The art and craft of pysanky

Ukrainian eggs

Me on TV???

I am a “behind the scenes” person by nature.  I do not like being the center of attention.  And that sentiment goes a long way back.  In second grade I remember vividly a time when our classroom ended up with an extra red rubber ball after recess one day.  My teacher asked for a volunteer to return it to the neighboring classroom and everyone jumped up waving arms ecstatically in the air.  That is, everyone except me.  I sat quietly with hands folded thinking, ”Why would anyone want to go and do that?”  Sister Mary Vincent settled the class down and then imagine my shock when she called on me.  I began quaking in my saddle shoes as she handed me the ball.  I can still feel the terror of leaving the safety of my classroom to walk that long hallway, knock on the door and then enter the other classroom, all eyes fixed on me.  Oh the horror!

Given my aversion to the limelight, it’s rather hard to imagine myself on television but that’s what happened on the Friday before Easter.  With just a few days notice Channel 31 Good Day Sacramento’s Cody Stark and his camera man came into my kitchen to highlight my egg art.  Ch31 truckMe on live TV, just like that.  I didn’t have much time beforehand to fret and get nervous which is probably a good thing.  And talking about pysanky and demonstrating the process was easy.  While I can’t exactly call myself a television star, I can at least say,”Want to see me on TV?  Click here.”


Quilts and Eggs

The Art & Soul Gallery sits in the lobby of my home church, Oak Hills, and we rotate art through there every couple of months or so.  Currently we’re showing a collection of quilts by Debby Schnabel, a local artist, and the colors, variety, and workmanship are stunning to say the least.

Debby Schnabel, quilterI had the privilege of “hanging” this gallery, which simply means I took part in arranging the quilts and physically mounting them on the walls for display.  It usually takes two or three people to do the work of hanging a new gallery.  This time Debby Schnabel, the quilt artist, and my painter friend, Randy Blasquez, formed the hanging team.

Just as we do with paintings we laid all the quilts out on the floor to arrange them by color.  Then came the process of figuring out how much space we had and making sure we had a good flow to the whole display.  Finally, we mounted the quilts on the wall.  Whew.  Job well done.

As we worked, I noticed both Debby and Randy had an eye for color and scale with those large quilts that I didn’t have.  And both could spot a quilt hung out of level quickly.  It was a different experience for me.  My eye works best in tiny details.  Working with objects this large, I found I was out of my element.

I love seeing those quilts on the gallery wall, but I really loved coming home to my studio and working on my newest series of quilt-inspired pysanky.  To each her own!Eggs in Basket


Lightning Does Strike Twice!

product_thumbnailLast year I had the privilege of seeing a photo of my eggs printed in a beautiful calendar featuring pysanky from artists across the globe.  My son, Ryan, did an amazing job photographing a collection of my red eggs which was the featured photo for February.

This year I am thrilled to announce another photo of my eggs appears in a calendar…and once again it’s for February.  Click on Incredible Eggs 2013 Calendar to get more information and preview all the pictures.

I guess now I really am “Miss February!”


My 15 Minutes of Fame

I got a package in the mail this week.  I knew it was on its way but had nearly forgotten, so seeing it in the postal box and tearing it open brought a Christmas morning thrill.  At last, the promised September 2012 issue from the Egg Artistry Guild of Australia.  And on page 19 I found an article with  my name and some photos of my eggs.  I’m practically famous!

In case you’re wondering, here’s the path that led to this article.  At the egg retreat in July I took a class on etching emu eggs and posted a photo of the finished egg to my pysanky chat group.  The editor of the Australian Guild saw it, contacted the owner of Pysanky USA, the online store that sponsored the retreat, who called me to ask permission to pass on my information.  A flurry of emails back and forth and voila, people in Australia are now reading my one page feature.  Small world, huh?


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?


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

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.


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.


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.