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Anna Nepyivoda

"I wish for the pysanka to be a part of every dwelling."

For thirty years, she has been creating pysankas—decorated Easter eggs—as well as handmade greeting cards with pysanka motifs. “Pysankas were traditionally made during the last week of Lent, Holy Week, before Easter,” Anna says. “The most perfectly shaped eggs are used.” Today, her artwork also includes embroidery, textiles and leatherwork.

All of Anna’s female ancestors made pysankas. In her home village, the Carpathian town of Vyzhnyi Bereziv, the pysanka was an integral component of her ancestors’ lives. “My works,” Anna explains, “represent the Hutsul culture of Ukrainian highlanders who, for centuries, have inhabited the Carpathian Mountains.” Colorful, sophisticated embroidery, carpet weaving, leatherwork define the Hutsul, and each Hutsul village has its own patterns, symbols, and rituals for decorating the pysanka.

By the 1980s, though, the art of the pysanka was nearly lost in Vyzhnyi Bereziv, Anna’s native village. Many pysanka artists there had died, and residents began obtaining their pysankas from other villages. Though beautiful, these pieces did not represent the original designs of Bereziv.


Anna decided to revive the designs herself. She practiced pysanka ‘writing’ with fellow art students at the Folk Arts College in Kosiv and, later, at the Academy of Applied Arts in Lviv. She also collected old Bereziv pysankas for reconstruction, teaching herself the designs that had, until then, been forgotten. Now, three young artists work by her side, committed to the endurance of the original Bereziv designs. Thus, every collector, Ukrainian or otherwise, is helping to save a piece of Bereziv’s culture.

The pysankas are made using a batik method; molten wax is applied in patterns to the shell of a white egg. Then the egg is dyed yellow, more wax is applied, and more colors are added, always moving from light to dark. After the final shade is applied, wax is removed; the result is a brilliant, complex, and one-of-a-kind surface. Pysankas rarely take less than two hours to create.

In the Ukraine, everyone—young and old—receives a pysanka for Easter. “To give a pysanka,” Anna says, “is to give a symbolic gift of life.” Young people are given pysankas with bright designs; dark pysankas are given to older people. A bowl full of pysanky is displayed prominently in most homes.

Anna’s dream is to see a psyanka in every household she visits, for she believes that the egg’s colors and designs have the ability to transcend culture and religion. Any person, she says, can be an admirer.

Anna says that the most beautiful part of her work is, “when I remove all the wax from the egg’s painted shell to reveal the design. Until that moment, you are never certain how the colors and patterns emerge.”

 

   


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