Several of us were at a friend’s house today indulging in a traditional Easter craft: the Eastern European art of egg decorating, or pysanky.
You begin with a raw egg, preferably white. Using a pen-like tool called a kistka, (not to be confused with the name of the female group that sings heavenly Eastern European harmonies, Kitka) you draw intricate designs on the egg. The tip of the scribe has a tiny metal funnel to hold a sliver of beeswax. Using the flame from a candle, you melt the wax and draw it wherever you want white to remain.
Your egg gets dyed the next lightest color, often yellow. You repeat the wax writing, covering up anything you want to remain yellow on the finished egg. Then you dye it the next darker color, such as orange.
These steps are repeated until you use the final, darkest color, which is often black. By this point, you have gone cross-eyed with eyestrain, and your brain is fatigued from trying to figure out what to color, what not to color, and which color to use next.
This is also the time when your egg looks terrible, covered in a web of wax. But magic is just around the corner…
You place your egg into a toaster oven, just hot enough to melt the wax, but not hot enough to cook your egg, then wipe the wax off. The bright colors and intricate designs of your masterpiece are now revealed.
Or, at least, that’s the goal. In reality, we had blobs of color where we dropped wax by mistake, areas that we had forgotten to cover, and mishaps, such as cracks that threw all the hard work out the window.
The eggs stay raw and are left to dry. The inner portions evaporate, leaving a light keepsake that can be varnished and used as long as you can keep the bugs away from them and clumsy fingers from dropping them.
Before we knew it, most of the day had gone, but we were left with some very amusing designs and color combinations.
Our sixth grader finished this “sunset” egg and was going to make a second “alien” egg, then got frustrated and played with his guinea pig instead.
The geocaching fanatic of the group wrote out GPS coordinates and some other mumbo jumbo that we “Muggles” don’t understand.
Our hostess made an adorable four-part barnyard egg, complete with ram, chicken, rabbit, and ox, which we insisted looked more like a cat. Or reindeer. Or something. But it was cute.
I tried to do a Hawaiian floral theme:
and ended up with an underwater scene once I saw how deep and rich the blue turned out.
We had a great time and vowed to do even better next year. Then we clutched the raw eggs to our bodies and tiptoed home.