Throughout Southern California in the weeks before Easter, people of all ages will participate in the centuries-old custom of egg decoration. The more adventurous may want to check in at some of the workshops and classes (listed below by date) that teach such techniques as pysanka --the Ukrainian tradition of decorating eggs with intricate folk art patterns--or the lacy cut-work favored by contemporary designers.
According to artist Zenovia Wrzesniewski, who teaches classes at the Ukrainian Art Center in Los Angeles, that art form is more than 10 centuries old. The eggs are covered with designs laden with symbolism; for example, encircling bands of color symbolize eternity; deer and horses, prosperity; triangles stand for trios, such as the Holy Trinity, or fire, air and water.
At a recent workshop at the center, 15 students struggled to master the complicated dye process, which is akin to batik. The initial pattern is laid down in melted bees' wax, applied with a stylus called a kistka. The egg is then dipped into a succession of dye baths, progressing from lighter to darker hues. Between each dipping, wax is applied over areas where the preceding color is to remain. When the color has set, the wax is melted by candle flame and wiped away and a hard glaze of varnish is applied.
Wrzesniewski's daughter, Adriana, reassured the struggling students. "There are no mistakes," she said. "It's your own unique style. Mistakes are just added design."
"Making the eggs inspires me to think of my culture," said Michele Payda, 10, of Glendale. She attended the workshop with her aunt, Natalie Payda, who said that they wanted to learn the craft to continue their Ukrainian traditions. The family, she said, would take a basket of decorated eggs and traditional food to be blessed at Easter Mass at the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church in Hollywood.
Later, Wrzesniewski brought out basket after basket of pysanki she had designed using eggs from many types of birds. Small quail eggs were crammed full of vivid patterns. On large goose eggs, the repeating designs were used to set off miniature hand-painted ikons. These and other examples of Ukrainian Easter eggs will be on exhibit at the Ukrainian Art Center on April 12.
The following workshops and exhibitions are a sampling of nearby places to learn the art of the Easter egg.
Today--Pysanka Workshop, noon to 4 p.m., Ukrainian Art Center Inc., 4315 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, $20. Participants will decorate two eggs as egg artist Zenovia Wrzesniewski teaches the ancient Ukrainian craft. Space is limited. Call (213) 668-0172 to see if places remain for today's workshop. (Class repeats April 4.)
Next Saturday--Beginning Pysanka, Chaffee College Campus Lounge, Chaffee College, 5805 Haven Ave., Alta Loma (Rancho Cucamunga area), $25. Cultural anthropologist Catherine Handlin will give an all-day workshop (9 a.m. to 5 p.m.) on the art of Ukrainian egg design. Participants are asked to bring six uncooked chicken eggs, a roll of paper towels and a sack lunch. Call (714) 987-1737, ext. 246 for information and reservations.
March 21-22--California Egg Artistry Show, 11 a.m.-5 p.m., Inn at the Park Hotel, 1855 S. Harbor Blvd., Anaheim. Admission to the show, at which local and national egg artists will exhibit and demonstrate decorating techniques, is $5. Two-hour workshops costing from $6 to $26 will be held both days; reservations requested as space is limited. Participants should bring scissors and tacky glue. Call Zella Perkins, (714) 927-4707.
April 11--Beginning Pysanka. Catherine Handlin teaches all-day (9 a.m.-5 p.m.) workshop at Santa Monica College, 1900 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica. Pre-register with Community Services, (213) 452-9214; ask for class No. 8497.
April 12--Seventh annual Easter Open House and Pysanka Exhibition, Ukrainian Art Center, 4215 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, (213) 668-0172. Open house features demonstrations of egg art, bread ornamentation and embroidery as well as an exhibit of 500 eggs decorated in the Ukrainian style.
April 13 and 14--Funny Bunny Workshop sponsored by the Cypress Recreation and Parks Department at Cypress Community Center, 5700 Orange Ave., Cypress, (714) 821-9500, $10. Children 4-6 will participate in Easter crafts and games. Walk-in registration starts March 25. Space limited.
May 2--Beginning Pysanka. Catherine Handlin teaches Ukrainian egg dyeing, Los Angeles City College Community Services, 855 N. Vermont Ave., Los Angeles, (213) 669-1031 or (213) 669-1032, $22.
The Egg Artists of Southern California meet at the Placentia Library, corner of Kraemer Boulevard and Chapman Avenue, the second Monday morning of each month. For more information, call (714) 927-4707.