Not for eating, psyanky Easter eggs are traditional works of art

Neighbors

April 03, 1996|By Pat Brodowski | Pat Brodowski,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

FOR EASTER this year, 15 10-year-olds have delved into the traditional Ukrainian art of egg decoration called psyanky. Meeting at Spring Garden Elementary School, under the guidance of art teacher Jan Van Bibber and Hampstead psyanky artist Diane Gehret, the students spent five weeks learning this antique art of hot wax resist on eggs.

This type of Easter egg is not consumed but rather saved like an heirloom. Raw eggs are used. The liquid inside eventually dries out.

"Our goal today is to finish without dropping the egg," Mrs. Van Bibber said as students quietly seated themselves about 4 feet apart and lighted beeswax candles. Their eggs rested on soft paper. Their only tool was the kistka, a thin dowel with a tiny copper funnel wired to one end.

Their eggshells were being patterned in traditional Ukrainian cascades of lacy fans, ovals and spirals. The patterns were drawn with hot beeswax, chipped from the burning candle into the top of the kistka, which was held over the open flame to melt and slide through the pinhole at the other end. Each stroke on the egg required a chip from the hot candle.

"What was hardest was that I didn't know how to hold the kistka to make the lines straight, but as I worked, they were better," said one student.

Shaky hands can present a problem. "Just a cup of tea and the caffeine makes me shake," said Mrs. Gehret.

"The theory of a batik process is complicated to understand," said Mrs. Van Bibber. "The idea is that the wax holds the subsequent dyes out. The wax preserves the color."

After each pass over the whole egg with a particular design, the egg, knobby with wax, is bathed in a brilliant, nonedible dye. The shell is dried, and more wax patterns are applied, followed by another dye. The sequence of dye baths is arranged like a rainbow, one color at a time. The final dye is black.

Beneath each wax pattern on the eggshell, the most recent dye color is preserved. Later, when all the wax is warmed and wiped away, the brilliant florals, feathers, even abstract threads of color preferred by some students were revealed.

As a child, Mrs. Gehret's first Ukrainian psyanky was a familytradition practiced by her mother. "She would use a pencil, with a pinhead sticking out of the eraser," she said.

She had watched her mother's deft stroke with the pencil-and-pinhead technique as they stood over a hot stove. "You dip into the hot wax and trail it off like a little comet," she said, to create snowflake or starburst patterns.

Mrs. Gehret has taught all ages this traditional craft. She was delighted at how quickly the young students comprehended the process. No one younger than age 10 should attempt this craft, she noted, because of the open candle flame. Her youngest son uses an electric kistka.

"I like to pass along this craft because it's not a very well known one," Mrs. Gehret said, looking over her youthful students. "And they might pass it along, too."

Information: Diane Gehret, 374-2344.

Youths take pilgrimage

Ten teen-agers and their youth coordinator from St. Bartholomew's Roman Catholic Church in Manchester became pilgrims in downtown Baltimore on Saturday, walking in the third annual Young Adult and Youth Pilgrimage, in which hundreds of Catholics 35 and younger carried a 12-foot cross, palm branches and banners 2 miles, from Rash Field to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

"People all along the way ask, 'What is this about?' It's a great way to start Holy Week," explained Dan Michaud, coordinator of Youth Ministry at St. Bartholomew's. His experience in following a similar pilgrimage of 600 last year inspired the nine high school and one middle school youths to walk with him on Saturday.

"You have to experience the fellowships, the energy, the people you meet as you walk along," he said. "The cardinal [Cardinal William H. Keeler, archbishop of Baltimore] walks with us, works his way through, says hi to the kids. He gets in the trenches with the youth. That's saying the church is there with them and for them."

As the pilgrims gathered Saturday at Rash Field, . This guitarist plays by foot, as he was born without arms. He has performed several times for Pope John Paul II.

A rally by Cardinal Keeler set the pilgrims walking to Hopkins Plaza, where they took a break at prayer stations before continuing to Mother Seton House, the home of Elizabeth Ann Seton, the first American-born saint. Palm leaves blessed at Seton House were carried to the basilica for a Palm Sunday service. A dinner break was held at Our Daily Bread, followed by a concert by Mr. Melendez until 9 p.m..

"Walking through the city streets of Baltimore is a prayerful event. It's an opportunity for kids to witness their faith," said Mr. Michaud. Each pilgrim carried a donation to Our Daily Bread, whether tea bags or a can of soup.

Information: 239-8881.

The Easter Bunny arrives

Take your children to Christmas Tree Park in Manchester on Saturday, where they will discover a very large, white rabbit dressed for spring in a multicolored vest.

Promptly at 12: 30 p.m., that white rabbit known as the Easter Bunny will start an Easter egg hunt sponsored by the North Carroll Jaycees.

Pub Date: 4/03/96

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