Larissa Pohoreski wrote her first pysanky, the Ukrainian-style Easter egg, at the age of four. Now, decades later, she’s honed her craft and is selling her eggs to buyers around the world.
Pohoreski says the eggs have a long history.
“Originally, they come from pagan times. They found them in what is now Ukraine from 4,000 to 5,000 years ago. They were written almost with codes. You would put the symbols for what you would want to happen over the next year — maybe for fertility for your fields, for good fortune, for money, for health.”
But over time, that changed.
“Now, it’s kind of associated with Easter, the egg being new life, rebirth, all the Christian meanings,” Pohoreski said.
Writing pysanky is no easy feat. It’s very time-consuming, detailed work. It’s usually done using full, raw eggs.
“The traditional method is to apply beeswax, and everything that the beeswax covers will stay that colour. It’s a wax-resist method,” she said. “You place it in the dye, it takes on that colour, and then you repeat and colour everything you want to remain that colour. And then at the end, all of the colours are revealed.”
As a child, she would look forward to working on pysanky with family and friends.
“Growing up in the Ukrainian community, all of my friends did this. And every Easter, for the 40 days before Easter, was pysanky time,” she said.
“My momma is the pysanky master. I don’t even know how many people she’s taught to do this ancient art form. She had us starting when we were four, maybe even before that, using pencil crayons. She latched onto that tradition when she was younger, and it was really important for her to teach it to us. Now, I’ve kind of taken it and ran with it.”
Today, Pohoreski works with vibrant colours and original designs.
“What I like to do is take the traditional techniques and then blend them with some contemporary esthetic. Or maybe try out a new technique that isn’t traditional. Something that doesn’t exist, that I’ve made up,” she said.
Pohoreski recently posted pictures of her pysanky online, and they went viral.
“I posted an image of 32 that I had completed to see if they would sell, to see if there was any interest. They sold so quickly, in like 12 hours. And I kept receiving requests for more, for something different, for more, more, more,” she laughed.
“For many of them, it’s still, ‘I want an egg for my basket. I haven’t had the time. The person I usually bought from doesn’t make them anymore.’ So there’s that. Then there’s just this other community of people who just found me online, and the art form just reminds them of their grandparents or reminds them of family.”
Pohoreski is happy to share her knowledge and techniques with others, even those who aren’t Ukrainian.
“I’ve taken it for granted that everybody just knew how to do this. I never thought it was special so it’s been exciting to see this ancient form of art kind of resurging,” she said.
Pohoreski said the average egg takes her a few hours to complete, and she’s been selling them for about $30 online.
“For me, it’s almost like meditation, especially the more intricate the egg is. I just get locked into the patterns and the circles.”