an egg carton and of course, the egg.


Use the corsage pin to make a hole in the eggshell. This is easier than you might think. With the egg securely seated in the carton, push the pin through the shell at the top center point.


The top pinhole is sufficient in size for air, with the help of the ear syringe, to enter the shell. Turn the egg over, center it securely in the carton and make a pinhole in the bottom of the shell.


The bottom hole, the escape route for the egg, needs to be slightly larger. Seat the drill bit in the bottom pinhole and twist the drill bit back-and-forth for a few seconds.


Image of the slightly larger bottom hole.


Place the metal skewer into the larger hole and gently poke the yoke inside. This will make the egg-removing process easier. The long corsage pin can also be used instead of the skewer.


Place the bowl in the kitchen sink. Squeezing the ear syringe repeatedly, slowly at first, with its tip directly over the top hole, will force air into the shell causing the egg to drain out through the bottom hole.


Once the egg is removed, clean the outer shell with water. To rinse the inside of the eggshell, fill the ear syringe with water – squeeze the bulb, insert the tip into water, relax squeeze – and then squirt the water into the shell through the larger bottom hole. Gently shake the shell. Remove the water by forcing air into the small top hole with the ear syringe while holding the shell over the bowl. Repeat this rinsing process several times.


Place the empty eggshell on a paper towel in the carton. Allow it to drain and dry before using.

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Dyeing The Egg

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 The use of food-safe vegetable dye or the non-edible commercial kind is an individual choice. Both can be stored in air-tight containers when not in use. Simply covering the dye mug with plastic wrap secured with a rubber band also works well. Add extra water or a teaspoon of vinegar when needed. Replace the dye when it loses its potency.


Dyeing a Weightless Eggshell
Use a spoon to submerge the eggshell in the dye, in an 8 ounce mug-style jar. A rubber band – placed over the handle of the spoon and then under the mug’s handle – holds the shell in place until it reaches the desired color. It might seem awkward at first but it soon becomes natural and effortless.

Removing the Egg From Dye
While holding the spoon with one hand, use the other to release the rubber band from mug handle. Then use the spoon to scoop the eggshell out of the dye. With a folded tissue in hand, lift the shell off the spoon. Return the scooped-up dye back into the jar. Dry the eggshell with a tissue.

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Tools and Technique

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The two holes made to remove the egg from the shell must be sealed with melted beeswax. This important step prevents dye from seeping in to the shell. Place a tiny chunk of beeswax over the hole and use the heated stylus to melt it in place. The following will provide more clarity on this process.


A stylus is needed to apply melted beeswax on the eggshell. The Ukrainian term for this tool is kistka but it is also informally called a "writer." The blue and white writers are commercial ones. My uncle preferred the pictured calligraphy pen given to him by his father and had much success with it. My grandmother made her own kistka. She formed a funnel out of thin metal and wired it to a smooth stick. Today, electric writers are popular among avid pysanky fans.


Just the tip is heated by the flame of a candle.


The heated tip is then inserted into beeswax. As the wax melts, it is drawn up into the funnel. If a large area is being covered, a small piece of beeswax can be added directly into the funnel.


The melted beeswax is then applied to the shell. As the writer cools and the flow of beeswax ceases, reheat the tip and/or add more beeswax. This process continues until all details are added.


When the design is complete, remove the beeswax by holding the eggshell close to – but not touching – the candle’s flame. The heat will make a patch of beeswax glossy as it starts to melt. Wipe away the melting beeswax with a tissue. Repeat until all the wax is gone.

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– Beeswax is naturally tan in color. Heat generally darkens beeswax but it can also retain its original color and still effectively adhere to eggshell.

– Too much heat and wax can lead to blobs. Carefully use the tip of a sharp knife to remove unwanted beeswax from the surface of the shell.

– Be cautious when using tissues around a candle flame. Tissues ignite quickly. 

The double star symbol on the top of this Ukrainian  pysank a (Easter egg) signifies union of the soul with God.

Copyright © 2017 Nancy Kopack.

All rights reserved.