Art of Ukraine – Pysanky & Kokum
Ukraine – in today’s daily news because of the recent and ruthless invasion of this independent country by Vladimir Putin, leader of neighboring country of Russia.
As I reflect on the current crisis in Ukraine, I am reminded of their gorgeous art. Tragically, Russian bombs are devastating their time-honored, magnificent architecture, especially their Ukrainian Orthodox churches.
Pysanky eggs are one Ukrainian art form cannot be destroyed by invading Russians! Able to be shared throughout the world outside the territorial boundaries of Ukraine – by us all – are the creation of these exquisite eggs!
They are especially relevant now with the upcoming Christian celebration of Easter.
Kokum – grandmother scarves – are a Ukrainian fashion statement and another way some of us can visibly provide solidarity with our Ukrainian sisters. When Russian forces started dropping bombs on Ukraine, many younger Ukrainians recalled their grandmothers wearing the brightly colored floral scarves that many Ukrainian and Indigenous women still wear. They’re now affectionately known as kokum or grandmother scarves and back on the fashion trail!
Priceless Memories: Pysansky Eggs
Pysansky eggs hold a dear and treasured memory for me!
Years ago, a client – a dear, elderly Ukrainian lady – gifted me with pysanky she had personally created. I cherished and proudly displayed them for years. Sadly, they are long gone, broken after too many moves and the glee and enjoyment of small children!
I think I’ll get some this year. It will remind me of – and to pray for – these wonderful, strong resilient people.
Pysanky (plural form of pysanka) is from the Ukrainian word “pysaty” meaning “to write.” Each creation is hand-drawn and unique. Hand-drawn first in pencil, guidelines are used to section off an egg into a grid pattern and then the detail within the grid. Pencil lines are covered with beeswax and layered with colors of dye, similar to the batik work done on fabric.
The Martha Stewart website is a wealth of information and source of much of my information.
Creating your Pysanka
Symmetry for both complex and simple designs is the key to a beautiful traditional pysanka. The more intricate the design, the more important the precision and symmetry of its layout.
Starting with the selection of the egg, many things are to be considered. This includes the quality of the egg (a whole science in itself!) and if the egg is left whole or hollowed out.
My Pysansky eggs were whole, not hollow. The egg white and yolk eventually dried up. As time went on, I could hear a slight rattle inside, like a small bead. When it broke, the smell was horrendous!
The process and the tools (i.e. kistka/heated pen, ink/melted beeswax and dye) used in the process are also serious decisions.
In my brief time of research, I found the Martha Stewart website and links are a good place start. P.C. marthastewart.com/1514689/tips-and-tricks-to-pysanky-eggs
Display of your Pysanka
To display – and protect your egg from rolling off the table and cracking (happened to one of mine…) – I highly recommend using some sort of stand.
Display & Protect your Pysanka
Stands are easily available in styles from simple to ornate. Cost varies from only a few dollars online or at your local big box store – to a huge monetary investment at a specialty store! Whatever suits your budget, taste and decor!
Kokum – Ukrainian Shawls
Among the things I purchased while traveling in St. Petersburg, Russia in 2003 were two colorful Ukrainian shawls. Over the years, because of their unique style and size, I found myself adoring their beauty – neatly folded in my dresser drawer – but not gracefully draped around my shoulders. When I saw an article on them in the Minneapolis Star Tribune recently, I decided to bring them to the forefront of my wardrobe. It seems like a small – but visual – way to show my solidarity with the people and traditions of Ukraine.
Kokum scarves are a regular feature in Indigenous design and fashion. They get incorporated into powwow regalia and ribbon skirts and are worn around the head during ceremonies and dances.
It is interesting how different the kokum scarves look laid out flat (as below) or folded (as above)! Same scarf..different views!
I discovered some interesting history and culture related to these shawls – and now they have a name: kokum. A vibrant and extravagant accessory, it has a long history in Eastern Europe. With Ukraine back in the news, it is suddenly back in style!
The kokum scarves movement is a growing trend amongst Canadian Indigenous peoples to honor the historical relationship with the Ukraine immigrant community who shared them with the Canadian Cree. “Kokum” is a Cree word for “grandmother.”
Easily available for purchase online (Etsy, Amazon…), the Ukrainian shawl is advertised as “bright and attractive, chic and dynamic floral print design that will surely be noticed everywhere you go.” Not to mention the statement made by their size! I have two. One is 48″ x 48″ and the other is 60″ x 60″ – with fringes all the way around, they are certainly not a shy fashion statement!
Want ideas on how to wear your kokum scarf? Check out YouTube channels on Ukrainian/Russian headscarf tying! Fascinating ideas!
Where Can I Buy Ukrainian Pysanky?
If you Google “Ukrainian Pysanky” a large number of places available for purchase of these eggs, stands and supplies will pop up, including Amazon, Etsy and Walmart!
I don’t typically advertise private sources in this blog… But…as a strong supporter of locally-run businesses – and the recommendation of a long-time and trusted friend who practices the art of Pysanky for her own pleasure – check out the Ukrainian Gift Shop in Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA. You can purchase items on-site in the store – or shop online. They will ship them to you anywhere in the world. Besides beautiful eggs, you can also purchase How-to books, Pattern books, and all the supplies which one may need to dive into this unique art form! This, along with the Martha Stewart website, should be all you need to collect and/or create!
Travel Tip: World’s Largest Pysanka!
Are you intrigued with Ukrainian Easter eggs? You can visit this giant one – the world’s largest – in Vegreville’s (Alberta, Canada) giant Pysanka: the world’s largest Ukrainian Easter Egg.
It’s big – it’s colorful!
This giant Easter egg – or Ukrainian ‘Pysanka,’ – was constructed in 1975 in honor of the early Ukrainian settlements east of Edmonton, Canada.
- Address: 4500 Pysanka Avenue, Vegreville, AB, Canada
- Website: vegreville.com
- Photo & info from: travelalberta.com/us/listings/vegreville-pysanka-5217/
The following sources were used or referenced in the above post.
- Global News, Kokum Scarves: globalnews.ca/news/8657710/kokum-scarves-indigenous-ukraine/
- KJRH, Kokum Scarves: kjrh.com/indigenous-people-s-kokum-scarves-show-support-for-ukraine
- Martha Stewart, Pysanky Eggs & Photo Credit: marthastewart.com/1514689/tips-and-tricks-to-pysanky-eggs
- NBC News, Kokum Scarves: nbcnews.com/news/us-news/indigenous-kokum-scarves-solidarity-ukraine-rcna18063
- Travel Alberta, Giant Pysanka: travelalberta.com/us/listings/vegreville-pysanka-5217/
- Ukrainian Eggs Photo Credit: ukrainianeastereggs.store/product/christmas-home-decor-easter-egg-pysanka/ (I only used this for their great photo; I am unable to recommend this site for business)
- Ukrainian Gift Shop: ukrainiangiftshop.com
4 thoughts on “Ukrainian Art”
Great post- thanks!
On Sat, Mar 12, 2022 at 5:32 PM Charamana Consulting wrote:
> Cher B posted: ” Cher’s Famous Art: Ukraine Spring 2022 Art of Ukraine – > Pysanky & Kokum Ukraine – in today’s daily news because of the recent and > ruthless invasion of this independent country by Vladimir Putin, leader of > neighboring country of Russia.” >
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Thanks, Linda. I appreciate the comment.
That was great remembering our trip to Russia and the beautiful art and sites.
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