Adding touch of color with Ukrainian dyeing craft Pysanky

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Pysanky, a traditional Ukrainian craft, feature attractive patterns depicted on eggshells.

Pysanky are traditional Ukrainian Easter eggs, easily recognizable from their eye-catching colorful motifs meticulously wrought on the shells. They are beautiful ornaments that can be used to decorate a room to create an exotic atmosphere.

A pysanka (the singular for pysanky) is made using a unique wax-dye technique. Patterns are drawn on each egg with beeswax before being dyed.

“A pysanka has warmth as it is hand-made,” said Natsumi Iino, a pysanka artist who also works with ceramics.

Iino usually uses chicken eggs, which are easily available. For larger, more robust creations, she sometimes uses ostrich eggs.

Iino explained the process of making a pysanka using a chicken egg.

First, make a 3 millimeter hole to remove the insides of the egg.

Next, use a pencil to lightly draw the design on the eggshell. Draw lines horizontally and vertically to divide the surface into sections, and then draw a pattern in each section.

Heat the tip of a kistka, a special pen-like device that uses beeswax, and trace the pencil-drawn lines to ensure they are not dyed in the next step. Keep the kistka tip in contact with the egg still while moving the egg.

Then, dip the egg in a solution containing a chemical dye used to decorate pysanky. The patterns drawn with the beeswax from the kistka will repel the dye to show the outlines.

People in the past used natural dyes made from onion skins, tree bark and berries. These naturally create warm colors, such as red, yellow and brown, so pysanky would usually be seen in these colors, according to Iino.

Repeat the process with new patterns and other colors. The beeswax will help to separate the colors on the shell. To finish, warm the surface with fire to melt the beeswax and remove it with a cloth.

“I’m so excited and happy when I remove the beeswax to see how the patterns in various colors look,” Iino said.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
A pattern is drawn on an eggshell with a kistka, taking great care not to break the surface.

Traditional patterns on pysanky have unique meanings.

According to Iino, flowers symbolize beauty, while deer, horses and rams represent strength and leadership. The butterfly is said to be a symbol of resurrection. The sun represents vitality, and wheat represents a bountiful harvest.

A native of Kanagawa Prefecture, Iino was born in 1983. She saw pysanky in a book for the first time when she was 15 and became interested in the art. She has been making pysanky for more than 20 years after learning how to do it by herself.

After graduating from Musashino Art University, Iino has been active as a ceramic artist while holding pysanka classes. She went to Ukraine in 2011 and visited a museum dedicated to the art.

“Pysanky are interesting as we use our own ideas to have a good time on the small surface area of an eggshell,” she said. “I hope people will become interested in Ukraine through pysanky.”

The Yomiuri Shimbun
An ostrich egg, left, and a chicken egg. Iino sometimes uses ostrich eggs, which are larger and more robust than chicken eggs.

Pysanka eggshell fragments add beauty to buttons, brooches

Pysanky eggs are traditionally placed near the front door of a house as good-luck charms.

Iino also makes other pysanka items such as buttons and brooches using fragments from ostrich eggshells. These are items that she designed herself, bringing the charm of pysanka to a wider audience.

At Craft Studio Karakusa, Iino gives pysanka lessons about three times a month. She also makes YouTube videos explaining the process.

“You can make pysanky at home as a hobby. I hope more people will enjoy it,” Iino said. Kistka and dyes are available at her studio. More information is available on the studio’s website:

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Original pysanka buttons, which can also be used as brooches, designed by Iino