I will never forget my visit to an ethnic art fair outside of Detroit’s Cobo Hall at the age of 12. It is one of my fondest memories. Why? It was there that I was introduced to the art of Ukrainian egg decorating, or Pysanky. This art form is rich in cultural heritage, symbolism, and pure beauty. The intricacy, vibrant colors, and skill involved had me hooked right away. From quail eggs to ostrich eggs, it’s a joy! My parents took me to this event.
They had no idea that I would become a high school art teacher and one day share this art form with my students. I remember watching the elderly artist, a woman, writing on her egg. This art process involves writing/drawing on the egg with beeswax, using a tool called a kistka. The egg is then dipped in various colored dyes after each new design has been written, and it culminates with melting the wax off the egg over a candle flame. I call it the unveiling. Here you see all your hours of work before your eyes.
Watching the experienced Pysanky artist that day, with her grey hair, steady hands, and patience, melting the wax off her creation is something I will never forget. I asked my parents if I could buy a kit, including all the tools, to begin my journey. The elderly woman handed my mom my first yellow box. From there, I practiced and learned from my mistakes. I kept at it. Like anything else, art is a process, and we learn as we go. Since that day, I have created hundreds of eggs and enjoy sharing the tradition of Ukrainian Pysanky. The world is a better place with art showing its face around every corner. I owe this opportunity of learned joy to that one day at the art fair. If I hadn’t had the opportunity to meet the lovely lady sharing her skills, I would never have begun my journey. That day is a fond memory, and it is because of this memory that I am able to share my art with you.
By Cindy Zavadil, HomeWorks Tri-Country Cooperative member. Cindy is a retired art/humanities teacher. She enjoys all kinds of art, reading, and gardening.