Arts and Entertainment

Decorating eggs like the world depends on it

A plethora of Pysanka is on display at the Manchester Gallery in Port Orchard. - Courtesy photos
A plethora of Pysanka is on display at the Manchester Gallery in Port Orchard.
— image credit: Courtesy photos

In Ukrainian folklore it is said when people stop making Pysanka the world will come to an end.

To most in the Western world that might seem like a bit of a stretch. But when it comes to Armageddon, one can never be too sure.

Just in case the legend is true, Gig Harbor-based artist Judy St. Hill-Schiner will be giving a how-to demonstration of the ancient Ukrainian art of Pysanka egg decorating May 24 at the Manchester Gallery, 724 Bay St. in downtown Port Orchard. She’ll be framing the demo with a greater discussion on folk art starting at 1 p.m., while a poetry slam featuring three local poets and live music from local stringer Eric Matheson are also slated for the Manchester’s monthly gala.

Each month, the non-commission gallery fetes its more than 20 artists with a party, and each month, one of them is featured demonstrating and talking about the work that they do.

St. Hill-Schiner is an artist of many trades.

Her works at the Manchester include impressionist watercolors and realistic acrylics, in addition to other mixed media pieces. But it’s the art of Pysanka which has captivated her.

She’s both a purveyor and teacher of the ancient art form.

Pysanka, a delicate art akin to the decorating of Easter eggs, dates back thousands of years to the ancient cultures of Ukraine which, like many other ancient cultures, was infatuated with the sun, the giver of life. Birds, being the only creatures who could get near the sun, were worshipped as the sun god’s chosen creatures.

Humans couldn’t catch the birds, however they could get their hands on the eggs which were therefore magical objects, symbols of life and representations of the rebirth of the Earth. Thus the ancient people would adorn the eggs with magical patterns and decorations.

“Each color and symbol have specific meanings,” St. Hill-Schiner said.

Most popular Pysanka designs are geometric figures. Triangles are symbolic of the Holy Trinity, diamonds are representative of knowledge, while curls represent defense or protection and spirals relate the mystery of life and death. Agricultural, animal, vegetative and cosmic symbols are also commonplace.

“It is said, when people stop making Pysanka the world will come to an end,” St. Hill-Schiner said. “Today, they’re pretty much used like greeting cards — ‘catch a lot of fish,’ ‘have healthy crops’ — or as gifts for egg collectors.”

Keeping the art form — and possibly the world — alive, St. Hill-Schiner leads classes at her studio in Gig Harbor and also for small groups at the Manchester, furnishing materials like true Ukrainian dye and kistka design tools for the wax-resistance or batik style of egg dying.

Catch a sneak peek this weekend at the Manchester Gallery this weekend.

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