Arts Gallery

Ukrainian Easter Egg Painting - Learn How to Make Pysanky. Workshop by the House of Ukraine in Balboa Park, California

By Geeta Chinai, SignOnSanDiego Contributor
Photos by Marc Balanky, SignOnSanDiego
The San Diego Union-Tribune,,
San Diego, California, Wed, Mar 10, 2004

You start to notice them every year around this time.

Colorful. Delicate. Detailed. Mesmerizing.

"How do they do that?" you wonder.

(No, we're not talking about those squashy, chewy, sticky, neon marshmallow chicks that used to be just yellow but seem to show up in scarier new colors every year.)

How It's Done
[Marc Balanky/SignOnSanDiego]

We're talking ornate ovalian objets d'art.

Ukrainian Easter Eggs.

And this year, what with Easter coming early and all, you'll need to sign up soon to learn for yourself how to do those.


Ukrainians don't just decorate their eggs for show or to pass the time. They use them as Hallmark cards -- to send specific good wishes to friends and family. Lines, symbols and colors all represent something. Yellow, for instance, symbolizes wisdom; pine branches stand for long life and health; deer, horses and rams mean wealth and prosperity.

In fact, "pysanky," the Ukrainian word for these eggs, literally means " to write."

How It's Done [Marc Balanky/SignOnSanDiego]


The best way to learn how to create these egg messages is through a workshop by the House of Ukraine in Balboa Park. In three short hours, three sisters, Sonya, Natalie and Darlene, will guide you, step by step, through the making of at least two gorgeous eggs. By the time you leave, you'll have a sound understanding of the basic techniques and patterns, you'll have absorbed the spirit of an ancient tradition, and you'll be filled with a passion to do more and more on your own.

Classes will be held from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. March 13 and 27 [2004] at the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. The cost is $25 and includes all materials, including a tool that you get to take home with you. Call (619) 447-1252 to register.



All you need, really, are patience and a steady hand.

How It's Done
[Marc Balanky/SignOnSanDiego]

And, of course, the materials. In addition to eggs and dye, you'll need some beeswax, a candle and a kistka, a wooden dowel with a small brass funnel attached to one end.

Start with a clean, white, raw egg. Place a small piece of wax into the larger end of the kistka funnel, and hold it in the candle flame. As the wax starts to melt and move toward the smaller end, draw wax lines on your egg.

You'll be constantly moving back and forth between the candle and the egg, as the wax tends to harden quickly, and you'll need to keep feeding wax into the kistka, as the funnel is small.

How It's Done
[Marc Balanky/SignOnSanDiego]

Any area covered with wax at this point will remain white on the finished egg.

Symmetry is key.

When you've finished drawing wax lines for your white patterns, place the egg in a jar of dye for five to 10 minutes. Remember to always start with light-colored dyes, such as yellow.

When you remove the egg, pat it dry with a paper towel. Next, draw a wax pattern on any part of the egg you wish to remain yellow.

Repeat the dying process with a darker dye.

Once you've finished waxing and dying, let the egg dry completely.

To remove the wax, hold the egg near the middle part of the flame. As the wax begins to melt, quickly (and gently) wipe it off with a clean paper towel. Repeat until all wax is gone.

Later, you can varnish the egg using gloss, varnish or shellac. If your egg has no cracks, it will last safely for years and years, without any smell. (Just rotate it every few months to ensure even drying of the yolk and whites inside.)

That's it! Keep the egg, or give it, with its inscribed good wishes, to someone as a special token.

A finished Ukrainian Easter Egg
Marc Balanky / SignOnSanDiego]

[Marc Balanky / SignOnSanDiego], San Diego, CA, Wednesday, March 10, 2004

House of Ukraine, Balboa Park, California