A collection of eggs decorated by French artist Irmã Marcia Nahirnei Smi, who was part of an online group learning the art. Photo from Irmã Marcia Nahirnei Sm

Egg decorating brings some quarantine joy

By  Elizabeth Gay, Youth Speak News
  • February 3, 2021

Lockdowns brought upon by COVID-19 over the past 11 months have spawned a number of activities to keep peoples minds and spirits up.

Digital book discussion clubs, online yoga classes and intimate virtual praise and worship nights are among many that have helped people to stay connected with others facing the same solitude most people are up against.

But one of the more unique and creative online activities devised because of the pandemic has to be decorating Pysanky and Batik Ukrainian eggs.

For several Sundays now, a group of 18 women has met via Zoom to learn the art of decorating Pysanky and Batik Ukrainian eggs under the guidance of Karen Hanlon, an artist from Combermere, Ont., with three decades of experience utilizing an egg as her backdrop. Hanlon is also an academic tutor and student recruitment officer at Our Lady Seat of Wisdom College in Barry’s Bay, Ont.

A number of Seat of Wisdom students were among the group engaging in the five hours of camaraderie, joining with participants from France, England, a 40-year-old Tennessean egg-making pro and a dedicated Kiwi who tuned in at 7 a.m. New Zealand time.

Ukrainian Pysanky eggs developed from a tradition of writing on eggs (pysanky means “to write”) by a host of Eastern European peoples, including Belarusians, Bulgarians, Czechs, Hungarians, Poles, Serbs and Slovaks. In a pre-Christian era, pagan groups adorned these eggs with their own brand of religious and cultural symbolism.

Christianity’s stamp on the art included fashioning pictures of crosses, fish, plants, wheat and grapes to imbue these creations with deep religious meaning. The curved infinite surface of the egg also came to symbolize eternity to the Christian artists and audiences.

To begin the pysanky and batik (meaning “to coat”), Hanlon reminded each student to make the egg for a specific prayer intention and to offer the whole process as an oblation for that intention. 

The group supported each other enthusiastically while decorating their eggs. Participants discussed their projects and posted photos of their finished product while learning the intricacies of egg art that requires the use of waxes and/or dyes (etched, scratch, sorbian, wax-embossed, etc).

Hanlon says being immersed in egg-decorating helps bring peace to her hectic life.

“Working on my eggs is life-giving for me,” she said. “The pleasant shape of the egg itself, the scent of melting beeswax, the quiet concentration and the spiritual dimension of this ancient art all contribute to it being a source of great peace in my otherwise busy life.”

Each year an international group with almost 950 members gather routinely each year for egg-making conferences and retreats. During the pandemic the group has been meeting weekly over Zoom to share inspiration, complete works and to encourage each other.

More information about Hanlon’s group is available at www.facebook.com/groups/ukrainianeggcessorieseggers/.

(Gay, 20, is a third-year student at Our Lady Seat of Wisdom College in Barry’s Bay, Ont.)

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