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home : features : features September 15, 2014

2/26/2014 10:02:00 AM
Pysanka art form celebrates spring at library
Jolanta Feliciano demonstrates techniques for the Batik method of egg decorating called Pysanka. She will conduct a workshop for up to 10 teens at the Prescott Valley library on March 28.
Jolanta Feliciano demonstrates techniques for the Batik method of egg decorating called Pysanka. She will conduct a workshop for up to 10 teens at the Prescott Valley library on March 28.
The intricate work involved shows on the eggs above and in the inset.
The intricate work involved shows on the eggs above and in the inset.

Briana Lonas

Jolanta Feliciano has baskets full of eggs, all featuring intricate drawings. Each egg sits ready for the wax resist Batik-style of decorating that has been around for centuries. Batik is an ancient technology that utilizes beeswax and dyes.

"I love this form of art," said Feliciano who grew up in Poland and learned the highly stylized techniques from childhood.

Pysanka means "to write" or "eggs written on" and is specific to the Batik method of egg decorating that originated in Africa, where the art form spilled into such regions as central Eastern Europe, India, Russia and China. Soon the rest of the world caught on to the tradition.

"Eggs are used in mythologies around the world. They are a part of creation and given as gifts of good luck," she said.

Perhaps dating back to the early Persian culture, the decorated eggs were given as gifts to celebrate the spring equinox, their New Year, Feliciano explained.

"It's very elaborate, folk art," she said, and recounted that as far back as the Middle Ages, farmers would place an egg in each of the corners of their field to ensure a fertile crop. Many of the designs tell their own story and denote the regional influence of their creator.

Feliciano decorates everything from the smallest finch to the 3.5-pound ostrich eggs. The only egg that can't be dyed, she said, is the emu since they already have a natural, dark hue.

"Ostrich eggs actually can be carved, almost like a stone and the effect is amazing," she said.

The process to decorate one egg is time consuming. Feliciano first must drill a small hole into the egg and pump out the yolk using a clever device that displaces the contents with water.

She washes the insides with vinegar and lightly sands the surface in preparation for the wax-resist style of drawing, dying and more drawing, all with a wax pen and candle.

"The most fascinating thing for me is the geometry. No egg is perfectly symmetrical so I have to create that symmetry," Feliciano said when describing how she begins each project, sometimes with a design in mind.

Often, she draws cats, horses, triangles, spirals, dots and other shapes seamlessly scrolled onto her delicate canvases.

Feliciano is the teen librarian in Prescott Valley and on March 28 at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., she plans to bring the beauty of Pysanka to students at the library. All materials will be supplied for these free workshops that may include up to 10 participants.

For more information, call the library at 928-759-3042.

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