The art and craft of pysanky

art

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

Miss February!

Pysanky artists are few and far between here on the West Coast so I was glad to find an online group centered around these eggs.  Over the past year I have been enlightened and encouraged not just in this art, but in friendships across the world as well.

Recently one of our more computer literate members put together a 2012 calendar featuring pysanky from group members.  As I flipped through a preview of the pages I was surprised and delighted to find a photo of my eggs graces the month of February, which also happens to be my birth month.  A wonderful early birthday present!  Just call me Miss February.


Eggs in Red at the Kennedy Gallery

 

 

 

The changing season brings a new pysanky display to the Kennedy Gallery.  Ostrich, goose, duck, and chicken eggs in brilliant reds offer lots eye candy just in time for the holiday season.  Take a peek at these and all the other art in this wonderful midtown Sacramento gallery.


New at the Ordaz Gallery

Need an excuse to go for a short drive?  Come see some of my Christmas pysanky at the Ordaz Gallery in old town Auburn, California.  Frank Ordaz, an award-winning oil painter, specializes in portraits and you can chat with him as he works in this downtown gallery/studio Tuesdays through Saturdays.


Black and White at the Kennedy

My eggs go formal at the Kennedy Gallery, 1114 20th Street,Sacramento,CA,95811.  These black and white pysanky feature a wide variety of designs without the distraction of color.

And if you’re looking for an excuse to get out and about, Second Saturday Artwalk happens this weekend and provides a great opportunity to explore the art galleries in midtown.


Arts Camp 2011

What a joy to spend a high energy week teaching kids about art and God.  And I don’t say that very often because I highly value my personal, quiet spaces in life.  I am definitely not a high-energy extrovert but I love watching kids blossom as they discover their own artist within.

This year’s class was the best ever.  My five fifth and sixth grade girls picked up the basics of using the wax and dyes very quickly and soon began experimenting with colors and designs on their own eggs.  And best of all, as they concentrated our classroom became a tiny quiet oasis amidst the chaos of over 400 smiling kids, helpers, teachers, musicians, and support staff across the Oak Hills Church campus.  I think my class, students and teachers alike, especially enjoyed that part of each day.

The week finished on a high note with a Friday night Showcase for all the parents.  Afterwards exhausted but excited, I found myself already looking forward to next year’s Arts Camp.  Incredible, isn’t it?  In spite of the hectic schedule, the crazy hours, and the energy it took many of us felt this same way.  It’s a God thing.


In the News

Here’s a link to the May 2011 Sacramento Talent Magazine.   Check out page 16 for an article on me and my eggs.

And if you want to see how they are made, come to Bella Fiore on Saturday, May 14 where I’ll be demonstrating the process from 5 to 9 PM.


Second Saturday in Fair Oaks Village

April 9, 2011 from 7 to 9 PM

Enjoy a relaxed evening at the Fair Oaks Village Second Saturday Art Walk.  I’ll be a Bella Fiore  Florist from 7 to 9 PM answering questions about these eggs.

In addition this Saturday evening will be a time to say farewell to current owners, Bill and Deborah Brown, and say hello to new owners, Dawn and Chris Conyers.  See their blog for more details.


Now Appearing

From now until April 30 you can see a wide assortment of my pysanky eggs at the Kennedy Gallery, 1114 20th Street, Sacramento, CA, 95811.


St John’s Art Festival

St. John’s Art Festival opens with a reception Saturday, March 12, 2011, from 5 to 9 PM at St. John’s Lutheran Church, 1701 L Street, Sacramento.  This collection of religious and spiritual works runs through Saturday, March 19.

One of my pieces was accepted to this show, and submitting a piece to a juried art show is scary, there is just no way around that.  Fear can keep an artist from sharing and sometimes even creating work.  I know because I’m all too familiar with the self-talk that tells me my pysanky eggs are just a “little thing I do” and not really art.

When I stopped to think about my art-related fears, I realized they mirror my personal fears.  “Will-anyone-else-like-my-eggs” is really just me saying “will-anyone-else-like-me?”  “My-art-is-no-good” becomes “I-am-no-good,” and on and on.

I know to survive as an artist I must learn to separate my art from own self-worth.  And to grow and thrive as a person I need to embrace this separation.  The tricky part is putting this simple truth into practice.  But practice takes…well, practice, so one step at a time I’m working on this personal spiritual discipline by putting my art out into the “real world” beyond my comfort zone.  It’s not always easy, but it’s worth the effort.


Lenten Prayer Project

It is such a privilege to connect my spiritual life and my art…and to see it reach farther than I ever thought possible boggles my mind.  Recently I submitted a photo of my work to Clayfire Curator and just yesterday found out it was chosen as part of a Lenten Prayer Project.

Lent, the season of reflection leading to Easter, brings to mind different images to different people.  Growing up it always meant giving up something important to me, like candy.  Avoiding sweets didn’t usually last very long, and then it was merely a matter of confessing my sin and waiting for the Easter bunny to bring goodies.

Last year my Lenten experience changed that mental image dramatically.  Preparing for a gallery show of my pysanky and working only in black and white challenged me both as an artist and a Christ-follower.  Through that experience I understood, possibly for the first time, what it really means to depend on God for my very next step.  And the celebration of Easter felt so much sweeter with the joy of adding color back to my work.

I don’t know what Lent will hold for me this year, but I find myself looking forward to learning more about myself and about God through it all.  What about you?


Layer by Layer

…or Making the Leap from “I Do This Art” to “I am an Artist”

It’s taken me years to actually refer to myself an artist.  And I think I’m not alone in my reluctance to claim the label.  There is something mysterious and wonderful and scary about that term.  If I call myself an artist, then I have to produce art, and be good at art and sell art, and make money selling art, or so we think.

Truthfully the title “artist” is helpful because it describes a way people look at the world…not simply as things you can see and touch and define, but in a way that pierces the thin veil between our finite world and God-breathed eternity.  And whether I call myself an artist or not doesn’t change the fact that I am an artist.  Simple, huh?  Well, not really.

Let me take you layer by layer through my own gradual journey to claiming the title artist.

Layer 1—I Can Create.  As did many others, I began exploring creative avenues early in life.  For most of us it starts with school projects.  Those simple drawings led me to creative writing to playing at miniatures to quilting to cross-stitch to clothespin people and eventually to discovering the fascinating world of pysanky.  And now looking back I can follow the thread of creativity through the years.

Layer 2—I Can Do This Egg Thing.  Pysanky, the layering of wax and dyes on eggshells, is a simple art yet it holds endless possibilities in terms of color and design.  I taught myself the basics from a book and found I loved the challenge presented by each new egg.  Even the failures provided valuable lessons as I honed my craft.

Layer 3—I’m Improving.  The finished egg was never the goal for me but the process of creating was.  I treasured my quiet time creating, leaving the rest of the world behind.  My family got to see those works but rarely did anyone else so years of finished eggs lay hidden away in a closet.

Layer 4:—Am I an Artist?  Eventually I began to give away some of these treasured creations to family and close friends.  I was so used to seeing these eggs and thinking them commonplace, that the response they evoked surprised me.  It made me realize that in sharing my work, I not only gave pleasure to others, I felt incredibly blessed as well.  Gradually I let others into the private world of my art, and with much prodding from other artist friends, I “went public” with a solo show at the Art & Soul Gallery in 2006.  Developing a website seemed like a reasonable next step but it took years and much hand-holding.  Making the eggs is easy, marketing myself and my work is not.

Layer 5—I Am an Artist…I Think.  By releasing my work to the world at large, I opened myself to praise and to criticism.  This is where real and imagined fears come to the surface and they can paralyze an artist.  I know, I’ve been there.  And sometimes I’m still there.  Thoughts like these race through my head.  What will they think or worse, what will they say?  What if they don’t like my work, and by extension me?  What if my work really isn’t good and no one told me?  What if…?  I have to remind myself continually that what people think of my art, doesn’t change my work or my passion for it.

Layer 6—I Am an Artist…and So Are You.  Having come this far, I sometimes have the privilege of seeing and encouraging other fledgling artists in their own journeys.  Being an artist is mostly a solo gig.  There’s no getting around the hard, often solitary work it takes to produce art.  But because of that, there is great need for community among artists, for standing shoulder to shoulder, for walking together, for helping others to see themselves as God-created artists.  Whether we practice our art or not, each of us is an artist and fellow traveler in life’s journey.  How much sweeter is the trip when we link arms and help each other along the way.