About Pysanky Art

Eggs are the symbol of life, birth, rebirth, spring and new beginnings.

Egg dying has been done by various cultures around the world

for thousands of years.

      The technique I use is a wax-resist method,
using the tools of the traditional Ukrainian method of dying,
also known as Pysanky.
      My designs, however, are not specific to any region or country.
I am influenced by the designs of so many cultures and time periods
and incorporate these designs into my art.
I like to create a peaceful coexistence
of world cultures on one tiny, round canvas.

The Steps in Dying an Ostrich Egg

After drilling a small hole in the bottom,
the egg is blown out, washed and bleached.
Then I rub the shell vigorously
for at least 15 minutes with white vinegar to
remove the shine and allow the dye to take
to the shell.

I then draw freehand dividing lines on the egg
to help guide me as I create
the design on the egg.
I do not draw preliminary sketches,

and all of my lines are drawn freehand throughout the process


    Wax is "drawn" onto the white egg
using a kistka,
a type of pen or stylus with
a tiny funnel on one end.
Beeswax is scooped into the funnel,
and the hot wax comes out the tiny hole
at the tip of the funnel as I draw.
On this white egg, everywhere I place the wax 
will stay white on the final design.

I continue to draw in the design with wax.
Then, using specially formulated egg dye,
I paint highlight colors into some areas.

Highlight areas are now all painted in. Here I used
red, orange, green and purple as accents.

Highlight areas are covered over
in beeswax so that they will
stay the color painted.
You can also see that I have added a
beeswax plug to the hole on the
bottom of the egg.
This is essential for keeping the dye
out of the inside of the egg.

The egg is dipped in yellow dye.

Using the stylus,
more designs are drawn in,
and some areas are covered over.
Any area that is covered
in wax at this stage
will stay yellow on the final egg.

The egg is then dipped in gold.
More lines are added
and some additional areas are covered with wax.
Anything drawn on the egg
at this stage will stay gold.

The egg is dipped in green,
and a few more details are added
with the beeswax.
All that is drawn on the green
egg will stay green in the
final design.

 The egg is dipped in blue,
and more wax is added.
What is drawn on with wax
on the blue egg will
stay blue in the final design.

The egg is then dipped in black,
the final color. 
I place the ostrich egg on a rack
covered with aluminum foil
in a 200 degree oven for 5 -10 minutes.
The wax melts and is gently rubbed off,
and the design emerges.

Here is the finished dyed ostrich egg.

Tips for Dying Eggs

Try dying a chicken egg first. Master the art on this small medium before graduating to goose or ostrich eggs.

If you are new to dying eggs, I suggest working with clean eggs from your grocery store. Just boil them first. 

Use beeswax to draw your designs on the egg. Beeswax melts at a lower temperature than other waxes and stays warm and flowing longer than others, too. It also easily melts off your finished egg, unlike other waxes which will be very difficult to remove.

It will take a little while for you to get used to holding the kistka and drawing on the egg. Take your time and try to just draw lines on your first egg - don't worry about a pattern and don't try to make the first egg look good. 

Practice holding the kistka in your right hand (if you are right-handed!), hold the egg in your left hand, and gently and slowly turn the egg to make the line. Keep the hand with the kistka still. This will help you to make very straight lines. The key is to move the egg, not the stylus.

It could take several eggs of practice before you get the feel of how to heat the beeswax in the kistka over the candle flame. You definitely will get blobs of very hot wax on your first several eggs. I still do it after many years when I use a regular kistka. Most of the time, I use an electric kistka, which run around $30 - $60 but will be a treat for you if you eventually decide to purchase one.

Dye and simple tools are relatively inexpensive. You can further keep your costs down by improvising and using household items. For example, I have used a small pile of scrunched aluminum foil to rest the chicken egg on when melting the wax off it in the oven. 

Most importantly, remember to relax while drawing on your egg. Keep your shoulders down, not scrunched or tense. Have fun with it, and allow it to be a relaxing, fun art rather than something you need to prove that you can do. When you are truly enjoying yourself, you will find you will make your best eggs. This is very true for me.

When melting wax off the chicken egg, heat the egg for only 1-2 minutes in a 200 degree oven. It takes 2-3 minutes to melt the wax off a goose egg and about 5-10 minutes for an ostrich egg. Leave the egg in the oven only long enough to melt the wax.

Be sure to keep your finished eggs out of direct sunlight. Behind glass, like in a china cabinet, is best to keep the colors crisp and bright.

If you find you love this art form and plan to do it often, I highly recommend investing in an electric stylus, or kistka. Lines are more uniform and drawing in wax goes much more quickly.

Check my suggestions for suppliers and artistic resources. I have used many resources over the past two decades and have found that the supplies I purchase from these suppliers work the best.

Egg Dying for Children

Traditional egg dying tools require the use of a lighted candle. This is not safe and quite difficult and frustrating for young children under nine years of age.

For these younger children, I have found that Stockmar beeswax crayons are perfect for children to explore the wax-resist technique. The process is satisfying for them, and their eggs will be beautiful and colorful. They are always delighted with the outcome. Regular crayons can also be used.

Please always use caution and supervise older children and young teens who are using a lighted candle.

How to Choose an Ostrich Egg for Pysanky

Your eggs should come empty but with a small symmetrical drill hole, no larger than 1 ¼ centimeter or about ½ inch across. A smaller hole is better. The hole should be placed in the center of the fattest part of the bottom of the egg. Eggs should be clean inside and out with no funky odor to them. The surface should be shiny with no scratches. The color should be a creamy white with no large brown, black or other colored spots.

Ostrich eggs have tiny dimples - or brownish indentations - on the surface, but these dimples should not be holes. Shine a flashlight inside the egg through the hole on the bottom. If you can see light coming through the dimples, those dimples are actually holes. These holes can cause trouble when the egg is dipped in the dye. The egg has to be air tight and sealed before dipping in dye. 

You can still use the eggs, however, even if there are holes. Squeeze or pour some acrylic medium - about ¼ cup - into the drill hole of the egg, being careful not to get any medium on the outside of the egg. Gently roll the egg so that the medium coats the entire inside of the egg. Allow it to dry a few hours and roll it again, each time leaving it in a different position. Keep doing this until there is no wet medium left inside and the entire inside is coated with dry acrylic medium. It can take a few days for the process, but it is worth it to have a completely sealed egg. This process also strengthens the shell.

Have fun!