AURORA | Decorating Easter eggs is not just for children.
A group of adults in Aurora spent their Palm Sunday at United Ministry of Aurora learning the art of Pysanky egg decorating, a Ukrainian tradition that uses wax and dyes to create symbols that represent different aspects of Easter.
Pysanky, an Eastern European word for "Easter," is done using hot wax to draw on a raw egg and then soaking the egg in dye, leaving the wax design untouched by the color. Each color is layered on top of the next, covering the previous one, except where the newest wax has been drawn on.
Nancy Gil, a Texas native who now lives in Cayuga County, has been teaching Pysanky egg decorating to the community for more than 20 years, though she started doing it herself nearly 30 years ago.
"It's like a drug," she said.
The intricate details that are seen in her work can lead one to believe that she has years of training as an artist, but Gil was never taught how to decorate eggs. Instead, it was something she spotted at a store many years ago that drew her to the craft that she now loves.
"I was visiting my mother in Texas and I saw some beautiful eggs for sale that had been decorated with Pysanky," Gil said. "The decorated eggs were $35 each and the kit to do it yourself was only $8, so that was it."
Gil took the Pysanky decorating kit home and quickly learned how to create her own masterpieces. Soon, she was able to work on three or four eggs at a time and found that she sometimes ended up with a surplus of them.
"One year I made 80 of them," Gil said. "I gave a lot away that year to family and friends."
Gil found herself teaching yearly decorating workshops in the community and after her work became familiar, she was persuaded to share her skills.
"I don't think she really decided she was going to start teaching us," said Lili MacCormick, who has attended many of Gil's decorating classes through the years. "Others decided that we wanted her to because we wanted to learn."
Because everything is done by hand, Gil said that it is hard to replicate a pattern done on a previous egg, making each of her creations unique. The patterns and symbols used on the eggs are also known to have religious meanings, making Easter the perfect time to continue the tradition. Ladders, or lines, on the egg symbolize prayers ascending to heaven, while dots represent the blood of Jesus or the tears of Mary.
Though Gil now mainly works on her egg decorating around Easter, she plans on continuing her workshops next year, allowing people like MacCormick to keep coming back.
"There's a tradition I heard," MacCormick said, "that the world will never end as long as people are decorating these eggs."