Life + Arts

Pysanky brings inner peace

The Ukrainian traditional art of egg decorating became a spiritual symbol of the Lenten and Easter season when the region that is now the Ukraine accepted Christianity around A.D. 988.

Artist Nestor Topchy taught the Ukrainian art of pysanky to eager egg decorators Saturday at Avant Garden, 411 Westheimer.

‘(Pysanky) takes a calm mind, discipline and a lot of practice, and it’s an art form,’ Topchy said. ‘It is relaxing. It’s a meditation. It’s a spiritual endeavor.’

Pysanky is a traditional Ukrainian form of egg decorating that employs the use of a drawing tool called a kiska.

The kiska is heated in the flame of a candle then dipped in bee wax. The heated kiska in turn melts the wax, which is then siphoned into the kiska and used to draw on a hollow eggshell.

Pysanky comes from the Ukrainian word ‘pysaty,’ which means to write. It is from this hand-drawn style of decoration from which pysanky derives its name.

Once a design is drawn, the egg is dyed. The wax preserves the color onto which it was drawn. More wax patterns are made after each dye.

When the pattern is complete, the egg is held close to a candle to melt the wax from the shell.

‘I liked making the egg. I never thought the wax would make different colors stay. They didn’t go away once you dyed the egg,’ said young egg decorator Sam Mardon, who attended the workshop with his family.

Decorators tried to keep a steady hand while drawing intricate designs across their egg. Some even employed the use of a rubber band around the egg to ensure their lines were straight.

‘If you create an egg with symmetrical lines in it, you’re evoking balance and symmetry within yourself and within the universe. It will have an affect on you psychologically,’ Topchy said. ‘When you look at the egg afterward it will do that, which is why all of these eggs have some symmetry to offer.’

Peaceful music played in the background while those attending the workshop sipped hibiscus tea, deeply concentrated on the fragile canvas held between their fingers.

‘I’m having a vicariously great time seeing all these people get to make their eggs,’ Topchy said.

He answered questions and told the decorators the history and spirituality of the craft that ties it to Easter.

‘It’s like prayer in a lot of ways or meditation, this type of art. A lot of Eastern art is that way and in a lot of old traditions that’s the way art used to be,’ Topchy said.

‘Art in modernity reflects a lot of anxiety and existentialism and a lot of problems. That wasn’t always the case and this is an art that doesn’t do that, which is what makes it healing.’

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