Melina B. Flanagan, MD, MSPH
(Associate Professor, Section Chief of Cytopathlogy; Course Director, Medical School Pathology Course; Department of Pathology, Anatomy, and Laboratory Medicine)
Pysanky are Ukrainian Easter eggs decorated with a traditional wax-resist method, similar to the batik method used on cloth. While traditionally thought of as Ukrainian, they are also made by numerous other Central and Eastern European ethnic groups.
To make pysanky, patterns are drawn onto a raw egg with melted beeswax through a stylus. Traditional patterns are symbolic and include geometric designs as well as Christian, plant, fruit, and animal, motifs. In the first stage, any area that is intended to stay white is covered with wax, and the egg is then dyed a light color (often yellow). During the next stage, any area intended to stay that color is covered with wax, and the egg is then dyed a slightly darker. This continues until the final dye usually black or another very dark color, is applied. Wax is then removed over a flame. The egg can be removed by poking a small hole in the bottom of the egg and blowing out the substance; alternately it can be left to dry. The final step is to apply a shiny finish. The entire process is very detail-oriented and time-consuming. Each of these eggs took me several hours.
I have Polish heritage and grew up in a very art-centered household. I learned the basics of the art of pysanky when I was about 10 years old, and then took a hiatus for several decades. In the past few years I have taken a few days during the Easter season to explore and focus on this
art as a means of both doing something I enjoy and connecting to my roots. It is an incredibly time-consuming and detail-oriented art that one could spend a lifetime learning.