Eggs by Ginny

Brief Comments: About the Artist—Historical Background — Technique

About the Artist:

My name is Ginny Barkman. I was born in Columbus, Ohio but now reside in Chase, British Columbia and own a custom picture framing business. I have been decorating Ukrainian Eggs (pysanky) since 1984. Because my maternal grandparents were born in Eastern Europe, I have alway had an interest in the cultural aspects of this area — food, artwork, textiles and music. My interests (wildlife and nature, photography, all kinds of art and computers) help add to my work in subject matter, creation and ease of display. My focus includes web page creation and batik-on-eggshell technique. In addition, I am developing my skills in watercolor painting and have been fortunate to have won recognition several times in various years from jurors for egg artwork and watercolors shown at the Shuswap Lake Festival of the Arts. Some of my watercolor work can be viewed at my Watercolor Gallery. The "Window on the Shuswap" pages show some of my digital photographs of British Columbia (local sights, including salmon). My other "web site creations" can be viewed through the GBarkman Art & Design site index.

Precision has always been a requirement for me in my egg work. Patience and perseverance are extremely important, for without these, one would never create more than one or two dozen Ukrainian Eggs in a lifetime. I feel that one of the most exciting times in creating this kind of art is the final moment when the wax is removed and everything is revealed. (See below in "Technique".)

Historical Background:

Almost all people in Eastern Europe, despite differences in language and culture, have decorated eggs in a somewhat similar fashion, varying their technique and artistic style slightly. Perhaps the art is most developed in the area that is now known as Ukraine. Migrating people have moved in and out of that area over the course of two millenium or more, sharing their culture, language, food and artwork. The art of egg decorating in Eastern Europe goes back well over 1000 years to a Pre-Christian "pagan" time. With the advent of Christianity, some meanings and symbolism have changed but the technique and style remain the same.

The colors and designs on each egg have special meaning. Each design or symbol represents a concept or thought. Each color has meaning as well. In ancient times, eggs were created to express feeling, act as sources of protection, aids for abundant life and assurance in death. Every aspect of life could be represented by symbol and color. Various villages and regions through out Central Europe and Ukraine developed special styles and designs of decorating particular to themselves. Pysanky (one of the many names for these eggs, this one derived from the Ukrainian word meaning "to write") were given as gifts to family, friends and neighbors. They also became the basis of spring and planting celebrations. The symbolism represented was important according to the specific situation. Additional names for these eggs include Pisanki, Himestojas, Kraslice and Marguciai — among others, depending on specific language and culture.

With the advent of Christianity, some symbolism took on new meaning. In actuality, ancient designs were still used, but came to have different meanings. In the midst of governments seeking to repress the church, Christians found opportunity to continue expression of their beliefs through the decoration of eggs. The making and giving of decorated eggs became expecially important in the celebration of Easter, an alternative to former spring and growing season rituals.


In general, the batík-type method of application of beeswax and aniline dye is used to achieve the finished egg. Each color (line or area) seen on the egg has been previously waxed and then dyed.

To start with, the basic design (previously drawn on paper) is penciled on to the egg as a series of guidelines and lines that will eventually be white. These "white" lines are waxed over with a stylus called a "kistka". The kistka is a tool with a small copper funnel attached to a handle with copper wire. Inside the funnel, one places a tiny bead of beeswax. The tool is heated until this wax melts. As soon as the tool is touched to the eggshell the wax begins to run out of the funnel. By drawing with the tool in a forward motion, one can create a line or fill in larger areas.

Following these "white lines", the egg is dyed in one of the lightest colors to appear on the egg (usually yellow). Wax is applied over areas that are to be retained as yellow. With the application of many layers of wax and progressive dyeings in many hues, the egg develops into a dark mass of wax and color.

The final steps include the removing of all the wax by heating or melting — revealing the vivid colors and lines formerly covered. A protective coating is applied to the outside of the shell to protect the design. Most eggs require many hours to complete depending on the size of the egg and complexity of the design. Some of the most complex but smaller eggs take upwards of 15 hours or so. My ostrich eggs take approximately 30-plus hours, over the span of several weeks or more. View some of my past work in progress on THE DRAWING BOARD.

GBarkman Art & Design © 1998 — 2003, Revised September 2003, "All Rights Reserved".