I would like you to meet my friend Suzanne. Suzanne is a potter, an egg decorating artist, a painter, a shoulder to lean on and a Great friend. We met in December of 2004 at work. Suzanne was hired as a new manager at my office and I worked in the call center at that time. She came to the call center to listen to live calls during her new hire training and I was her “buddy”. In early 2006, Suzanne and I both joined the Training Department and our friendship bloomed from there. Suzanne has many talents but since we are embarking on Easter I wanted to share with you some of her Amazing Eggs!
Who got you started on being creative?
I think it’s in my DNA because both of my parents were creative and both of my sisters are too. My father was an officer in the Army so as an officer’s wife my mother was in charge of entertaining. She enjoyed learning new things and I remember her taking different art and cooking classes on a regular basis. She became a gourmet cook and a master flower arranger. I never really thought of my father as creative until you asked me this question. My father was a dentist and he made my mother’s wedding ring, and another 3 band ring symbolizing their three children. I guess he was creative after all. My sister Gail was so deft at oil painting that the local high school art teacher asked my parents if she could take classes with the high school students when she was only in the first grade. My older sister Pam does not see herself as creative but appreciates art and she has a keen eye when making a purchase.
I became creative very late in life. Sure I took various classes throughout my life because I grew up seeing my Mom and sister’s do that but it wasn’t until my late 30’s that I took a pottery class. Once I put my hands in the wet clay I was captured by it. It led to my creative curiosity about other things, eggs being one of them.
I first fell in love with decorated eggs in Italy. My family was stationed there for a while and I remember my parents taking a trip of Prague. When they returned they brought each of us a beautiful, delicate and brightly colored egg. They were almost too pretty to touch but I always admired them and was curious how they were made. When the creative bug bit me I set out to learn the art of Pysanky.
How did you get started?
The first thing I did was order a book online. It was called A Kids Guide to decorating Ukrainian Easter Eggs. I figured if I got a kids guide it would be a good place to start and it would probably have all kinds of helpful tips and it did. The book showed me some of the tools I needed such as a kistka (Ukrainian word for writing tool used to decorate the egg. It is a stick with a funnel on one end for the beeswax.) It told me about the dyes I need and how to start with the lightest colors and work to the darkest ones. The book was my first step and I jumped right in with decorating with Ukrainian symbols.
Can you share with me a time when your creative process did not go so well?
It never goes well when I rush, NEVER! I really have to be in the moment, otherwise my mind wants to hurry to the next project or idea before I finish the one I’m working on. It’s a big struggle for me. (Me too sometimes.)
I also think that you will always be distracted if you try to copy someone else’s work. My first eggs were rough. I tried to make the Ukrainian symbols and although they are quite beautiful they just didn’t speak to me. So my next eggs were African symbols (Suzanne is from African descent.) Those didn’t really do it for me either. It wasn’t until I looked at designs I liked that I really had fun with the design work.
What tips would you give someone who wanted to start?
I take a 3 step approach to being creative.
- Educate yourself. I think it’s important to know the history or the story behind what you are about to do. That always gives me the frame of mind to take it as far or as close as I want to go.
- Be patient with yourself and listen to your MUSE. Create what is in you, not what everyone else is doing.
- Have Fun! If it’s not fun why do it.
The Process Basics:
Pysanka is often taken to mean any type of decorated egg, but it specifically refers to an egg created by the written-wax batik method while utilizing traditional folk motifs and designs. Several other types of decorated eggs are seen in the Ukrainian tradition and vary throughout the regions of the Ukraine.
The basic steps for the Pysanka method are:
1. Blow the egg out of the shell using a tool to blow it out or suck it out. Rinse with water.
2. Draw your design on the egg in very light pencil.
3. Use the kistka and bees wax (Suzanne uses black bees wax so it is easier to see) to cover the part of your design that you want to remain white.
4. Then dye the egg with the lightest color.
5. Continue with the steps 3 and 4 covering the design where you want it to remain the light color with wax and dyeing the next darkest color.
6. Once your design is done remove the wax to show your design.
Suzanne and I spent over two hours discussing the process for egg decorating. When I walked away from the restaurant with a grocery bag full of her beautiful eggs on loan for my “photo shoot”, I felt that I had been given a great honor. Suzanne shared with me some personal reasons why she chose to start egg painting and it made me all the more aware of my precious cargo. I could feel her passion for the art from the tools she had in a plastic bin with a bungee cord wrapped around them, to the various pedestals she brought me to display them to the many layers of bubble wrap protecting the cartons. She is a woman who cares about her craft.
I want to leave you with one more thought Suzanne shared with me that day:
My ugliest egg or my most lopsided pot somehow always becomes someone’s favorite thing or prized possessions. So don’t be too critical when you create. Someone you know will love it.
Talk to you soon!