Go See Dimitri
You can now find my eggs at Village Treasures in Fair Oaks Village. This eclectic shop combines jewelry services with interesting art, and fine olive oils, chocolate and honey. The owner, Dimitri Grekoff, is quite familiar not only with the art of pysanky but also with its cultural heritage. Besides that, he’s just fun to talk with, so if you’re looking for a field trip as we head into fall, wander over to Old Fair Oaks and stop in for a visit.
Village Treasures is located at 10144 Fair Oaks Boulevard, Fair Oaks, California
Floral Blues at the Kennedy
As part of the 4th Annual Spring Flower Show at the Kennedy Gallery you can see some of my classic blue and white eggs in various sizes from quail to ostrich.
Join the artists this Thursday, April 12, from 6 to 8 PM at the Preview Thursday Reception.
And don’t forget the Second Saturday Artwalk April 14 from 4 to 9 PM.
This time of year often brings thoughts about new beginnings but a profound insight hit me recently. As I reached for a fresh egg to begin yet another project I realized that each egg gives me another chance to have fun, to change my approach, to improve my skill, to make a completely different egg than the last one. In other words, every egg is a “do over.” And I am so thankful that I don’t have to be stuck with the past, but can grow and change and develop as an artist as I work on the next egg.
Here’s the amazing thing though. This principle applies not just to egg art, but to life as well. All of life is one big “potential” when you think about it. Each day is a “do over” that waits for me to move forward one small step at a time. I really like that perspective. So look out 2012, here I come.
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.
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.
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.
The Beauty of Slow
While working on my website yesterday I saw an announcement asking if I’d like to “get posts sent directly to you via instant messenger” and that started me thinking. Just how fast do I need to get posts? I mean, do I really need to know instantly when a new post is out there for me to read?
No one would deny that we live in a fast-paced world. Everything today is fast… email and instant messaging make the postman unnecessary… microwaves cook our food in minutes…online shopping can have your purchase on your doorstep overnight…digital photos go instantly from camera to computer to printer…and the list goes on. We just don’t know how to slow down anymore. Nor do we want to.
It feels like life speeds up with each passing year and there’s no way to stop it. And yet I find I crave the slowness found in the art of pysanky. Everything about it is slow, from melting the beeswax in the kistka to waiting as the egg sits in the dye to working layer by layer, color by color toward the finished egg. My soul grows bigger as I watch a design emerge, wrapping another egg in elaborate colors.
This is where slow is beautiful. And that’s a good thing.
Pysanky Demo at Bella Fiore Florist
Saturday August 14 from 5 to 9 PM— Enjoy the relaxed atmosphere of the Second Saturday experience in Fair Oaks Village and be sure to stop by Bella Fiore Florist to see firsthand the painstaking work that goes into creating these eggs.
Personally, I really enjoy the opportunity to explain how I make pysanky (Ukrainian eggs). Most people are unfamiliar with the wax-resist process and find it hard at first to envision the steps it takes, layering wax on the eggshell as it is dyed color after color. The fun part for me at these demonstrations comes when that light bulb of understanding dawns and the onlookers grasp the whole concept.
Bella Fiore’s owners, Bill and Debbie, have transformed part of their shop into an art gallery where you can see some of my pysanky as well as works by other local artists. Take some time on this Second Saturday to explore and enjoy this wonderful venue.
Step by Step
When people see these eggs for the first time, they often assume I’ve painted them. In reality I use a wax-resist process. “A what?” is the next question I hear. And “Is it hard?” closely follows.
To answer both these questions let me take you step by step through this process.
With a kistka (a small copper funnel on a stick) I apply melted beeswax lines to the egg. All areas covered by this first layer of wax will remain white on the finished egg.
Next, I dye the whole egg yellow and draw more wax lines to preserve the yellow color. Green dye must be painted in small areas and then covered with wax.
Now the egg receives an orange dye bath. Anything that should stay orange on the finished egg must be covered with wax.
After the red dye bath, the egg is ready for another layer of wax to protect everything that will remain red.
The final dye color on this egg is black.
To reveal the finished design, I remove the wax by holding the egg near a candle flame and wiping off the wax as it melts.
Several layers of glossy varnish protect the design and complete the process
With just a few simple tools and a lot of time and patience, these colorful eggs really come to life.
Arts Camp 2010
How can I describe the amazing experience we call Arts Camp at Oak Hills Church. You just had to be there. The air tingles with high energy and excitement as 360 first through sixth graders plus over 100 adult and student helpers explore all forms of art. Everywhere you go on campus you see kids in their classes learning dance, drama, music, painting, silk screening, woodworking, even the culinary arts and lots more.
For the second year now, I had the privilege of teaching ten fifth/sixth graders how to create pysanky eggs. It’s always a little scary to combine kids and candle flames but thanks to plenty of supervision and a couple of mini fire drills, we had no major mishaps. Most of my students managed to finish at least three eggs over the course of this week. And more than that, I could see that they really understood the step by step process as they designed and completed projects on their own.
The techniques as well as the historical significance of pysanky have been handed down through the ages from parent to child, from teacher to student, from one generation to another. And now, I’m proud to say, a new generation of pysanky artists is well on its way to carrying on this tradition.
It’s About Time
I recently had my son and resident photographer, Ryan, take some egg photos for me. As he set up his camera, I collected eggs from their various resting spots around the house and together we staged shots that filled the photos with masses of eggs. Looking at the end result now I marvel at how many finished pysanky there are.
People often ask me how much time it takes to make one of these eggs. It’s hard for me to estimate because I enjoy it so much, but it can range from two hours for a very simple chicken egg to nearly forty hours for a large, multi-colored ostrich egg. And that’s just actual time working on the eggs. It doesn’t include the hours spent daydreaming about the next egg or figuring out a design problem in my head or sketching ideas into my notebook. All I can say is that individually they take a lot of time, but collectively it’s astronomical.
I’m amazed at the amount of time those eggs represent over these last fifteen years. And grateful for the life I have—a husband who supports me in my art and doesn’t mind eating Cheerios for dinner when I’m madly at work in my studio, three nearly grown boys who can operate pretty independently most of the time, a church that fully embraces the arts and the artists within, and a God who gave me this passion for creating beauty in small spaces. Life is good indeed…and it’s about time I stop and remember that.
A gallery show has a lifecycle of its own. First comes the spark of an idea…and then hours or days of contemplating the possibilities, working out the plan in my mind. Soon I’m taking a few first steps of actual work on the eggs. This is the fun part. Yes, this will work! I am convinced I can do it. More quiet hours at my desk steadily applying fine lines of wax or waiting patiently for the dye color to be just right. This is going to be a wonderful show, I can tell already.
Usually about midway into the process come the first seeds of self-doubt. Are my designs strong enough? Did I choose the right theme? Can I complete enough work in this theme? Will I finish enough eggs by the deadline? What if I can’t do it? Am I really an artist or am I fooling myself? What if I don’t make the deadline? Should I just give up now? Why did I ever agree to this gallery? What am I doing on this earth?
Okay, take a breath, I remind myself. You can do this. Remember to focus on one egg at a time. One line at a time. The work continues, slowly but surely. As the deadline looms ever closer I realize I’m going to make it after all. The completed eggs silently cheer me on and even in the final frenzy of setting up the show with all its time consuming details, I feel a mystifying satisfaction. I know deep in my soul that I am an artist because God created me that way. And it is good.
Now to start my next show.
Getting the blog going
New Show at Art & Soul Gallery
Lent:Reflections in Black and White
February 21-April 18, 2010
Art & Soul Gallery
Oak Hills Church, Folsom, California
Lent is a time of preparation for the Easter celebration of Christ’s Resurrection. Historically the Church sets aside the forty days of Lent for fasting and prayer, imitating Christ’s forty day experience in the desert. Lent is a time of waiting. It is a season for reflection and taking stock. A time of soul-searching and repentance.
Connecting my artistic passion with my life in Christ has given me a whole new depth of awe and wonder about God, my Creator and Savior. As I contemplated this project, the first question that came to mind was, “How do I link this highly symbolic art with the season of Lent?”
Beginning with prayer and trepidation, I challenged myself to work only in black and white. Without the distraction of color, each design must truly stand on its own. I also experimented with a wide variety of designs, from simple to complex. The time it took to create each piece provided a refreshingly quiet space to contemplate this season’s purpose.
Exploring the Lenten Season through the art of pysanky has not only stretched me as an artist, it has given me a new appreciation for the history and the practice of Lent. As you wander through the gallery, take your time…slow down…and let this season sink deep into your soul as well.
Teresa Mihalko Harbert—Pysanky Eggs