The art and craft of pysanky

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My People

Pysanky artists seem to be few and far between here on the West Coast.  This art originated in the Eastern European area of Ukraine, Poland, Russia, Lithuania etc. and immigrants brought it to this country.  Like my dad’s family, most of them settled on the East Coast or across Canada and not so many came to central California where I live now.  As a result it is rare for me to meet others who share my love for creating this type of egg art.

Thankfully the internet has put other artists within my reach.  Just over a year ago I joined an online pysanky chat group and began learning new techniques and tips from our discussions.  I thought I knew a lot about creating these eggs already, but found a whole new world of fun to explore.  These new-found friends willingly shared knowledge and sparked a renewed excitement in me and my work.

A couple of weeks ago I had the amazing opportunity to meet some of these people face to face at a pysanky retreat.  Forty of us spent time hanging out together at a beautiful retreat center in Dalton, Pennsylvania.  I walked into that place never having met anyone but immediately I felt like I was among “my people.”  The names I knew became faces as we all spoke the same language and got excited about the same things.  Together we took classes, admired each others’ work, freely shared ideas, and continued our own projects.

 

 

 In short, I lived and breathed pysanky.

I think I just got a taste of heaven.

Happy Blues

In case you couldn’t tell, I love the color blue.  For as long as I can remember, blue has brought me joy.  In this colorful world, those calm and peaceful blues always capture my eye first.  That’s why it has been such a pleasure to immerse myself in creating a batch of blue eggs these last few months.  In order to stretch myself artistically, I chose a limited number of simple design elements yet combined them uniquely for each egg.  What do you think?

Playing It Safe

Years ago we added onto our house and remodeled our kitchen, a project I had dreamed of for decades.  New cabinets, new floor, new appliances, and new countertops…a dream come true.  In all the decisions that come with a big project like this, the most stressful for me was choosing the countertop.  Fairly quickly I decided on the material, but picking the color was another story.  House décor trends called for warm tans and golds but I really prefer the cool colors like white, grey, and especially blue.  I knew this was a once-in-my-lifetime commitment and I didn’t want to make a mistake so I spent most of my time debating over light colors like grey and white.  They were all nice, clean-looking, neutral (because what if we had to sell the house???) and I didn’t love any of them, but they were all “safe.”

In the midst of all this, I spoke with my sister about my color angst.  She listened patiently and then said, “If you really like blue, then pick blue.”  What?  Blue countertops?  I’d never seen it in any fancy kitchen magazine, or home show, or in real life either.  Who would put blue counters in a kitchen?  It’s just not done!  At least that was my initial reaction.  But the more I thought about it, the more I realized she was right.  I like blue.  In fact, I love blue, and this was my kitchen, and I plan to live here with those countertops for a good long time and who cares about resale value?

I realized my reluctance to choose blue came from a desire to do the reasonable thing, to play it “safe,” to not make waves, to not attract attention, or ruffle anyone’s feathers.  And that is my nature.  I like being behind the scenes, unnoticed, invisible.  But that’s not really how God calls us to live, is it?  A life spend hiding is a life half-lived.  How many experiences have I missed because I wasn’t willing to be bold?  To put my toe outside my comfort zone and risk a little?

These days I still love my blue countertops and I’m so glad I didn’t go the safe neutral route.  Now if I could only remember that lesson every single day…

Floral Blues at the Kennedy

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As part of the 4th Annual Spring Flower Show at the Kennedy Gallery you can see some of my classic blue and white eggs in various sizes from quail to ostrich.

Join the artists this Thursday, April 12,  from 6 to 8 PM  at the Preview Thursday Reception.

And don’t forget the Second Saturday Artwalk April 14 from 4 to 9 PM.

Intersections 2012

I believe God built into each of us a desire for community, both with Him and with our fellow travelers on this earth.  As an artist, I find that rubbing elbows with other artists inspires my in my art and in my spiritual walk in a way nothing else does.  And I don’t get to experience that very often.  That’s why I so look forward to the annual conference on faith and art called Intersections, held at Oak Hills Church in Folsom, California.

This conference covers a broad range of the arts, from drama, to dance, to music, to film, to visual, technical, and even the culinary arts.  Throughout the day we were encouraged to use the supplies on our tables to paint a small section of plastic that we could stick to a window in the back of the auditorium.  As the day progressed, so did our group “stained glass window.”

The visual artists were easy to spot.  They dove right into the paints and started producing multiple pieces right away.  I found watching the non-visual artists even more interesting.  In some I saw the initial reluctance give way to experimentation and finally a joy at simply playing with paint.

Even more fun, was watching people add their painted pieces to the growing design on the window.  Intricate designs and plain colored pieces randomly combined to create beauty where before there was nothing but empty space.

Great speakers, God-breathed conversations, and thought-provoking words filled our time together.  The icing on the cake for me came as we wrapped up at the end of the day.  With the light from outside shining in, our group “stained glass window” became a physical representation of community to me.  And I needed that.  I really needed that.  In fact, we all do.

Etching

Normally the designs on these eggs fill the eye with color but if I use the same wax-resist technique in a slightly different way the resulting monotones are surprisingly beautiful.

A bit of explanation here.  A brown chicken egg is only brown on the outer surface.  Just underneath that dark layer it gets progressively lighter and lighter until the shell become nearly white.  To decorate these eggs I use acid to eat away layers of shell and reveal what’s underneath.  And by protecting my design with beeswax, I can preserve the darker colors on the finished egg.

As I worked on a sample etched egg for a class, God began to whisper a metaphor to me about the process of etching.  Acid is tough on the egg, but getting down to the pure white layer is the only way to reveal the beautiful design created by the darker outer shell.

This is the part that started me thinking.  Often when life doesn’t go as planned, I grumble and complain.  I like my familiar, dark “outer layers” and that “acid” in my everyday life interferes with my personal agenda.  But if I sit in the moment instead of avoiding the hard stuff, I come away changed in some way…hopefully for the better.  God can make my deep, dark outer layer into a beautiful, intricate design if I give Him space to work.  He doesn’t take away my faults, He just transforms them into a thing of beauty.  Wow, that’s a lot to ponder.

If you’d like to try your hand at acid etched eggs, I’ll be teaching this class March 24, 2012, at Craftology in Fair OaksVillage.  Here is the link for more details

Do Over

This time of year often brings thoughts about new beginnings but a profound insight hit me recently.  As I reached for a fresh egg to begin yet another project I realized that each egg gives me another chance to have fun, to change my approach, to improve my skill, to make a completely different egg than the last one.  In other words, every egg is a “do over.”  And I am so thankful that I don’t have to be stuck with the past, but can grow and change and develop as an artist as I work on the next egg.

Here’s the amazing thing though.  This principle applies not just to egg art, but to life as well.  All of life is one big “potential” when you think about it.  Each day is a “do over” that waits for me to move forward one small step at a time.  I really like that perspective.  So look out 2012, here I come.

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