Decorating Ukrainian eggs on special colored shells
Some of the fun of creating Ukrainian eggs is the challenge of using colored shells instead of seeking out the all white ones. Above, I am holding an Araucana egg. These eggs come in a variety of shades of light mint or olive green to a pale aquamarine depending on the diet of the chicken. When using a colored shell, I try to pick a color palette that enhances the color of the shell, as well as the subject, which in this case is fish. As you can see, I have lightly drawn my initial lines lightly in pencil using a 2H lead in a .05 mechanical pencil. The harder the lead, the lighter the line is, which is important if you don't want pencil lines showing through your design. Now we're ready for waxing!
I use an electric kitska (a writing tool) which keeps a constant and controlled temperature to melt the beeswax and follow the initial lines that I have drawn on the egg. I don't usually draw in all the lines, because that would become confusing as to which lines are to be waxed, and which will be waxed later in another color. I have used an ultra fine tip so that I can get very detailed- which is something I enjoy!
Since the eggs are blown and rinsed, you must plug up the blow hole so the dyes don't get into the inside of the shell, otherwise it will affect your design by creating white water spots on your colored fields (although in this case with a fish egg, a happy accident might look like bubbles). How do you know that the Ukrainian egg you see at a Gallery is one of mine? Turn it over to the hole and you will see my initials on the bottom in most cases.
When I create Ukrainian eggs, I usually work in a series. I don't just do one, but I will do a dozen in one sitting. This actually is an assembly line process, and can cut down on your time when you're just doing one egg at a time. As you can see in the above picture there are fish motifs on the eggs, but everyone is slightly different, variations on a theme. They will all have the same colors as well, and when done, as a whole, make a wonderful and strong statement. Observe the variations of shell colors as well. Picking a color palette ahead of time makes the collection cohesive.
Here is an example of an egg that has two medallions, front and back and a vertical band around the egg that separates it in half.
When all twelve eggs have been waxed to my satisfaction, it is time to dip the eggs in their first color. Remember, everything that you have waxed over thus far will stay the color of the shell, and be protected underneath the wax (called wax-resist). In staying with the color palette that will enhance the egg, I have chosen a Neon Green. Wow! After the last egg is dyed, you can go back to your first egg dipped and start working on it with your kitska.
Now I wax over everything that I want to stay Neon Green, in this case the fins, eyes and gills.
After waxing everything on the Neon Green eggs, I dip them into their next dye, which is a light green.
The next thing I do is hand paint some orange dye on the underside of the fish with an old small paintbrush. This is a little fussy for Ukrainian egg dying, but with a little extra time and patience, it will shade your subject matter and give it a little more depth and interest.
As I have said, it's a little time consuming. You can only shade one half of the egg at a time. When it is dry you can turn it around and do the other side, otherwise the dye will run off where you might not want it to be. By the time you have finished your last egg, you are ready to go back to your first egg and it will be already dry. Another reason why I do several at a time. You can go onto the next one while the last one you did drys. Once you have done this on all the eggs, you may wax over the body of the fish. I am using a different electric kitska with a wide ribbon tip (like a chisel) which fills in large areas quickly. Be careful with a large tip, though. The wax will come out quickly. Sometimes I will outline the area with a medium tip so that it keeps the wax within the area and I can control it easily.
After waxing the fish bodies, I dip the egg into a Forest Green dye and let it soak for 3-5 minutes for the desired shade. Sometimes the longer you leave the egg in a dye, the more intense the color. Careful, though- sometimes very fine lines may float off, or the cuticle of the shell might rub off or the egg can accidentally etch with the vinegar in the dye bath (which can sometimes create a cool effect- another "happy accident").
After waxing over the head of the fish and anything else I want the Forest Green, I dip it into the final dye, Black. I let all of the eggs rest. I add a final step-waxing over the final color. This step is not always necessary with the last color, but I find that when I do that, it helps close up the pores in the egg and helps prevent the transfer of color, especially a dark color over into a light color during the unwaxing process.
The eggs are placed into a paper egg carton lined with paper towels and put into a cold oven. I heat the oven to 175 degrees F. Then I walk away and let the oven do the work for me. I check every 5-10 minutes, opening the door, placing an old dish towel on the oven door in case one of those slippery eggs pops out of my hand (I have had a few break this way). I wipe off the excess wax with a paper towel and return to the oven. I do this a couple of times until the eggs no longer feel sticky. I let them cool, and then it is time to varnish the eggs. I use a spray varnish with a UV protector. Still, I would warn collectors against displaying them in direct sunlight, as all dyes are inherently fugitive (prone to fading).
Just look at how those eggs glow! Because we choose colors that complimented the green of the original shells, there is that cohesiveness that I was talking about. And the shading on the underbelly of the fish really gives the eggs depth! And because we have a collection of many of the same, it makes an impressive statement. Whew! A lot of work for those objects d'art!