Thursday, November 29, 2012

Samhain Crafted Eggs



No, the Easter Bunny is not confused -- these eggs are for Halloween. The frightfully festive designs were made with a Ukrainian dying technique similar to batik, in which wax and dye are applied to create colorful images.

An Easter egg dressed up for Halloween makes perfect sense. After all, the last night in October sees an odd medley of transformations -- little girls turn into sparkly princesses and next-door neighbors grow fangs. So why can't Easter eggs shed their pastels and get in on the fun? These are not your typical dunk-them-in-dye eggs, however -- they were created with an ancient technique called pysanka, which loosely translates as "written upon."

The craft began 6,000 years ago with a tribe of people called Trypillians, who lived in what is present-day Ukraine. Then, as today, eggs represented life and rebirth, and that made them ideal little canvases for good-luck symbols "painted" on with wax and dye.

The art developed into what is now practiced in that part of the world during Easter: Eggs are adorned with wax drawings and dipped in dye, then held close to flickering flames -- as the wax melts away, a design is revealed. These finished works of art are given to family and friends, and are thought to bring them health and happiness.

Mitch Mondello, a design production manager at Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia who teaches pysanka in New York City, came up with the idea to cast a spooky spell on eggs. "I liked the thought of doing something new with this traditional craft," he says. "What you end up with is something you can keep -- a special Halloween heirloom." You too can learn the technique -- and hatch your own creation.

Decorating Supplies You can find the specialized items pictured above at some crafts stores, or order them online (to find sites that sell them, type "Ukrainian Easter eggs" into a search engine).

Ear syringe (1) Use this item, available at drugstores, to squeeze air into an egg and expel its contents.

Blown-out eggs (2) Brown yields a rich color when dyed; white is best for making ghosts and skeletons.

Utility knife (3) The sharp point will allow you to make small holes in the shell, through which the egg can be pushed out.

Pure or black beeswax (4) Wax is used to create designs on the egg. You can use either kind: Pure beeswax is softer and more pliable; black beeswax is easier to see.

Kistkas (5) These writing tools are plastic sticks with brass barrels; melted wax drips through a small hole in the barrel onto the egg. There are three types: A white kistka makes the thinnest line; blue, a medium-size line; and red, the thickest line.

Powder dyes (6) Add hot water to these special powders to create an intensely colored dye that will stay vivid for years on a decorated egg.

Candles (7) The flame on a taper candle will melt the wax when you're done.

Cotton swabs (8) Use to apply dye to small areas.

Tongs (9) Easy-to-handle tongs are ideal for holding eggs while you dip them in dye.

Craft glue (10) Use glue for affixing embellishments, such as stems and ornament hooks, to a finished egg.

Eye screws (11) Glue one in the top hole of an egg; then thread ribbon through it for egg ornaments.

Pipe cleaners (12) These can be used to create pumpkin stems.

Floral tape (13) Green tape can be wrapped around pipe cleaners to reinforce stems.

Tips Emptying EggsLightly pierce both ends with a utility knife; spin it to enlarge the hole a bit. Poke a wire through to pierce the yolk. Hold the egg, narrow side down, over a bowl. Blow out its contents with a syringe.

Layering ColorsWhen working with more than one dye, you should always start with the lightest hue and progress to the darkest. It's a good idea to plan the wax-dye sequence ahead of time, keeping in mind that each section that is not covered with wax will turn the shade of the next color you use.

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