The art and craft of pysanky

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Art and Faith

B&W flower rotating cockscomb face sm 1107814Back in 2010 I had a solo art show of my eggs in the Art & Soul Gallery of our church.  It was a huge leap of faith for me because it was the first time I really connected my art with my walk with God.

 

It ran throughout Lent, which is traditionally forty days of preparation for the Easter celebration of Christ’s Resurrection.  Fasting and prayer often accompany this time of waiting.  It is a season for reflection and taking stock.  A time of soul-searching and repentance.

 

As I gave this thought and prayer, I recalled my childhood experiences with Lent.  We usually chose to give something up as a reminder to pray and to look forward to the Easter celebration to come.  It took a while but gradually words bubbled to the surface to express my Lenten experience.  Fasting, prayer, listening, repentance.  But the story didn’t stop there.  At Easter fasting becomes abundance, prayer becomes hope, listening becomes growth and repentance becomes forgiveness.  God’s story of love and transformation became more real now that I had words to express it.

 

Now I wanted to experience and express visually what that time of preparation meant to me.  So the big question…how in the world do I take this colorful, traditional art done on eggs and give the viewer a sense of my own journey of faith?  Eventually this thought crossed my mind.  What if I gave up the use of color on these eggs?  What if I only worked in black and white?  My next thought was, “Are you crazy?”

 

I knew my designs would have to be strong enough to stand alone, without the distraction of color.  How in the world do I create interest using only lines?  I’d never tried this before and I was pretty sure I’d be able to do a few but could I create enough to fill the whole show?  And what if I couldn’t come up with enough material in time?  What if I failed?  Fear, self-doubt, and a sense of the enormity of this task sidetracked me for a while.Black and White -I Am the Vine (Front) 1001013

 

As the days ticked by I kept hearing a soft voice say, “Just make one egg.”  So I did.

“That wasn’t so hard,” I thought.  And so I made another…and another…and pretty soon the design ideas flowed until chicken, duck, goose, and finally an ostrich egg all in black and white covered every surface of my workroom.

 

The show looked great in the gallery but I have no idea if anyone understood what I was trying to say with these eggs.  And it doesn’t matter because the important part of the show for me was what I learned along the way.  Sometimes God doesn’t give you the big picture.  Sometimes you just have to start the journey and not focus on the goal.  And sometimes you will find a joy in that journey that surprises you.

eggs en masse

Coming soon!

If you’ve ever wanted to learn how to create these eggs, now is the time to sign up for an introductory class through Carmichael Recreation and Park District .  See this flyer for more details.Ukrainian Egg Workshop 2015

It’s Official

Jeanne's car

I’m going to summer camp again!  This year’s Pysanky USA Retreat in Pennsylvania promises to be bigger and better than ever.  I’ll be teaching a couple of classes and taking a few from other teachers but more importantly I’ll get to reconnect with “egging friends” from across the country.  For five days the outside world falls away as I explore new ideas, learn new techniques, and catch up with others who share my love of pysanky.  I can hardly wait!

 

Sound interesting?  This event is a great place for all skill levels, from “I’ve never dyed an egg before” to “I’ve been creating these eggs for 30 years.”  If you want to join the fun, here’s the link for more details.

Incredible Eggs Calendar

2015calendarIt’s that time of year.  The 2015 Incredible Eggs calendar is out and I think this one is the best yet.  And that’s not just because I have two egg photos in it this year.  Click here to see the details and to preview the gorgeous photos.

Letting Go

2011 mom cello aMany of you know that I play the cello.  I began as an adult and have been taking lessons for nearly seven years now and although I can see progress, I still can’t bring myself to claim the title of cellist yet.

 

The learning curve for this instrument is steep.  For each note the fingers of my left hand have to press an exact spot on the string to produce the correct pitch.  Depending on the sound I want and what the next notes will be, I have to choose which finger to use and whether to press just my fingertip or a flattened finger onto the string.  Do I hold it steady or rock my hand to create vibrato?  Meanwhile to form the purest tone my right hand controls the pressure, angle and placement of the bow as well as its speed across the string.  So many choices with each and every note.

 

Truth be told, practicing is not always a pleasant experience…for me or the other inhabitants of my house.  If I know my practice session will include work on some horribly hard stuff, I try to schedule my cello time when no one else is home.  If that can’t happen I warn my family with our code phrase, “It’s going to be two-door bad.”  That’s means I not only close the door to the room where I am practicing, but I also close their door in order muffle the sound as much as possible.

 

Over the years I do see improvement in my playing but it’s a painfully long and slow process.  Sometimes that’s discouraging.  Cringing as I hit yet another awful note can be debilitating.  If I stop my bow, the note is gone but its memory lingers to mock my attempts.  I often think, “Should I just give up now and spare the world this agony?”  Thankfully God whispers life lessons to me in odd moments like this.  It struck me recently that each time I pick up the cello I have a choice.  I can’t do anything about the bad notes I played before but I can make each note I am currently playing as beautiful as possible.  Those past regrets take away from today’s beauty and I need to let them go.  Learn from them but move on.  A valuable life lesson indeed.

Me and Eliza, m cello

Summer Camp for Me!

Doing what you love is a good thing…but doing it with a bunch of other people who also love it is an amazingly good thing.  I spent last week in Pennsylvania with 60+ other pysanky artists at an egg retreat learning, teaching, connecting and laughing with friends old and new.  To put it simply, I went to summer camp for adults…and I highly recommend it.

 

This is my third year attending the Pysanky USA Retreat.  I took a few classes, taught a few classes and mostly hung out in the “play room” where we could work on our own projects as we talked and shared about egg art and life in general.  The room population ebbed and flowed throughout the day as classes started which allowed me to meet new people with the luxury of unhurried time on our side.  Free flowing ideas sparked new techniques, new color combinations, new dyes to try.  Wow, my brain got full fast!

 

I came away from this week not only with a renewed enthusiasm for this art but with a sense of community and connectedness to my fellow pysanky artists across the country.  And I’m already looking forward to next year!

Arts Camp 2014 Recap

Here’s a glimpse of our week at Oak Hills Church Arts Camp!

 

God blessed me with 12 wonderfully creative 5th and 6th grade girls, two loving shepherd helpers and a calm and cheerful assistant teacher this year.  Together we learned about God and His love for us while we learned the art of pysanky and how to create these jeweled wonders.  We also learned that occasionally eggs break but life goes on because you get to start over on a new egg.

All valuable life lessons in my book.