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Palmerton Area Youth Group sponsors pysanky classes for all ages

  • Deb Craig dips her egg in the yellow dye.
    Deb Craig dips her egg in the yellow dye.
Published March 26. 2010 05:00PM

Doris Evans said her mother Sophie Batovsky did it.

What Batovsky did was the art of decorating eggs in the pysanky style an Eastern European art form. On March 14 the Palmerton Area Youth Group sponsored a class led by Teresa Livingston at St. Vladimir's Church, Palmerton, to bring the style of egg decorating to a new generation.

The more fanciful eggs can take hours even when made by an expert and are valuable, but at the class one youth said the egg was going home to be boiled and eaten.

Raw eggs have to be at room temperature. The first step was to use a napkin to clean the eggs so there would be no oil from the person's hands left on the egg and to rub the hands free of oil.

Although most designs are geometric anything that can be imagined can be designed on the egg. Livingston had designs posted for those who wanted some help choosing a design.

The various designs have special meaning: a ladder means prayer, fish is for Christianity, a triangle is the Holy Trinity and curls are for protection. A pine needle design indicates health, wheat is a wish for good health, a star symbolizes life and future growth and a bird is for fulfillment.

She said people could draw the original design on the egg with a light pencil mark, something that is no longer needed with experience. But a mistaken drawing cannot be erased because it changes the texture of the eggshell and nothing will stick on it.

As Livingston prepared to dip an egg into the yellow dye, she said the lines that were waxed were not exactly straight, but that didn't matter.

After the yellow dye or the lightest color desired is applied, those areas that should be yellow in the final design are waxed and another coat of dye is applied. This step is repeated for as many colors as a person plans to use.

The wax is used to cover the drawn design so the dye will not color that area leaving it white. It is applied with a kistka, an instrument like a tiny pipe with a cup on top and a tip on the bottom.

Beeswax is rolled into a tiny ball and placed in the cup. It is heated by placing it momentarily in the flame of a candle as is the tip. Then the tip which is open on the bottom is used to trace the sketch or any area that should not be dyed. Livingston said normal beeswax does not show up so she added a dark color and people could see where they were working.

The dye begins with yellow, then blue, orange, green, red and black. It is used from the lightest color a person wants to use and ends up with the darkest desired which frequently is black. Once a dark color is used a person cannot go back to the lighter colors.

There is symbolism here also. Red indicates happiness, green for new growth, blue for the sky, black is the darkness before dawn, orange shows strength, yellow is for light and purity and white is for innocence.

A special non-commercial dye that comes from Ukrainian shops is used. It is also where the kistkas are purchased. It dyes quickly (30 seconds) without being heated. Anyone wanting a darker shade waits for it to dry and re-dips it.

It is also a dye that holds its color for many years.

"The wax seals the color to the egg," said Livingston. She said she learned pysanky when she was 3 by working with her grandparents.

A completed egg is held near the candle flame to warm the wax which can then be rubbed off. The flame should not touch the eggs because they scorch easily.

When the egg is finished it can be punctured on both ends with a Dreml tool or a pin. The yolk has to be broken with a pin or needle before it is blown. The holes can be covered with polyurethane or shellac.

If the eggs are rotated regularly they will dry intact and when it is completely dry the inside of the egg can be heard rolling around.

"My grandmother was excellent at pysanky. They were really fancy, not just circles," said Maryann Taylor of her grandmother Tekla Taras.

Livingston said when her grandmother died the family made a lot of purple and blue eggs.

Some people had made the eggs years earlier, such as Becky Costenbader, but she said she had not done any for 15 years.

As Kent Stauffer removes the wax from his egg he receives admiring comments for his artistic ability.

"I've done pigeon, ostrich and duck eggs," said Livingston.

For information about pysanky check

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