Decorating eggs is always a fun project for kids, but can be just as fun for adults. The best known are colored Easter eggs dyed using food coloring or the kits found at the local store.
Another similar technique used by some designers is an art form called the “pysanky” method originating in Ukraine, in which wax and liquid dye produce elaborate designs. This technique was brought to the United States by immigrants with their pysanky eggs which were family heirlooms.
Pysanky egg decorating may be unlike anything you’ve tried before, but can be something everyone loves to try and most people love to see. The fact is, very few people have the skills to do this fine art of egg decorating and preserving its uniqueness, but Jodi Brom, Goodview, who was curator at the Winona History Center and current owner of the retreat Goodview Haven at Goodview, taught him.
“Egg decorating has been passed down to many European ethnic cities, Croatia, Poland and Ukraine.” she says. “There are decorated eggs in Greece in the Greek Orthodox Church, but they are just decorated eggs, no names. Polish egg decoration uses layers of wax and strong natural dyes to create intricate designs. your design is complete, all layers of wax are melted to reveal your colorful design.
“It’s a time-consuming process that requires practice and steady hands to draw various symbols on the eggs,” Brom said. “The designs represent seasonal changes, a new renaissance and Christianity. In Polish, the eggs are called ‘pisanki’, which means writing. In Ukraine ‘Pysanky’ and in Croatia ‘Pisanica.’
“Originally, the ‘pisanki’ was a pagan ritual involving parallels between the yoke of the egg and the sun, and the white of the egg with the moon and the eggs were believed to possess magical powers and were often used in sun worship ceremonies.” Brom said. “As Christianity spread throughout the country, eggs were adopted as a religious symbol for the Easter season.” Brom also took classes at the Winona Polish Museum.
She shared some book titles for those interested in learning more. They understand:
- “Ukrainian Style Easter Egg Patterns” by Lori Popow
- “A Kids’ Guide to Decorating Ukrainian Easter Eggs” by Natalie Perchshyn
- “Beginner Pysanky: Ukrainian Easter Eggs” by Lori Popow
- Ukrainian Easter egg design books by Luba Perchyshyn.
Supplies can be obtained at the Ukrainian Gift Shop in Minneapolis,
or Best Pysanky at
Luba Perchyshyn, one of the authors named above, was involved in the Ukrainian gift shop. She recently passed away and the family now runs the businesses.
“I took a class from his granddaughter at the Ukrainian community center in St Paul,” Brom said.
Creating this form of egg art is a difficult process, but one that can be done by a skilled craftsman. The simplest designs can probably take a few hours.
If you’re not interested in doing the actual work, there are many places on the Internet where you can buy Ukrainian wooden eggs and mouth-blown hollow eggs. One such site is Etsy, where they range from $5 to $75+ in a bunch. Prices will vary depending on complexity, artist, type of egg, age and condition. Design and details can also influence the price of an egg.
Decorated goose eggs can be purchased for $100 and decorated ostrich eggs start at around $250. Sometimes decorated eggs can be found at art goods sales, antique malls, some gift shops, and museums.
If you have one of these decorated eggs, because they are so fragile, they must be picked up between cotton balls due to manufacturing and the same when looking for eggs in stores or at estate sales. Dust lightly with a small, soft brush, as decorated eggs will last indefinitely and become heirlooms with proper care.
Sandy Erdman is a Winona-based freelance writer and certified appraiser who focuses on vintage, antique and collectibles. Send feedback and story suggestions to Sandy at