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Mother-daughter duo continue three generations of egg art

Artists say the practice is a dying form and urge others to pick up the kistka.

YORKTON – A mother-daughter duo from Yorkton represent the second and third generations of artistic practice in their family when it comes to traditional Ukrainian Easter Eggs.

Though the art is typically well-recognized in the area, the actual Ukrainian name for the wax-resistant type egg is pysanka which comes from the verb pysaty, meaning 'to write', as the designs are written onto the egg with beeswax and not not painted on according to a description of the art form on Wikipedia.

"My Mom taught me how to paint eggs when I was 10-years old and then I taught my daughter," said Bernie Woloschuk, who has been practicing the art for 50 years.

Woloschuk said her mother, Eleanor Woloschuk, learned the art when she was young.

"She was quite young – when she'd just started a family," said Woloschuk, adding, "she was self taught...and was a stay-at-home Mom who picked this up as a hobby."

"The eggs were always on the table at home — we'd come home from school and we'd see her working on her arts evening and weekends — it was something we grew up with and saw our mom do on a daily basis for many years," noted Woloschuk.

"She taught us and we carried the tradition," said Woloschuk.

"My mom is retired from this so now my daughter and I do it," said Woloschuk.

"I was 25 when I started," said Nora Kriger, Woloschuk's daughter and fellow artist.

"It was after I had kids and I was a stay at home mom and needed something to do," said Kriger, adding, "watching it all my life it was easy for me to know what to do."

Kriger said she's already started teaching her own children about the craft.

"Every year around Easter time I sit them down in a chair and they always bug me – they want to do an egg," said Kriger, adding she is happy to pass the tradition on to her kids, "we've got to keep it going...I've got three [kids] so maybe one of them will want to carry it on."

The duo said they participate in trade shows and sell their creations online.

"Our work sells all over the world – they go in museums and gift shops," said Woloschuk.

The duo said the process of making the eggs can take anywhere from one to three hours and that time does not include drying and blowing the eggs out.

The intricate designs are drawn free hand on the hollowed out eggs using a a kistka, also known as a hot wax pen.

"There's traditional colour – you start with yellow then go to orange then red and the final colour is black, but you can also do pink or purple — there's all kinds of colours — but these are the traditional colours," said Kriger.

Woloschuk noted the designs have so many different meanings that it's "basically a book" worth of symbolism.

The duo also noted that certain tricks of the trade exist to get the results they want for the pieces, but were not willing to indulge that information to the press.

"There's family secrets we can't give away," said Kriger with a laugh.

The art has not been limited to chicken eggs, as the mother-daughter duo have decorated ostrich eggs as well as goose eggs.

Woloschuk said that of her four other siblings, who all practiced the art at some point, she is the only one who continues with it.

"My brothers and sisters tried it — they've done it — but they never pursued it and stuck with it," said Woloschuk, adding, "Nora and I are keeping it alive and carrying it on," and "in our family and extended family there's a lot of this just comes naturally easy."

Woloschuk said she plans on honing her craft until she isn't physically able as she finds it therapeutic.

"It's almost like an addiction – I've been doing it for 50 years," said Woloschuk, "when I wake up in the morning I have my coffee and I go sit down and work on it for a few gives you a lot of time to do soul searching or think about family or current events."

The duo noted that they don't know of anyone else in the area who practices the art form.

"It's a dying art, there's not too many people around here that are doing it at all," said Kriger.

"My friends I went to school with – their moms would be making these," said Woloschuk, "back in the 80s there was a lot of people doing this and they'd be at the Farmer's Market or doing trade shows."

"It's kind of sad now when I look back on it...I don't see anybody else out there displaying their work or advertising it or seeing it up for sale in this area," said Woloschuk, "I've always enjoyed seeing other people's work but you don't see it much any more."

Despite their doubts, the two encouraged others to get involved and learn about what they feel is a fading form of art.

"If somebody wants to start doing this you don't have to be good at it, you just have to really enjoy it – teach your kids, teach your grand kids," said Woloschuk.

"There are no mistakes — it's art, it's your own design — keep traditions going," said Kriger.

The eggs are available for purchase locally at SMAK Ukrainian Store in Yorkton and Saskatoon as well as the Western Development Museum and the Canora Museum.

For those attending the Yorkton Troyanda Dance Ensemble Spring Showcase at the Yorkton Regional High School on April 28, 29 and 30, the duo will have a booth set up with the art available for purchase.