Explore an Artistic Easter Tradition

  • Visit North Central

Brightly colored, candy-filled eggs hidden by giant bunnies may get the kids giddy at this time of year — but there’s an artistic side to this seasonal symbol that’s sure to inspire you.

Psyanky — eggs decorated with traditional Eastern European folk motifs and designs —are intricately decorated using beeswax and dyes. The name comes from the Ukrainian verb pysaty, which means “to write,” and the intricate designs are made by using the beeswax to write, rather than paint, on the eggs.

With Easter on its way, two local galleries — the Icon Museum and Study Center in Clinton, and the Petersham Art Center — are holding Psyanky workshops this month, offering an opportunity to learn this fascinating process.

At the Icon Museum, Slovenia-born leader Hanka Robertson will show students how to draw on a whole plain white chicken egg with a special pen (kistka) and melted wax, then dye the egg with special dyes. The drawing and dyeing are repeated several times as each layer of the design is applied.

As a child, Robertson was taught by her mother, who was born and raised in the former Czechoslovakia, where pysanky eggs were an annual Easter tradition. The Icon Museum, located at 3 Union St. in Clinton, is offering the workshop four times at on the weekend of March 15-16, and again in April — on the 19th and 20th — because Easter is celebrated later in the Orthodox churches.

The workshop fee includes admission to the Museum, all supplies, a short history of pysanky, instructions on the process and how to care for the completed eggs, motifs and designs for inspiration, and a container to take the decorated eggs home. Students are also invited to attend an exclusive gallery talk on the history of decorative Easter eggs and view examples from the Museum’s contextual collection with Museum Registrar Laura Garrity-Arquitt. Learn more about these events at iconmuseum.org.

The Petersham Art Center program on March 21 will be led by Katie Locke, and is open to participants aged 10 and up. Check the Center’s facebook page for registration details.