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Okotoks Art Gallery carrying on Ukrainian Easter tradition

Pysanka egg decorating returns to the Okotoks Art Gallery
SCENE-Pysanka Egg Decorating BWC 1919 web
Sam Ruault shows off his finished Pysanka egg during a class at the Okotoks Art Gallery on April 9. The Ukrainian tradition of decorating eggs for Easter involves creating elaborate designs on the shell with wax before dying them various colours.

An Easter favourite has returned to the Okotoks Art Gallery (OAG).

On April 9, the upper studio filled with families eager to learn the Ukrainian tradition of Pysanka egg decorating, where eggs are marked with wax, dipped in dyes, and coloured with elaborate designs.

“It’s a really fun and super unique workshop to do around Easter time,” said Jaime-Brett Sine, a programmer with Okotoks Culture and Heritage.

“There’s always been a huge celebration around Ukrainian traditions. In Alberta we certainly have a lot of Ukrainian immigrants”

The program has been running for almost seven years, Sine said, and classes often sell out quickly.

“We were running a public program for Pysanka eggs, and then I had a number of schools interested so I developed the Pysanka program for the education side of thing as well,” she said, adding 300 students of all ages go through the program each year and it connects directly with the Grade 3 curriculum.

The return of the program as COVID restrictions have ended also created plenty of interest.

“We’re just thrilled to have people back and enjoying the programs,” Sine said. “And it’s been really wonderful to see the studio busy again and to see the wonderful products. People have been incredibly talented.

“We have kids right now as young as six doing this program and it's really impressive to see what they produce.

One parent in attendance, Joleen Ruault, recently moved to Okotoks from British Columbia, and was pleasantly surprised at the class offering.

“I was looking into some activities and this popped up and we thought it was a great activity,” Ruault said, adding it was the family’s first time visiting the OAG as well.

“When I was growing up my grandma would do a similar thing with her grandkids, I haven’t done that in so long and I thought it would be fun.”

Pysanka eggs are created not by painting directly onto the egg, but by creating patterns with melted wax and immersing a raw egg in dye. Called a ‘wax-resist’ method, the areas covered in wax are protected from the colouring and through various iterations of the process, elaborate patterns can be created.

Colours for desired patterns and accents are often applied first, as the wax then protects those areas from further colouring, and the base colour is applied last, colouring any uncovered areas at the end.

To apply the wax, a stylus holding wax in a reservoir tip is heated briefly over a candle, melting the wax long enough to apply to the egg. After the egg is coloured, the wax is removed, revealing the design.

SCENE-Pysanka Egg Decorating BWC 1940 web
An egg is dyed during a Pysanka Egg Decorating class at the Okotoks Art Gallery on April 9. The Ukrainian tradition of decorating eggs for Easter involves creating elaborate designs on the shell with wax before dying them various colours. Brent Calver/OkotoksTODAY
SCENE-Pysanka Egg Decorating BWC 1840 web
Joleen Ruault and daughter Emma apply wax to Pysanka eggs during a class at the Okotoks Art Gallery on April 9. Brent Calver/OkotoksTODAY
SCENE-Pysanka Egg Decorating BWC 1859 web
Emma Ruault heats wax to apply to her Pysanka egg during a class at the Okotoks Art Gallery on April 9. Brent Calver/OkotoksTODAY
SCENE-Pysanka Egg Decorating BWC 1932 web
Joleen Ruault applies wax to her Pysanka egg during a class at the Okotoks Art Gallery on April 9.  Brent Calver/OkotoksTODAY
SCENE-Pysanka Egg Decorating BWC 1950 web
Keith Nicholls removes the wax from his finished Pysanka egg during a class at the Okotoks Art Gallery on April 9.  Brent Calver/OkotoksTODAY

 


Brent Calver

About the Author: Brent Calver

Award-winning photojournalist for the Okotoks Western Wheel and OkotoksToday.ca
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