Monday, April 2, 2012

How To: Batik Dyed Easter Eggs

We decorated Easter eggs yesterday, using the same method that my Mom taught me as a child.  I'm not sure what the name of it would be, probably pysanka, batik or wax relief.  It's basically the same technique that is traditionally used to make intricate Ukrainian Easter eggs, though our style is much more "free form" and abstract.  

Here's what you need: 
  • hard boiled eggs 
  • wax--I used soy wax, but regular paraffin would do.  You could even just melt down old candles that you have lying around.
  • container to melt the wax in
  • wax pen and/or q-tips
  • dye for coloring the eggs--We always add some vinegar too, to help set the color.

Melt your wax on a very low heat.  Simmer is best, or else it might start smoking.  If you get the wax too hot, it flows too quickly out of the pen and you also run the risk of getting burned more easily.

This is what the wax batik pen looks like up close.  It has a little hole and chamber where the melted wax goes in and then pours out of the small hole in the tip.  You don't have as much control as with a regular ink pen, but you can achieve some nice lines and squiggles.

For brighter color contrast, we decided to use white shelled eggs rather than the brown ones that our family typically eats.

To apply the wax, just hold the egg over the wax pot (to catch drips) and "draw" your designs onto the egg.  Be careful of dripping wax onto skin and fingers because it's a little hot...though not as hot as the wax from a burning candle.  We didn't have any wax injuries, thankfully.

The wax cools and hardens in seconds, and you're ready to dip the egg into your color bath.  Every part of the egg the wax touches stays the color that is under the wax.  We usually went through this wax & color dip process two or three times for each egg, making sure to let the dye dry completely in between each step.    

The final step is to use your fingernail to gently scrape off the wax.  You do need to be careful about how hard you push, or else you end up with a few cracked eggs.  I think we lost two out of the 18 that we started with.

Sometimes the coolest effects come from multiple wax applications and color baths.  The end result can be a lovely colorful abstract that reminds me of some sort of Wassily Kandinsky painting.  Part of the fun is not knowing exactly what you're going to end up with until you scrape off the wax.

Happy Easter!