Pysanky Egg Art

Pysanky, also known as Ukrainian Easter Eggs, are decorated by a technique that dates back to prehistory. The name comes from the word "pysaty" (to write), as the designs are said to be written, not drawn or painted. Beeswax and natural dyes were used in pre-christian times to create eggs that were not only beautiful, but had strong talismanic properties. Pysanky were not thought of as art, but as objects with magical protective powers. The symbols and colors were not mere decorations, but prayers to the gods. There has been a resurgence of interest in recent times in this ancient craft, and many modern artists have begun to practice it.

126 Questions

Instead of an egg name something you'd be surprised to find inside an eggshell?

A chick. I get this joke and it's pretty funny. You would be surprised to find a chick in an eggshell. For those who don't get it (chick as in a term for girls/women). For an example sentence, "Look at that chick walking."

It's "chick" when you are using the term for both a girl and a baby chicken. Anyway, it would be surprising to find anything inside of an egg that isn't a chick or a part of the egg's original contents.

However, it would be surprising if you found a chick of any sort, and in any condition, in an egg purchased from a supermarket.

Not necessarily humorous, however, spies were known to imbed secret messages inside an eggshell, without breaking the shell!

How do you dye brown eggs?

Brown eggs will dye just like any other color of egg. Brown chicken egg shells are a bit thicker and sometimes glossier. They take longer to dye, and thus may need a longer soak in vinegar rinse prior to dyeing. The colors will look quite different as well. Brown eggs cannot be made white unless you "etch" the shell using vinegar. Brown eggs are quite lovely, and look nice with colors such as yellow, orange, brick, brown, and black. To see how different colors of dye look on brown eggs, click on the link below.

How do you clean Easter egg dye off of your kitchen table?

It is best to avoid this problem by not getting the dye onto your kitchen table in the first place. When dyeing eggs, cover the work area with newspapers or a plastic tablecloth.

If you do get dye onto the table, there are several ways to get it off. The simplest is to use some dish soap and a damp sponge or cloth, and just wash it off. This will often be all you need.

If the stain is a bit more stubborn, a cleanser like Soft Scrub works really well. Get the kind without bleach. Test a small inconspicuous area first. If that is successful then you should have no trouble getting it off your table. Be gentle, don't scrub too hard or you will scratch the table.

In the worst case, you may need to use bleach. Bleach does not wash the dye off, it breaks the molecule up in such a way that it no longer reflects color. Bleach always works to remove egg dyes, but may damage the table. As before, test it in an inconspicuous area to make sure it can be used safely.

WOoden tables may be stained permanently, as the dye can get into the grain of the wood. Plastic or laminate surfaces usually clean up quit easily.

In what country did the pysanky egg art begin?

"Pysanky" is a Ukrainian term, so technically the answer to your question is that pysanky egg art began in Ukraine.
Decorated eggs have traditionally been created by Slavic people of the many nations and ethnic groups of what is now Central and Eastern Europe. The wax resist and dye method reached its greatest perfection in the territory now known as Ukraine. Each region within Ukraine has its own particular style and traditional colors, symbols, and designs. The intricate and detailed designs that most of us associate with pysanky developed from styles common to the Hutsul people of the Carpathian mountain region of Ukraine.

Incidentally, some ethnographers postulate that the original homeland of the Slavic peoples was in the territory now occupied by Ukraine, most likely Western or Northwestern Ukraine.

When should you blow out the egg?

It depends! There are advantages and disadvantages to each blowing out the egg at various stages of the pysanka making process. It comes down, in the end, to individual preference.

Method A - Blow Middle & Coat w/wax

1. Draw pencil lines on the egg

2. Decorate the egg with wax and dye

3. After the final dye bath, dip the egg into melted wax to coat it completely

4. Blow out the egg and let it dry out

5. Clean the wax off the egg (usually using the oven method)

6. Varnish the egg

Pros of Method A

· Best way to attain good color saturation

· Melting off the wax is much easier because the air inside the egg heats up considerably, which allows the beeswax to melt quickly and stay melted longer

· Extra coating of wax protects the shell from cracking while you are blowing it out

Cons of Method A

· Uses up a LOT of beeswax if you don't recapture the wax in muffin tins when you put the eggs in the oven (I use silicone muffin tins)

· Generally requires oven method to remove wax, because candling it off takes a very long time

Method B - Blow Middle & Redye

1. Draw pencil lines on the egg

2. Decorate the egg with wax and dye

3. Blow out the egg and let it dry out

4. Cap the hole with a small plug of beeswax

5. Dye the egg again in the final background color

6. Melt the wax off the egg

7. Varnish the egg (usually with MSA)

Pros of Method B

· Melting off the wax is much easier because the air inside the egg heats up considerably, which allows the beeswax to melt quickly and stay melted longer.

· Does not use as much beeswax as Method A

· Does not require a container of melted beeswax to be available

Cons of Method B

· When you blow out an egg that is not covered completely with either varnish or beeswax, you run the risk of ruining the final dye color. The dye is water soluble, so if any fluid gets on the eggshell, whether it is raw egg or water, the fluid will wash off the dye. This is mostly a problem near the hole at the tip of the egg.

· During the process of rinsing out the inside of the egg with vinegar water, some of the water might seep out through the pores in the eggshell, resulting in pinhole-sized white dots all over the egg. This can also happen during the final dye bath. (Solution: let the egg dry out completely for a week, cap the end and dye again.)

· You must hold down the egg in the dye, which risks cracking the shell.

· Difficult to attain perfectly even color saturation of the final background color

Method C - Blow First

1. Blow out the egg and let it dry out

2. Cap the hole with a small plug of beeswax - Remember to remove the cap while applying wax on the egg to let it air out, and reapply it before each dye bath

3. Decorate the egg with wax and dye; use a spoon, an egg dipper, or Bill's special system to hold the egg down in the dye.

4. Melt off the wax

5. Varnish the egg

Pros of Method C

· Good way to store eggs-long term, e.g. if you receive many at once and cannot decorate them right away

· Many unusual eggs are only available blown

· Melting off the wax is much easier because the air inside the egg heats up considerably, which allows the beeswax to melt quickly and stay melted longer

Cons of Method C

· When you dye a blown egg, some of the dye may seep into the interior, then leak out later either through the hole ruining the color at the tip of the egg.

· Some of the dye may seep out through the pores in the eggshell, resulting in pinhole-sized white dots all over the egg. (Solution: let the egg dry out completely for a week, cap the end and dye again.)

· You must hold down the egg in the dye, which risks cracking the shell.

Method D - Blow Last

1. Draw pencil lines on the egg

2. Decorate the egg with wax and dye

3. Clean the wax off the egg

4. Varnish the egg with polyurethane

5. Blow out the egg

Pros of Method D

· Simplest way to attain good color saturation

Cons of Method D

· A bit harder to melt the wax off a whole egg, because the raw contents cool the shell, keeping the beeswax hard (this is may be frustrating for some beginners). On the other hand, a full egg has more heft and is easier to hang on to.

· Cannot use this method with MSA varnish, which requires a hole for dipping

What is the best way to display pysanky?

There are many ways to display pysanky, but you should never to display them in direct sunlight. Aniline dyes will fade when placed in prolonged sunlight, making your pysanka dull and drab. (It's probably a good idea to keep the eggs out of any strong direct light to avoid fading.) Also, if the pysanka hasn't been emptied, the heat from the sun or other light source could cause the gases within it to expand and the egg to explode.

Pysanky are small works of art, and should be treated as such. They may be displayed in baskets or bowls, in individual egg holders, hung from a stand, or placed in specially made display cabinets. If you have many pysanky to display and not enough room, then a riser might be useful.

Which countries celebrate Easter with Easter eggs and bunnies?

Many western countries incorporate the concept of Easter bunnies delivering Easter eggs. This tradition hails originally from Germany, so it is countries with Germanic/British roots which have this custom. It does not exist traditionally in the rest of the west, although, through children's television, the Easter Bunny is making some inroads into other cultures.

Easter bunny believing countries include the UK, USA, Canada, Germany, New Zealand and Australia (although there are moves to try to promote an Easter bilby, as proceeds from sales go to the preservation of this endangered creature).

Most European (and western) cultures decorate eggs for Easter, usually by simply dyeing them one color. Ukraine and other Eastern European countries have a long history of more intricate egg decoration in the spring. You can find out more about Ukrainian eggs, called Pysanky, in the "Pysanky Egg Art" section of Wiki Answers, under Hobbies and Collectibles/Arts and Crafts (see link below).

The giving of Easter eggs has transcended political borders, though not necessarily religious borders. For example, the countries most likely to celebrate with eggs and bunnies are those where Christianity has made the greatest inroads - but again, it is not limited to these countries. In general, it can be said that cultures and traditions that were once restricted to particular countries are crossing borders with increasing regularity. Countries around the world are seeing a flow-on effect of some festivals and holidays, not only with the spread of western influences, but also with the spread of Christianity. Thus, you will find a prevalence of Easter eggs and Easter bunnies in countries such as Japan, China and many other Asian nations.

Countries of the Middle East are not exempt from the traditions, with Easter eggs (along with Easter bunnies and Easter cakes) being found in Israel. Saudi Arabia even markets a "date-filled Easter egg". African Christians celebrate Easter with joy, in particular remembering Christ's death and resurrection, but they also embrace the practice of giving Easter eggs. Easter celebrations are also important to the more remote Pacific nations and, by association, Easter eggs and bunnies have become part of those celebrations.

Why do you need vinegar for egg dye?

The acid in the vinegar helps the color bind to the egg shell.

What color dye will dye an Easter egg the fastest?

Color has little to do with how fast eggs will dye. The speed of dyeing depends on the quality, strength, acidity and chemical composition of the dye. More concentrated dyes will dye faster. More chemically compatible dyes (acid rather than alkaline) will dye faster. In the past, eggs were colored with dyes made from natural substances: berries, onion skins, grasses, bark. These dyes worked very slowly, sometimes taking an hour or longer to dye an egg. Today, modern chemical dyes are used instead. Food-grade dyes are used for making eggs that will be consumed. You can increase the strength of these dyes by adding a little bit more vinegar, by adding another dye tablet (e.g. Paas), or by adding several drops of liquid food coloring. The strongest egg dye colors can be obtained using aniline dyes, which are NOT food-grade. Eggs dyed with aniline dyes SHOULD NOT be eaten. These dyes act the most quickly; most will act within minutes, and some will give the desired color within seconds. You must pay close attention and keep an eye on your eggs when using these dyes. The Ukrainian art form of decorating eggs with wax and dye to create "pysanky" traditionally used natural dyes, but today most practitioners of the art use aniline dyes. Pysanky are not meant to be eaten; they serve talismanic and decorative purposes. You can find out more about pysanky by browsing the category "Pysanky Egg Art" here on Wiki Answers, which is found under Hobbies and Collectibles/Arts and Crafts.

Is dyeing eggs a chemical change?

Yes, it is, because a chemical reaction is occurring. In the case of dyeing eggs, the dye molecules are binding to the protein molecules in the egg shell, both directly, and via hydrogen bonds..

What is the tradition of painting eggs called?

The tradition of painting or decorating eggs is common worldwide, and the name of the practice varies from place to place.

Among Eastern Europeans, the following names are applied to the practice of wax resist egg decoration, a form of batik which uses beeswax and dyes to create designs on eggs:

Belarusians: писанка (pisanka)

Bulgarians: писано яйце (pisano yaytse)

Hungarians hímestojás

Croatians: pisanica

Czechs: kraslice

Lithuanians: margutis

Poles: pisanka

Romanians: ouă vopsite, incondeiate or impistrite

Serbs: pisanica

Slovaks: kraslica

Slovenes: pisanica, pirhi or remenke

Sorbs: jejka pisać

Ukrainians: писанка (pysanka)

What countries still have the tradition of painting eggs for Easter?

Many countries have traditions of painting, coloring or otherwise decorating eggs for Easter. This was a common pagan spring tradition, and has been incorporated into the christian traditions of many countries.

Additionally, many non-christian countries have begun practicing the pagan trappings of christian Easter traditions. Chocolate eggs and bunnies can be seen in many countries where Christianity is not practiced widely.

Simple dyed eggs at Easter are common throughout Europe, North America, and Australia. Intricately decorated eggs, made using batik, painting, applique and other techniques, are common throughout Eastern Europe, particularly among Slavic peoples.

Why does vinegar make egg dye stronger?

The dye binds to the protein in an egg shell; this is an animal protein, similar to silk or wool. The same types of dyes that work on silk or wool will also dye eggs. The dye molecules bind, both directly and via hydrogen bonds, to protein molecules in the eggshell.

The dyes used to dye eggs are acid dyes, called that because they work best in an acid environment. Vinegar is an acid, and adding it to the dye solution makes it more acid, and potentiates both types of binding.

How do you prepare natural dyes?

Depends on what you are using to make the colour. Onion skins can be boiled until all the colour has come out of them then add your fabric item. Tea or coffee grounds can also be used to obtain brown colour by boiling. There are various other natural products that can be used (rhubard leaves, berries, cochineal etc) but I'm not an expert, I've only tried tea & coffee!

How do you get dye date off eggs?

NOTE: a pysankar from Europe reports that using the Mr. Clean-type "Magic Eraser" sponges removes these marks quickly, cleanly, and without damaging the cuticle. This appears to be a promising solution to this problem.

Previous answer: There is, generally, no good way to get the date off of an egg without damaging the cuticle (the outer layer of a shell). The egg producers are making them to be eaten, not to be decorated, so do not take this into consideration. The dye must be permanent enough not to come off when the egg sweats (when moisture from the air condenses on its surface) in order to be useful, so it's generally not removable in a simple, non-abrasive way.

Some date stamps are more permanent than others; it is worth trying to wash the stamp off with mild dish detergent (e.g. Ivory) and a Scotch-Brite pad.

Most people who use dated eggs for making pysanky simply leave them on, and either incorporate the colors into their design, or work around the marks.

It's best to avoid eggs with these marks when making pysanky.

Are there special paints for pysanky eggs?

Pysanky are not made with paints, they are made with dyes.

In earlier times, pysanky were dyed with natural (and usually botanical) dyes mades from flowers, onion skins, grasses, bark, etc.

Today most pysanka makers use chemical dyes of the same sort used to dye silk and wool known as acid dyes (often referred to as aniline dyes). They are quite different than the dyes (food coloring) used to dye the traditional monochromatic Easter eggs (Paas, etc.). These dyes can be purchased from craft stores (some) and pysanka supply sites. You can also purchase powdered dyes meant for wool or silk, and mix them up by adding about half a teaspoon to a cup and a half of boiling water along with a tablespoon of vinegar.

See the link below for more information on dyes and other pysanka supplies.

What different kinds of eggs can be used for pysanky?

Almost all bird eggs are suitable for pysanky. Non-white eggs, such as Rhea or Emu, require special techniques, but can still be used for pysanky. Chicken, Duck and Goose eggs are most commmonly used. They require no special preparation, only simple cleaning to remove dirt. Ostrich eggs have a heavy glossy outer coat with amny irregularities. They are usually sanded to a smooth finish before using. Rhea and Emu shells come in shades of dark green to light green. The light green shades can be dyed without removing the outer shell. To use the dark green shells one would have to remove the top layer by etching or sanding. Finch eggshells can be used, but they are fragile to the touch. Pigeon eggs tend to be oily and do not dye well. Parakeet shells are the best if you want to make tiny pysanky.

Which countries and cultures celebrate Easter?

People celebrate Easter, not countries. Easter is the highest holy day of the Christian calendar, celebrating the Resurrection of Christ, upon which the Christian religion is based. All Christians celebrate Easter, albeit calling it different names and calculating its date differently. Local celebrations have often incorporated the traditions of preceding or neighboring religions, especially those related to spring and the vernal equinox. Thus local traditions vary greatly.

What chemicals are used for pysanky?

Traditional pysankarstvo does not require the use of many industrial chemicals. In earlier times, dyes were made from natural substances (plants and beetles), with perhaps a bit of alum to make them bind to the egg better. Vinegar was used to acidify the dyes so they would bind to the eggs, and perhaps to etch the eggs sometimes.

Pysanka makers today have many chemicals available to them to aid in their art. A partial list follows.

DyeingWhite vinegar (acetic acid) - Has several uses: 1) added to the dye to acidify it 2) used as a weak solution (one tablespoon of vinegar) to a cup of water to clean off eggs/acidify the shell 3) used full strength to etch eggs

Aniline Dyes (acid dyes) - most popular dyes for making pysanky, these are acid dyes used also for dyeing wool, silk and nylon fabrics.

Simple Green (Sunshine Makers Inc.) - Sprayed on full strength to remove dye - scrub lightly with a soft toothbrush

Bleach (sodium hypochlorite NaClO) - used in making white/bleached pysanky to remove dyes and return the egg to white final color

Wax RemovalNaptha (Sunnyside and others) - (1) use on a Q-tip or micro-applicator to remove wax when you make a mistake. This product melts the wax right off, so can only be used in a self-contained area. Use sparingly and only in emergencies. If you do not get off all the wax, you will end up with a blob. (2) Use to clean kistkas. First heat them and tap out most of the wax, then use an eyedropper to drop in some Naptha and let it run through onto a folded paper towel or napkin.

Mineral Spirits, Low Odor (Recochem Inc. and others) - (1) Use this to clean off the egg after you have removed the wax and before you varnish it. This product removes any trace of wax left on the egg and allows the varnish to adhere well. (2) To clean many kistkas at once, soak them in a small jar of mineral spirits (3) Dip a paintbrush in a small jar of mineral spirits and use it to wipe off MSA varnish drips. (4) Mineral Spirits are a solvent for MSA varnish, so if the varnishing process is flawed, soak the egg in a fresh container of mineral spirits to dissolve the varnish, and try again.

VarnishingMinwax Fast-drying Polyurethane, Clear Gloss - Good varnish, but does not have UVLS protection. Yellows over time (a very long time). Cannot be easily removed once applied.

DL Permatex Hand Cleaner - great to remove varnish from your fingers, although it is safer and cleaner to wear non-latex gloves.

Golden Hard MSA with UVLS - This is a specialty museum-grade varnish that costs $80 per gallon. It works best when you blow out the egg, then use a special egg dipper to dip it into the varnish. Let it drain off, them invert it and place it on a wire holder through the hole. This varnish is 100% removeable with mineral spirits, dries hard and clear and shiny, and provides UVLS protection.

EtchingThe Works Liquid Toilet Bowl Cleaner - (Lime-O-Sol Company). Use for etching - mix ½ and ½ with water. WHile etching is not technically a part of making pysanky, some artists like to combine the two forms of egg decoration CAUTION - this product is VERY CAUSTIC!

Why does Easter egg dye come off?

Most Easter egg dyes are water based, and so will re-dissolve in water if given the chance. If the egg becomes moist (even if held in a damp hand), the dye will come off.

In the case of eggs meant to be eaten, this is not a very big deal. In the case of eggs made to be saved, like pysanky, this can be a problem. That is why most pysanka artists coat their finished eggs with a protective varnish.

How do you make a natural pink dye for eggs?

A natural pink dye for eggs can be made using beets, cranberries or juice, raspberries, red grape juice, or juice from pickled beets.

If you wish to make hard-boiled Easter eggs, boil the eggs in water with the dye material and a tablespoon of vinegar, and then simmer for about 15 minutes.

If making pysanky, soak the eggs in the juice or a boiled fruit/vegetable solution (with added vinegar).

Where did Pysanky Eggs begin?

Although many slavic cultures decorate eggs for Easter, only those made in Ukraine are called "pysanky."

What is the best way to prepare a duck egg for writing Pysanky?

Duck eggs are harder and smoother than chicken eggs, and they have an outer layer (the cuticle) that protects the egg contents from the elements. This layer is easily scratched, which would result in uneven dyeing.

If you are lucky enough to be able to collect fresh, clean, unscratched duck eggs then you may be able to simply wash them with gentle soap and warm water, and get excellent results when you dye them. More dirty eggs, or those with stubborn spots, can be cleaned by rubbing with a paste made from baking soda and water.

If the outer layer has been scratched, you can remove the entire outer later with a strong solution such as vinegar, which in effect dissolves the outer layer completely. To do this, soak the whole fresh egg in vinegar for about a minute, then brush it off GENTLY with an old soft toothbrush. Repeat until you can see that the outer layer has been removed. If you are not sure, you can dip the egg in Surma Brown or another dark dye for a second, and remaining parts of the cuticle will show up as dark brown spots.

The problem with removing the entire outer layer is that the next layer does not accept the dye readily, and colors will inevitably look muted or washed out. For this reason, some pysanka artists shy away from duck eggs, unless they can get their hands on fresh unscratched ones, or can buy them from reliable suppliers.

How do you dye egg with natural dyes?

Dyeing with natural dyes is not much different that dyeing with chemical dyes--you put the egg into the dye solution, and then leave it in until the egg has changed color sufficiently.

Chemical dyes tend to work much more quickly, and are thus preferred by most egg artists. Natural dyes often take hours to work, which chemical dyes will set up in a minute or two.