It’s been a busy few months! I’ve had lots of exciting projects in the works that have been keeping me out of trouble (heh heh), and in May, I had a chance to “play” little bit and help out at the first ever 3-day pysanka retreat held in Toronto! What an “eggstraordinary eggsperience”. Read on to learn more about it!
For centuries, pysanky have been an Easter ritual made by Ukrainians all over the world. The sweet smell of hot beeswax never ceases to ignite childhood memories of making pysanky: mixing dyes, combining ancient symbols and patterns, working for hours over candle-flame, and finally, the most magical step of all – melting and wiping the wax off the egg to reveal a beautiful work of art. Anyone who experiences this magic can’t help becoming entranced by this art form, which, although conceptually simple, allows for exponential creativity! It’s no wonder that the art of pysanka-making has spread beyond the Ukrainian hromada, to artistic communities all over the world, and inspired new techniques and methods for pysankarstvo.
On May 4-6, 2018, St.Vladimir Institute was host to PYSANKY TORONTO 2018, Toronto’s first 3-day pysanka workshop retreat, coordinated and hosted by Kathy Verrelli of Ukrainian EggCessories, and supported by the Ukrainian Museum of Canada, Ontario Branch. Over 60 pysanka artists gathered at St.Vlads over the course of the weekend to write pysanky, share their favourite tips and techniques and celebrate this unique art form.
Twenty-four artists from across Southern Ontario, Ohio and New York states, and as far as Saskatchewan and British Colombia, began arriving Friday morning, setting up their work stations for the 3-day event, bringing multiple kistkas and customized tools with them. Many of these artists actively collaborate in on-line pysanka communities on Facebook – although they had never actually met in-person before. The camaraderie among them was infectious and exciting as they greeted one another, eager for the opportunity to craft together for the first time. That evening, participants were treated to a cocktail reception and slideshow showcasing each other’s beautiful creations.
As they say: “the early bird gets the pysanka”, and bright and early Saturday morning, 40 more participants arrived for a full day of pysankarstvo! Saturday’s program included presentations by experts on various pysanka-related topics: Mar’yana Svarnyk gave a presentation about making and using dyes from botanical sources (you can view Mar’yana’s presentation here); Natalie Kit of Ancient Roots shared her expertise on how best to prepare eggs for pysanky, including cleaning and dividing eggs; and special guest Myroslava Boikiv (curator of the Pysanka Museum in Kolomyia, Ukraine) presented an in-depth History of Pysanky. A hot lunch of traditional Ukrainian food was catered by Natalie’s Kitchen (YUM!), there were door prizes and goodie bags for all participants, as well as an anonymous egg-exchange. Various media were in attendance to document this historic artistic event. Sunday’s program included a light breakfast for the 3-day participants, additional crafting time, and a presentation on How to fix a broken egg by Linda Lischuk Hupert before packing up and making their way home.
Every Pysanky Toronto participant received an assortment of prepared eggs from various fowl: goose, double-yolk turkey, quail, brown, and white chicken. Candles, dyes and eggs were all provided by Ukrainian EggCessories. As well, participants could try their hand at acid etching, or using Mar’yana’s natural dyes. Those who sell pysanky and crafting supplies had the opportunity to promote them as well.
Pysanka Toronto 2018 was an incredibly fulfilling and enriching experience for pysanka writers of all levels, from new beginner to “eggspert”. It was heart-warming to see that many of the artists in attendance were not even of Ukrainian descent – but crafters who had fallen in love with the art form and expanded the artistry of pysanka-making to new heights; using non-traditional patterns, mixing techniques (dyeing, etching, washing) and media to create works of art like no other. Attending this immersive retreat allowed artists to further develop their skills and ignited their passion for this ancient craft. Many are already looking forward to next year’s retreat, to be held June 13-16, 2019, once again at St.Vlads!
Photo credits: Tanya Mykytiuk, Oksana Olyinyk, Mykola Swarnyk
Special thanks to Natalie’s Kitchen for filling everyone’s bellies with delicious cuisine all weekend long, and the following sponsors for goodie bags and door prizes: MEEST Corporation Inc., Ukrainian Credit Union, Koota Ooma Ukrainian Books Gifts & Toys, Mella Bella Designs, Ptashka Arts, Ukrainian Museum of Canada Ontario Branch, Mia Morsack Sohn, Linda Bowers and Natalie Kit.