Originally created 03/24/01

Eggs-traordinary



Doug Payne had his 11-year-old daughter, Katherine, in mind when he ordered a Ukrainian egg-painting kit from a specialty toy catalog about five years ago.

But the delicately patterned eggs caught on with his whole family.

The Paynes created dozens of miniature artworks to sell during a summer fund-raiser about three years ago to benefit their congregation, Wesley United Methodist Church in Evans.

People asked for certain designs, and they made them, said Dr. Payne, a psychologist. "I have spent as much as 15 to 20 hours on an egg," depending on how complicated the design, he said.

But one can be made in as little as 15 minutes.

The art of decorating eggs by alternating layers of beeswax with dye baths is called pysanky, a word that evolved from the Ukrainian word pysaty, meaning "to write."

Designs are often rich in symbolism - a cross or a fish signifies Christ. Deer represent prosperity.

Raw eggs are used. When finished, tiny holes are punched in the ends of the egg and the contents are blown out.

To create the designs, Dr. Payne melted wax in a tiny crucible, called a kistka. The tool is a cone with a stick handle. As liquid wax flowed out of a tiny hole on the bottom of the cone, the designer marked out a pattern on the egg.

Whatever was to remain white or natural was coated with wax first. Then the egg was dipped into yellow dye. A second coat of wax was applied to protect parts remaining yellow and the egg was dipped into an orange dye.

Each time a color was applied, the egg was subsequently coated in wax until the desired design was built up. The last dye wash was black.

When the design was complete, the wax was melted off and a final coat of tung oil was applied to seal the work. Some use varnish or polyurethane to do the same thing.

Other local congregations also have enjoyed the miniature pieces of artwork.

While the Rev. Daniel Munn, pastor of St. Ignatius of Antioch Catholic Church (Melkite rite), was teaching English in Ukraine last summer, he fell in love with the crafts and the emerging Catholic university and seminary in Lviv, the Theological Academy.

St. Ignatius sent donations for the education of the university students, he said. "And they have, in gratitude, sent (St. Ignatius) some of the local crafts, including some painted eggs."

A shipment that arrived before Christmas contained handmade wooden jewelry boxes, crosses and black lacquer boxes, embroidery and some icons hand-painted by the seminarians.

Ukraine has been closed to the United States for years, "but little pieces are starting to come out to us," said Dr. Terri Lawless, a physician at Gracewood State School and Hospital who attends St. Ignatius.

She hung eggs on her Christmas tree this year. Judging from the style, "probably one person did all these," she said.

It intrigues her that the eggs came from Ukraine, she said. "Hopefully, one day, I will make it over there."

For more information on Ukrainian eggs, visit the Internet site at www.pysanka.com.

Reach Virginia Norton at (706) 823-3336 or vanorton@augustachronicle.com.