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Hycroft Psanky Workshop-3

This was the motto printed on the back of last night’s intro to psyanky creation at the University Women’s Club of Vancouver at Hycroft. I was invited to participate along with members and guests of UWCV’s craft interest group, who hold regular events throughout the year to engage fellow craft and DIY lovers.

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Baba’s Beeswax owner and founder Joan Brander led the evening workshop, which was by far more social than “work”; in true Ukrainian spirit, a variety of vodkas were on the table for sipping, together with food to keep us energized and entertained while this unique, centuries-old art form took center stage.

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[Joan Brander of Baba’s Beeswax]

Joan grew up in rural Saskatchewan with a Ukrainian background. Her grandmother aka “Baba” taught her the skilled art of Ukrainian Easter egg decorating from a young age. Pysanka (the singular form for pysanky) is derived from the Ukrainian word Pysata, “to write”.

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We also learned that the detailed, colourful eggs incorporate various symbols and patterns to evoke eternity, health, bountiful harvest, etc. to celebrate the arrival of spring. A star rosette (eight-pointed star) symbolizes good fortune.

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The eggshells are drilled, emptied, rinsed, marked, and sealed off with a bit of wax on the bottom. Pencil lines are drawn to start off the process of working out a pattern, and the importance of colour order is key to the process. With a kistka, the beeswax is transferred onto the egg via heat from a lit candle. Moving the egg and allowing this basic tool of wood and copper to do its work is the first challenge. Keeping enough beeswax in the little reservoir takes some learning too.

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Once we all realized that we’d not be lighting our hands on fire, we were comfortable to proceed with the painting. It’s a reverse process of applying the wax to block out colour. Once the egg is dipped into the first yellow bath of dye, the next round of drawing starts, then it’s on to orange, red, and finally, black. The final design stands out against a black background.

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Although these are the four basic colours used in pysanky creation, Joan and her husband operate a mail-order online store with 17 different colours for purchase, as well as pysanky making kits, books, tools, candles, beeswax, and other supplies to make more at home.

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Joan gave us tips on how to hold the kistka, insert the egg into the dye (and then ways of removing it and wiping off excess water to continue), right through to the final melting of the wax that’s built up on the egg, revealing a gorgeous, one-of-a-kind creation.

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That’s the best part of the whole process, and no two eggs are alike!

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Baba’s Beeswax offers onsite courses, workshops, and parties, frequently working with school kids, at senior centers, and in malls. In the years leading to Baba’s Beeswax, Joan would create dyes at home by soaking sheets of colored crepe paper in boiling water, using metal recycled from a wall calendar to form her kistka.

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[My finished pysanka!]

Since 1991, Joan and her husband have encouraged and inspired beginners through experts in the joy of Ukrainian egg decorating, an art form they both hope will last for many generations to come.

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I participated in the workshop as a guest of the UWCV for the purposes of experiencing psyanky creation and of writing this article.

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2 Comments

  • Comment by Shannon — April 24, 2017 @ 7:06 pm

    BUYER BEWARE! I purchased a pysanky kit from Baba’s Beeswax and was charged $9.40 for shipping. The package arrived and the shipping cost was marked $1.80. I thought it might of been a mistake so I e-mailed twice. No response? I called and left a message. A lady returned my call at 9:45 pm and told me there’s nothing she could do about it. She reported she had to pay for car gas to get to the post office??? She also stated you never e-mailed me. I have both sent e-mails to the email address provided on PayPal. Horrible customer service! We were trying out a kit to see what it was like and then we were going to buy for the group. Not now!

  • Comment by Ariane Colenbrander — April 24, 2017 @ 7:52 pm

    Sorry to hear you had this experience! Does sound pretty shady. Our group had brought in the owner to do the demo, so circumstances were different. Thanks for the warning – will share with our readers. – Ariane

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