The art and craft of pysanky

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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.

Arts Camp 2014

VA56_Pysanky-7

Once again I’ll be teaching a week-long class of 5th and 6th graders how to create pysanky.  Oak Hills Church in Folsom, California, bursts with activity as the campus transforms into a vast studio of kids and volunteers all focused on finding God through the arts.

 

Dance, music, theater, visual arts, creative craftsmanship, and even culinary arts come alive as we all learn how to nurture our creative souls.

 

For more information and to register, click here.

 

 

 

A Duck Tale

Her name is Fiona.  At least that’s what I call this duck nesting in my yard.  She actually belongs to my neighbor but kept finding her way back into my yard.  Every day my neighbor would take her back home but Fiona got what she wanted.  One day I found her sitting firmly on a nest and knew she was here to stay, at least until those eggs hatched.Fionasitting

 

A month is a long time to sit on a nest, but Fiona did her job well.  She returned home very briefly morning and evening to eat but the rest of the time she sat…and sat…and sat.  I found the nest empty once so I reached my hand in carefully to feel how many eggs she had.  Unfortunately Fiona was just returning to my yard and she did not take kindly to me touching her precious eggs.  Did you know ducks can hiss?  And run really fast when they want to?  It’s scary!

 

The big day arrived when nine little yellow puffballs followed their mama around my yard.  There is nothing cuter than a baby duck!  We ran out to snap a few photos, steering clear of Fiona’s fiercely protective pecks then left them alone to find their way back into our neighbor’s yard.IMG_20140424_164839

 

Fast forward a couple of days and now Fiona and her brood are regular visitors to our koi pond.  She takes them back to her own yard to eat and sleep, but at least three times a day they make a field trip to go swimming.  It would have been fine if they just swam, but now they were starting to dig in our plants and muddy up the water.  I wondered what the fish thought of their new neighbors so I watched carefully.  One of our bigger koi started nibbling on a baby duck’s paddling foot and that baby just gave him a good peck.  Problem solved.  I laughed at their antics but I knew we had to do something because I was tired of dealing with the muddy pond.swimming1

 

Last week as the ducks swam happily I found their secret entrance to my yard.  Now to get the ducks out of the pond and back to their own home.  I tried shooing them but that didn’t work very well.  Next I used my arms and a pond skimmer which helped with the herding somewhat.  I managed to get them back to the fence near their escape route but Fiona held her ground pretty well and wasn’t much interested in taking her babies home.

 

Next idea…maybe if I could grab a couple of babies and push them underneath the fence she’d take the hint.  I herded them all against the fence and got close enough to pick up two babies and push them into the yard next door.  Fiona went ballistic at that and started attacking me…and ducks peck hard!  I managed to get another duckling under the fence when all of a sudden Fiona nipped the tender skin of my forearm and hung on for dear life.hatched

 

It’s funny how your brain can operate on a couple of different levels at once.  As I raised up my arm with the mama duck hanging in midair, one part of me thought, “That’s not right…and it hurts!”  But the other part of my brain said, “Hey she’s occupied, now’s my chance to get the rest of those babies out of here.”  So with my free hand I kept grabbing and shoving until all the babies were next door peeping for their mama.  Fiona let go and I was able to catch her and shove her under the fence too.  Whew!  It took a couple of cement blocks to fill the space but we haven’t had any more duck visitations since then.

 

I kind of miss them already.  I think this is what the empty nest syndrome feels like.emptynest

Egg Classes in April

4-petal leaf vine on maroon 1104214Want to learn how to create these lovely eggs?  Along with the Ukrainian Heritage Club of Northern California I am teaching an introductory and a “next step” class on Saturday, April 5, 2014.

La Sierra Community Center
5325 Engle Road
Carmichael, CA 95608

Introductory Class–9:30-11:45 AM

No experience necessary for this class.

Next Step Class–1-3:30 PM

If you’ve made these eggs before and want to learn a new technique, this is the class for you.

You can get more information and sign up through Carmichael Recreation and Park District or call 916 485-5322.

Calendar Girl

calendar

I know this is a bit late but I’m Miss February, for the third year running!  Or at least one of my eggs is Miss February.   Click here to see a preview of all the wonderful photos and find out how you can order a 2014 calendar for your very own.

Creating beauty on eggshells can be a time-consuming and lonely process but thanks to modern technology I am part of a worldwide egg art family.  To me, this calendar is tangible proof that even though separated by miles, we are a community connected through our art.

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