Sketchbook: Ukrainian Easter Eggs | Topic NewsDepth

In this edition of “Sketchbook,” we visit the Ukrainian Museum and Archive (UMA) in the Tremont neighborhood of Cleveland, to see an exhibit of intricate Easter eggs.


Read the script:

– [Andy Fedynsky, Director, Ukrainian Museum Archives]: Eggs are folk art. They are not only centuries old, millennia old. They date back to pagan times.

– [Marta Mudri, Research Scholar]: Pagans in the region that would become Ukraine decorated eggs as part of springtime rituals with the idea that they symbolized rebirth and renewal. The finished egg is called a pysanka and it comes from the verb pysate which means to write.

– [Linda Lishchuk Hupert, Ukrainian Artist]: Everyone comes up to me in living rooms and says, “Oh, you painted all those eggs.” And I said, “No, I don’t paint.” I said I was writing. And in fact, I write a drawing with beeswax to have a tool with which to write. It is a tool called kistka.

– [Marta Mudri, Research Scholar]: It’s basically a metal funnel, attached to a wooden or plastic handle, and you scrape the wax into the wide end of the funnel, heat it with a candle, and as the wax melts it comes out the narrow end of the funnel and that’s what you draw on the egg. You create the design upside down, so you start with a clean white egg and cover the parts of the egg that you want to keep white. The wax seals that part of the egg and the dye can’t get in, and so on, you use the lightest color dye you plan to use, usually yellow.

– [Linda Lishchuk Hupert, Ukrainian Artist]: What I want to do next is in the center of the star, I’m going to cry. I make drawings that can take me 3 to 5 hours, 8 hours, 14 hours on a simple chicken egg. Now I’m going to do some feather lines. It then goes into the red, the red dye is just above the orange. And now we’re going to cover the whole star with wax. It can get a little messy here. And then it’s ready to go into the final color, which is black. And that’s it, that’s what it looks like when it’s done. Alright, that really looks like nothing. You hold the egg close to the flame, there are the white lines, the yellow tears, the orange feather lines and the red star.

– [Marta Mudri, Research Scholar]: There’s such a variety of different symbols that are used and styles and techniques and all that, but it’s such a unique thing in Ukraine. This egg has a periwinkle pattern. Periwinkle has a special place in Ukrainian folklore because the green periwinkle vine stays green for so long even after the first snow, you can see how green the periwinkle vine is and for this reason it has developed a meaning of perseverance and persistence which is a kind of beautiful thought. The Ukrainian Easter egg has always been included in the Ukrainian Easter basket, so it is part of our Easter celebration.

– [Andy Fedynsky, Director, Ukrainian Museum Archives]: It’s something I grew up with, you know, we had them around the house, we have them in the house, it’s part of the tradition, it’s part of who we are, as a people .

Jessica C. Bell