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updated APR 14 2017
Frequently Asked Questions
Note: See my "Hints and Tricks" section for more info on other aspects of pysanky decorating than the ones covered here.
You may get differing opinions depending on who you ask, so don't take everything here as written in stone - these are just my own personal opinions.
Pysanka Related Questions
P1. Which would you recommend, the traditional or electric kistka?You will never make finer lines than the ones you can make with an electric kistka. It brings an egg from good to incredible. I would recommend buying one if you plan on doing pysanky seriously on a regular basis. I would recommend buying a traditional kistka if you're a beginner, though, because an electric one is very expensive in comparison, and not worthwhile to buy if you're just going to make pysanky as a hobby.
As a side note, I only use the electric one for the fine lines that outline the designs. I use the traditional kistka to fill in the design, because I can't be bothered to change the tip on my electric kistka every time I have a large area to fill in.
P2. Which would you recommend, the traditional or delrin kistka?I prefer to use the traditional kistka. I find the delrin kistka heats up too fast, and consequently overheats the wax. One of them spit hot wax out the back end of the funnel at me once, and that was enough for me.
P3. What kind of bleach do you use?I use regular liquid Javex bleach for the bleach solution, when it's the last colour wash (as in, you want the egg's final colour to be white). If I'm back washing to change colours (as in, I've done a lot of blues and want to move onto reds), I use Fantastic cleaner or Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day Multi-Surface Concentrate, Lemon Verbena (as recommended on the Incredible Eggs group on FB). Both the Fantastic and Mrs. Meyers should be diluted, and after use, rinse the egg thoroughly (sometimes I use a very soft toothbrush as well during the process), let dry, then soak for a minute or two in a strong vinegar/water bath, dab dry and let it sit for a while (1/2 hour or more), to allow the egg to accept more dye.
P4. What kind of varnish do you use?I use Flecto Varathane Classic Clear Diamond Wood Finish Gloss Interior (oil based) - formerly called "the Original" Flecto Varathane Liquid Plastic Interior Wood Finish 90 Clear Gloss. It can leave a little yellowness if you use too heavy a coat, or if you let it blob or drip on the surface (its always better to use several thin coats, anyway, rather than one thick coat). Otherwise, its great--it doesn't smear the colors, which is really important! NEVER USE WATER-BASED VARNISH/VARATHANES - anything water-based will run your dyes. Always use oil-based!
P5. Do you recommend emptying the eggs or not?I advise emptying the eggs--I know its not traditional, but I think you just have so many more options for displaying the eggs when they're empty (besides which, I've had a LOT of eggs explode in the middle of the night, and that is one smell I can do without!). I empty mine afer I'm finished, but some folks prefer to empty the egg before they begin. Be sure to completely block up the egg before you put it in dye, or else dye will get inside and seep through the shell, spoiling the design. Some use a beeswax plug (a little bit of beeswax over the hole, using a heated kistka to melt the edges to ensure a good seal), while some use the plugs you can buy from suppliers.
P6. Which comes first, varnishing or emptying?I always recommend putting at least one coat of varnish on, and letting it completely dry, before emptying the egg. The reason is, that when you empty the egg, and have to rinse it out under the tap, the water and the egg gook from inside will tend to fade the dye away (and never evenly, so it looks quite awful). The one coat of varnish protects the shell from this happening. You might get a little ring of faded dye where your egg blowing device was, this can be easily corrected by using a waterproof permanent marker on it, then varnishing the egg again.
P7. How do you get a perfect sheen when varnishing the egg?Please check out my Hints and Tricks page for the answer.
P8. What is an orange wash?Please check out my Supplies You'll Need page for the answer.
P9. What is the basic color order I should dye my egg in?The order is basically: White, Yellow, Gold, Light Green, Light Blue, Turquoise, Orange, Brown (if you want it lighter), Brick (if you want it lighter), Pink, Bright Red (Scarlet), Red (Cherry), Brown (if you want it darker), Brick (if you want it darker), Dark Red.
Final colors: Black, Purple, Royal Blue, and Dark Green.
Generally speaking, the colors go from light to dark. I put light green before light blue because I have noticed (and others have commented to me about it as well) that the colors seem to turn out better if you do it in that order. The brown and brick turn out darker and richer if you do them after the reds, but they might fade too much into the background if you end the egg in black after that (because they are so dark at that point, there isn't much to differentiate them). The dark green, purple, and royal blue are best used as final colors (because, again, they don't differentiate well against the black). Dark red can also be used as a final color. Of course, things are a little different again if you are bleaching the egg. In that case, you start with yellow, not white.
P10. How to you pronounce "pysanky"?Pysanky is pronounced peh-san-keh (with the emphasis on the "peh").
P11. How long do dyes keep?Dyes are usually good for several dozen eggs. They can keep over a few seasons if you only use them sparingly. Of course, they often evaporate somewhat, but you can add a little distilled water to bring them back up. They might also lose their intensity over time; to counteract this, you can add a little vinegar. Be sure not to add it to the colors that don't ordinarily take vinegar, like orange and pink.
P12. Are there special dyes you have to use, or can you use the ones you find in the grocery store?The dyes used to create the vivid colors we generally associate with modern pysanky are the result of using special analine dyes. These must be purchased from special suppliers (see my where to buy supplies page for a list of places you can purchase dyes and other pysanky products from). The grocery store dyes will not create the same effect, so you may be disappointed if you purchase them for this use. However if you're looking to experiment, they might be interesting to try. In other words, if you're a beginner, purchase the special dyes made especially for pysanky.
P13. The dye on my eggs seems streaky, what's going on?Nowadays, it seems, people want thinner shelled eggs that are easier to crack (which can change the calcium content), and eggs get sprayed down with chemicals to clean them - both things that can affect how the eggs take dyes. It's best, if you can, to buy directly from a farmer, or from a health food store, where they sell "organic" eggs, they tend not to have this problem as much. Don't forget to give the eggs a nice vinegar bath before you begin, as well, to properly clean and prepare the shell to accept dye.
P14. Little droplets of moisture are appearing on my finished eggs and ruining the design - why?A lot of people have had this problem, it tends to come from using 'less than fresh' eggs. Hard to tell when you buy them off the shelf, how long they've been sitting there. And as above, many eggs are produced with less calcium content to make them easier to crack. The only way around it that people have found is to empty the egg first (and don't forget to solidly plug up the holes!). Some have suggested coating the inside with a thin varnish first - not sure how easy that would be, it would be a rather delicate operation as you would have to be sure not to get any on the outside of the shell. You could also try to find some organic eggs at a health food store, their shells seem to have a higher calcium content, and tend not to sit on the shelves for as long.
P15. Questions relating to duck and goose eggs.Duck eggs are notoriously difficult to work with. They have a beautiful size and translucentness that I love, but you have to keep several things in mind. Unlike other eggs, you can't wash duck eggs to start, their shells can only take so much cleaning before they won't take dye at ALL. So, no vinegar bath to start. Extremely mild soap and water if you HAVE to (as in, they came to you dirty from the farm). You can't really go back and forth with dyes (eg, you can't do a bunch of blue, backwash it and do a bunch of red - the egg can't deal with the backwashing), so pick very simple colour schemes if you're working with a duck egg, go in strict order of light to dark. They make a lovely choice for etching as well, if you plan on doing just the white colour (or maybe a couple of colours) and then the etch.
Goose eggs are a delight to work with, scrub them down gently with a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser and a vinegar bath to start, and you can do anything to them, very hearty shells that can take a lot of dye baths, backwashes, etc.
P15. Would a lathe be helpful to keep my lines straight?Lathes are a great help to many people, but if you become dependent on them, you won't get enough practice to get good at freehand lines. Really then, the machine is making the lines, not you. The beauty of a pysanka is that it is made with human hands, and has the hallmarks of that (not-quite-perfect divisions, unequal dyeing, etc.). It is what makes each egg unique. I do all my lines freehand (with pencil lines for guides, of course), but it took time and a lot of practice. If you're looking for perfection, the lathe is the way to go, but you'll get more satisfaction and growth in your skill if you learn to do them freehand. Rubber bands can help you get started with better divisions.
P16. I want to sell my eggs - what should I price them?This is a difficult question to answer, but one that I'm asked fairly often. There's several things to consider--the first thing you should think about is your potential market. For my local market, I can't sell them for as much as I'd like. People are very appreciative of the work, but not super-eager to lay down the cash necessary to take an egg home with them. :) Some areas have a large Ukrainian population where many people do pysanky, and you might find prices extremely low for a very high quality egg. However, if it's a large Ukrainian population that doesn't have many pysanky artists, you have a base of people who very much appreciate the heritage behind the work and would be willing to pay a good price for them. So it really differs on a case-by-case basis. The Internet opens up whole new markets to you, enabling you to reach many more people than you can locally. So keep that in mind!
In addition, consider how long it took you to create the egg, the level of intricacy, and your personal skill level. I usually charge about $45-$50 CDN for really intricate eggs, about $35 CDN for average eggs.
There are a couple of books I've found very useful, to learn more about the crafts business in general, help with pricing, and so on. This one was the most relevant and helpful for this particular issue:
Hynes, William G. Start & Run a Craft Business. Self Counsel Press, 2002.
I'm sure there are many more good books like these, so shop around!
Site Related Questions
S1. Are there any suppliers in the <insert your town here> area?With my Suppliers listing, what you see is what you get. I list every supplier of pysanky supplies I hear of, unless I've heard bad things about the company. So if it isn't listed, chances are I haven't heard about it. Most of the places I have listed on my site do a lot of their business through mail order, so if you don't have one in your area, it is still fairly easy to get supplies. So, check out my extensive suppliers page, with 20+ suppliers listed.
S2. Do you know where I can purchase <anything ranging from kistky to goose eggs>?As above, I only have listed suppliers I know of, who supply pysanky supplies, or eggs suitable for making pysanky. I am not in contact with most of these companies (many I have only been in contact with once, when they asked to be listed on my site), so if you have inquiries about a company's products, you must ask the individual company for information.
S3. Do you know of any online groups for pysanky?The best and most active online group right now is Incredible Eggs on Facebook. You have to join (to prevent spammers), but if you're at all interested in become proficient in this artform, you will not find a more helpful group of knowledgeable experts anywhere! All experience levels are welcome, there are tons of newbies on there, so don't be shy!
I will be updating this listing as necessary, so check back regularly!
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