HOPE – Unique works of art from an antique decorating technique went home with Hope High School art students as Christmas ornaments after a one-week class on Ukrainian egg decoration taught by Artist in Residence Sue Allen Pico.
Pico presented the class as part of the Arts in Education program partnership between the Hope Public Schools, Southwest Arkansas Arts Council and the Arkansas Arts Council.
“I am an artist proud to support the efforts of Arkansas artists and craft persons,” Pico said. “I spent 10 years as executive director of the North Central Arkansas Foundation for the Arts and Education, and I’m listed on the Artists in Education roster for the Arkansas State Arts Council.”
Pico focuses upon watercolor and “stick and ink” art forms in her personal work, but she brings the Ukrainian egg project to schools because of its unique technique.
Known as “pysanky,” the technique takes a plain, white chicken egg and converts it into a Christmas ornament using the wax-resist method to create a design template which is dyed to produce multi-colored patterns on the outside shell of the egg.
Designs are traced on the egg shell in pencil, then the egg is hollowed out by drilling a small hole in the top and bottom to drain it. Black wax is then applied to the design template using a tool known as a “kistka” which resembles the structure of the working end of a dentist’s drill.
Once the wax is applied to the template design, the egg is dipped in dye to provide the foundation color in spaces not covered by the wax which seals the template design. Wax is added to the design and the egg is dyed, again, and as many times as necessary to fill in the desired color scheme. When completely colored, the wax is melted away with a candle, leaving the template design outlined in white against the colored dye.
“I love to develop and teach a variety of performing, visual and language arts programs,” Pico notes in her official biography.
HHS art teacher Kendrick Adams said Pico’s class was popular with his students.
“The students had never tackled a project like this before,” Adams said. “But they embraced the challenge immediately.”
He said the work is delicate and requires continual focus.
“They followed directions meticulously, and everyone was pleased with the result, including teachers and students,” Adams said.