Ukrainian Pysanky: Not your average Easter eggs

Ukrainian Pysanky
Not your average Easter eggs

Pysanky, beautiful colored Ukrainian Easter eggs, are an ancient art form. Parma resident Linda Lishchuk Hupert is a master designer and artist who creates the decorated eggs, known as Pysanka, from the Ukrainian word for “to write.” In fact, she has the reputation of being one of the most talented Pysanka artists in the area and is known all over the United States for her artful eggs.

Most of us have made colored Easter eggs using the food coloring-based dyes that sometimes don’t cover the eggs evenly, sometimes using waxed crayons to create a design. Pysanky (the plural of Pysanka) are created with wax and dye as well, but the colors are more vibrant and the patterns more intricate than the standard supermarket variety of egg made from kits.

Hupert explained the whole process: You start by dividing the raw egg evenly into segments with a pencil and write a simple star design, using beeswax to hold the dye color on the egg.

“Once the design is drawn in white, I then dip it in yellow and write onto yellow,” says Hupert. “The only painting is green dye, which I pat dry, and cover with wax. Then I move on to orange.” The Aniline dye is stronger than food coloring. Hupert moves on to red and usually empties the raw egg with a Blax fix tool which pushes air into the egg, forcing the insides to come out. After red Hupert may move on to black, and at the end, she removes all the wax by melting it.

Hupert is considered a master artist and has been creating her works for over 25 years. She learned to make the eggs in the Ukrainian American Youth Association in Parma, played around with it in high school and college, became really interested in it, and is self taught in the methodology. She now teaches the same Ukrainian youth group to carry on the tradition. She also contracts to teach large groups.

“It has to be a big group,” Hupert says. “I’m just doing my thing around town, some travels, and have been around.” She once was invited to the governor’s mansion in Columbus to teach the art of creating Pysanky.

In addition to showing her eggs at local art shows, and selling them for between $15 and $35, Hupert was a guest artist at Disney for a few years. The eggs have been shown at the Cleveland Museum of Art retail store, the Natural History Museum of Cleveland, the Garden State Festival in New Jersey, and the New York Verhovyna Festival. Hupert estimates she creates between 40-50 dozen decorated eggs, Pysanky, a year. Many of her eggs are sold on her website (http://PlanetEgg.org), and they’re sold all year round, including during the Christmas season when she creates Christmas-themed egg ornaments.

The origin of Easter eggs goes back to Pagan times. Spring is the time when everything comes back to life. The Intricate designs in Ukrainian eggs contain symbols that go back to paganistic times. Wheat is the symbol for harvest or good life and bands of color indicate the idea of there being no beginning or end and are symbolic of eternity. Triangles represent the Trinity, crosshatching is a fisherman’s net for fisherman of men (Christ), deer symbolize prosperity, fish represent Christ, and poppies are the symbol of love and are the Ukranian national flower.

Here in Cleveland the eggs are sold at the Ukrainian Archives on Kenilworth in Tremont (for the 18th year) across from Lincoln Park. The archives/museum is open from 10AM-3PM today through Fri 4/22.

And, at this time of year, they are displayed at Hixson’s Floral and Gift Shop at 14125 Detroit Avenue in Lakewood (for the 34th year). Mr. Hixson holds a Decorated Egg show the week before Easter. Hundreds and hundreds of eggs by local artists as well as from different parts of the world are on display until Easter. “We are not only proud of the skills of the Ukrainian egg artists but so very proud of the local artists doing the very elaborate Faberge style influenced pendents, jewel boxes, music boxes, purses and clocks,” said Bill Hixson in an email. The store is open today through Fri 4/22 from 10AM-9PM and Sat 4/23 from 10AM-6PM. The show closes on Mon 4/25 at 6PM.

See Linda Hupert’s Pysanky at the Ukrainian Archives in Tremont from 10AM-3PM through Fri 4/22 and at Hixson’s Floral and Gift Shop, 14125 Detroit Avenue, Lakewood, from 10AM-9PM today through Fri 4/22 and on Sat 4/23 and Mon 4/25 from 10AM-6PM. To order eggs online (not ready before Easter), go to http://PlanetEgg.org.

 

From Cool Cleveland contributor Claudia Taller, whose book Ohio’s Lake Erie Wineries will be published by Arcadia next spring. Her passion for words has led to creation of the Lakeside Word Lover’s Retreats, an outgrowth of her work with Skyline Writers. Her favorite foods are red wine, salmon, ice cream, and chocolate. She loves to read, write, tour wineries, ride her bike, ease into yoga, and cook gourmet meals for friends. Find her at http://www.ClaudiaTallerMusings.blogspot.com or at http://www.OhioLakeErieWineries.blogspot.com.

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