Local Easter enthusiasts can prepare for the hunt early this weekend by learning an Old World egg decorating tradition.
Nancy Gil will again teach the art of Pysanky to interested attendees Saturday, using wax and a series of dyes to create intricate patterns on egg shells.
“Pysanky is the traditional Ukrainian way of decorating Easter eggs,” Gil said. “We’ll be using melted beeswax and a special stylus called a kitska to draw a series of lines on the egg shell. Then we’ll put the eggs in dye baths starting with the lightest and working toward the darkest.”
By adding additional wax lines between each dye bath, patterns emerge from the yellows, oranges, reds and black.
Gil said raw eggs are used and the liquid is removed through small holes in the shell to preserve the patterns. The shells are sprayed with a sealant to preserve the designs.
“It’s a pretty straightforward process, you don’t have to be a fabulous artist,” Gil said. “You just have to be able to make a straight line on a curved surface.”
Gil’s workshop will teach beginners how to use the kitska and how the wax flows onto the egg. Attendees will write their names on a practice egg and then work along with Gil on a group design.
After that, you’ll be free to come up with your own designs.
“Usually people make at least two eggs,” Gil said. “Some people who are coming back for their second or third year might be able to make three or four.”
Gil, who is not Ukrainian, said she was bitten by the Pysanky bug when visiting her mother in Houston nearly 30 years ago.
“We went in this nice little shop that had eggs for sale that we could just not believe how beautiful they were,” she said. “They sold these little kits that came with the wax and dyes and I bought one. From then on I was hooked.”
She said one year, she decorated 80 eggs in a Pysanky frenzy. Nearly every member of her family went home with at least a half-dozen.
“I haven’t been that crazy since, but I make about a dozen to give away each year,” she said.
Gil said she’s been teaching the method for nearly 20 years. Several people in Aurora have been coming every year for 10 years.
“Most of them have the dyes and supplies at home, but it’s nice to be working on an egg with other people,” she said. “There’s just a sense of camaraderie when you’re all working together.”
Although the class is free, Gil said each person should bring four raw eggs to decorate. Pysanky kits will also be available to purchase for $10.99.