The art and craft of pysanky

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My Happy Place

Wow, I just spent a week teaching “Pysanky for All” at the John C. Campbell Folk School in Brasstown, North Carolina, and I declare to one and all…this is my happy place.

Farm House 02

Farm House, my home for the week.

For those who are not familiar with the Folk School, think of summer camp…only year around…for adults…filled with folk art classes…on 300 beautiful acres of gently rolling hills and woodlands…with other like-minded life-long learners.  That should give you the beginnings of an idea of this place.

 

Years ago my sister and I attended an artisan bread-baking class there.  In spite of the misty cold January weather, we had a blast baking all week long.  With our fellow students we started with basic breads and then experimented with sourdoughs, crusty ciabattas and even got to bake in the wood-fired hearth oven right there in the kitchen.  The communal meal-times offered lots of opportunity to meet fellow students and instructors from around the country.  I fell in love with this whole concept of non-competitive, cooperative learning based on the Danish “folkhojskole” or folk high school and I knew I wanted to come back someday and teach.

 

It took me a few years to gain enough experience teaching and then a few more years to work up the courage to apply, but I was delighted to teach for the first time in June 2016.  And even more delighted when they asked me back for this year’s class and scheduled me for October 7-13, 2018.

This year’s class of eight students exceeded my expectations greatly.  On Monday morning we worked our way through an introductory egg to learn the basics.  Step-by-step through the next few days they gained skills and confidence so that by the end of the week they were designing and completing their own masterpieces.  We bonded as a group quickly and constantly helped each other by calling out, “Did you plug your egg?” as one or more students headed for the dye table.  “Show and tell,” was followed by oohs and aahs as the finished eggs made their way around the class.

 

Quilt in hands

Class egg basket

Finished class eggs from our week together.

Saturday and the end of our stay came too quickly, but with the hope of a return trip next year, we parted as long-time friends instead of students and teacher.  That’s a really good feeling in my book.

The total eclipse was a wonderful unexpected extra.


Art Immersion Week at the Studio

For the first time we are offering a whole week of classes at the Studio at Oak Hills Church in Folsom, California. Think of it as Arts Camp for older youth and adults.  Featuring ceramics, drawing, painting, paper crafts and egg art on five different nights, classes begin Monday, July 24, 2017.  Check here for more details and to register for one or more classes.

 

I’ll be teaching the beginning pysanky class on Friday, July 28th from 6:30 to 8:30 PM.  Sign up early to get a discount and reserve your spot.


Arts Camp 2017 – Go Wild!

And go wild we did.  A fast-paced week filled with all kinds of art.  My class was the BEST, of course.


Time to Register

If you have a 5th or 6th grader who’d like to learn how to create pysanky, here’s a great opportunity.  Every year Oak Hills Church in Folsom, California, hosts a week-long Arts Camp for incoming 1st through 6th graders.  This year I’ll be teaching a class on pysanky and as of today there are only three spots open so don’t wait too long to sign up your student.


iFest 2017

This Saturday from 5 to 9 PM in village Green Park of Rancho Cordova.  It’s a fun event for the whole family.  I’ll have a cultural display booth of pysanky so come out and say hi!


Fragile Canvas

A Solo Gallery Show by Teresa Mihalko Harbert

April 2 through May 7, 2017

at the Art & Soul Gallery of Oak Hills Church
1100 Blue Ravine Road, Folsom CA 95630

Probably the number one question I am asked about this art called pysanky is, “Are they real eggs?”  The answer?  Yes, they are very real eggs.  God created an engineering marvel with those shells, sturdy enough to withstand the mama bird’s weight as she keeps them warm before they hatch and yet designed so the baby bird can still peck its way through to life on the outside.

 

Over the years I have accidentally broken eggs at every stage in this creative wax-and-dye process.  From exploding an egg while emptying it, to smashing one as I reach for it on my work area, to bobbling another as I remove layers of wax, and even dropping one or two as I proudly tried to admire my finished work of art.

 

Frustration does not adequately describe my feelings each time this happens.  And after mourning the loss and cursing my clumsiness I eventually reach for another egg and begin all over again.

 

This solo exhibition show has been a long time in coming.  It is the joy of creation and the pain of loss all tangled up in thoughts and eggshells.  Let me take you on my art and faith journey from the initial idea to the actual show you will see in the Art & Soul gallery.

 

It all starts with my love for tiny details.  I actually crave the quiet hours alone required to create these eggs.  That’s my time to push away the busyness of the “regular” world and focus on one small thing at a time.  And once in a while as I work God gives me an idea to ponder.  This time it started with the eggshells themselves.

 

The show title, Fragile Canvas, came quickly and I knew that somehow I needed to demonstrate it, not just tell about it.  I decided to create an egg and then break it on purpose for a photo for the show’s title page.  Creating the egg was a joy, but I was surprised at how reluctant I felt when the time came to break it.  It was much more emotional than I expected.

 

I finally got out my camera and readied the photo shoot area.  Then I took a few minutes to marvel at the designs and color choices on my finished egg’s surface.  This goose egg had been such a pleasure to work on because it was unusually smooth.  Most goose eggs have small bumps and pits on their surface so the wax lines appear to waver as they move across the egg.  Dyes don’t always adhere as brightly either but this particular egg behaved perfectly every step of the way.  Looking at the finished egg I started to doubt myself, did I really need to break it?

 

I wrestled with my decision quite a while before bringing the egg down sharply onto my desk.  Hearing that distinctive “crack” actually sent a shiver up my spine and I felt an immense sense of loss.  I had changed that egg forever with one swift movement of my hand.

 

As I inspected the damage and gently picked up the pieces, I marveled at the beauty of the egg, even in its broken state.  This is where God again gently spoke, reminding me that our lives are also fleeting and must be handled with great care.  We are all made of fragile canvas and yet even in our broken state, we still have beauty.

 

Fragile canvases indeed.


Only Two More Spots!

Wow!  The new catalog of classes for the John C. Campbell Folk School just came out a couple of weeks ago and my “Pysanky For All” class August 20-26, 2017, is nearly full.  This is such thrilling news for me because it means I get to go back to that lovely spot in North Carolina and “play eggs” for a whole week with students of all skill levels.

 

I love teaching beginners.  My favorite part is watching their faces as they remove the wax from their very first egg and see the colorful results.  And I love seeing their excitement as they progress through the week, improving in skill and beginning to come up with design ideas on their own.

 

I also love teaching those already experienced with this wax and dye process.  Helping them stretch their artistic muscles as they work with new colors, or techniques, or styles is great fun for me.  I learn almost as much as they do as we work through the week together.

 

Here is a photo of the work my class did for the big “Show and Tell” celebration at the end of the week.  Didn’t they do a great job?  I feel like a proud parent!

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