The art and craft of pysanky



Teresa Mihalko Harbert

I consider myself a “latent artist”, having discovered my artistic passion far along this path called life.  It’s hard to describe the terror I felt as an elementary school child when the teacher asked for a drawing to go along with our assigned stories.  The writing came easily to me…and straight lines and simple forms I could handle, but if the illustration called for anything more than the sun and a tree, I was sunk.

Later as a college student, I experimented with art forms such as quilting and cross-stitch.  Notice the recurring theme of straight lines and simple forms?  Around this time I learned about some fabulously decorated eggs called pysanky and I recognized the culture and heritage my Ukrainian grandmother had tried to pass on to the uninterested teenager I was years ago.  With a mail-order kit of wax and dyes I began the slow process of teaching myself to make these eggs.

Marriage and family interrupted my art endeavors but now as life begins to slow down again, those straight lines and simple forms call me with their elegant rhythms.  And once again I can indulge my passion for this ancient art called pysanky.  In 1995 I debuted as an egg artist in the Sacramento area.

11 responses

  1. Pingback: 10+ Amazing Pysanky (Ukrainian) Easter Egg Designs | Stawnichy's Ukrainian SausageStawnichy's Ukrainian Sausage

  2. Pingback: The Pagan roots of Easter (Inanna/Ishtar) | WarriorSlave - Alternative Media Magazine

  3. Where was your grandmother from? I suspect she might have been “Rusyn” (as Ukrainians often called themselves back in the day), as the Russians don’t write pysanky.

    June 5, 2011 at 9:09 am

    • We don’t know exactly where she was from. My grandparents came to New York in the early 1900’s through Ellis Island and were told by the other immigrants to destroy their personal records so they couldn’t be sent back to the “Old Country.” She always insisted the family was not Polish, even though her homeland borders had often changed so we suspect they came from somewhere in the northwestern part of the Ukraine.

      June 5, 2011 at 11:26 am

      • Most of the immigrants from that era were either from the Austro-Hungarian empire (Pre-WWI) or Poland/Romania. The Ukrainian ethnicities in this region are either Volynian (like my mother), Halychan/Galician (which takes in a diverse group of ethnicities that were largely Greek Catholic), Lemko, Hutsul, Or from Kholm and Pidlyashia.

        June 5, 2011 at 2:11 pm

      • I believe it could be the Lemko region because it was the drop-pull method I remember seeing her demonstrate when I was a teenager. The family always attended the Russian Orthodox church in their town of Binghamton, New York, and my dad grew up speaking Russian in the home. He learned English when he went to school.

        June 5, 2011 at 2:21 pm

  4. debby

    Hi Teresa, It was nice to see you again today. I love what you wrote about straight lines and simple forms and not being able to draw!! That is exactly how I have felt most of my life. I am venturing out a little bit now, but not much.

    Mainly I’m writing to ask if you mind me using one picture of your eggs on my blog. I am writing about the conference and wanted to show your eggs. I will link to your blog also.

    March 27, 2011 at 7:42 pm

    • It was good to see you again too. Yes, you may use an egg photo and thanks for linking the blogs. I’m looking forward to seeing your thoughts on the conference. And did you put the next Covenant Artist meeting on your calendar? It’s always the fourth Thursday.

      March 27, 2011 at 8:35 pm

  5. bscarlettc

    This is so awesome! I love your story and now I know what this art is actually called. I used to have two of these gorgeously painted eggs from Romania that I bought on a mission trip back in 2001. Sadly, they were broken in a subsequent move. Congratulations on your new found artistic passion~!

    January 2, 2011 at 8:48 pm

  6. Kerry and Natalie

    Hi Teresa!

    Natalie is still raving about your Arts Camp class and sharing her creations with anyone who comes over. She wants to continue her pysanky but we lost the info on how to purchase the paint. Can you send us some info? We also saw your classes offered. Natalie would love to take one.

    June 29, 2010 at 6:29 pm

    • I’m so glad Natalie had fun at Arts Camp and wants to continue making pysanky. She picked up the skills quite easily and will improve quickly. I would love to have her in another class. In the meantime, you can get supplies from The Super Color Kit with delrin kistkas is the one I recommend. A Blas-Fix egg blower makes emptying eggs easy. You should also buy some chicken egg sized findings so you can hang the finished eggs.

      June 29, 2010 at 7:38 pm

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