For Joanna Lohr, Easter egg dyeing is an activity that starts light and gradually gets darker.
That’s the secret to pysanky egg decorating, in which Lohr leads an annual workshop at the Delaplaine Visual Arts Education Center in Frederick. Her most recent one was on March 25.
Lohr, a native of Poland, said the method is popular in several Eastern European countries including Ukraine, Hungary, Bulgaria and Czechoslovakia. She has done pysanky for 14 years, a craft she learned from neighbors.
“I went and I discovered that I love it and I’m good at it,” Lohr said.
Lohr also does stained-glass work, mosaics and beading, so she already had the artistic gene.
Pysanky works by covering eggs in various colored waxes, starting with the lightest color or white shades. Once the lightest color is waxed, it is protected from getting darker, which means the egg’s background should always be the darkest color.
The process starts by drawing the design on the egg with a pencil. Lohr brings various design books to the Delaplaine or participants can create their own.
Participants paint the wax onto the egg using a heated tool. The background color goes on last and then Lohr puts the colored egg in a toaster-oven for a few minutes to harden the color. Once the eggs are out of the oven, the excess wax layers peel off, revealing the design.
Lohr said the eggs should be fresh and at room temperature, since refrigerated eggs will “sweat” and possibly have an uneven background.
Eggs with a black background tend to be popular in pysanky, but Lohr encouraged attendees at the Delaplaine to mix it up with green, blue and purple patterns, as well as reds and yellows. She said egg colors do not fade over time but the egg insides will evaporate.
Her favorite part of teaching pysanky is seeing people discover their inner artist.
“Lots of people start out thinking they won’t do a good job and then at the end, they’re so happy,” Lohr said.
Sanna Massala, of Middletown, became interested in the Delaplaine workshop because she’s worked with batik, a method similar to pysanky used for dyeing textiles. Her egg patterns included teal and yellow; eggplant, white, yellow and red; and red, yellow and orange.
“I tried to use lots of colors, so in an Easter basket it’ll look pretty,” Massala said.
For those who want to try home egg-dyeing, the Common Market in Frederick has Eco-Eggs, an egg-coloring and grass-growing kit with natural dyes made from organic vegetables and juices. These include dyes made from purple sweet potatoes, red radishes and orange turmeric. They’re in a powder form and get mixed with water to make the dye.
“They’re safer to eat and it provides a vibrant color, as well,” Alecks Ferguson, education and events coordinator at Common Market, said.
The kit also comes with seeds and soil to grow a small grass patch to lay the eggs.
“It’s a cute little assembly to put your eggs on top of,” Ferguson said.