Los Angeles is filed with activities that are fun for kids. Everyone once in a while, there are also activities that are perfect for both kids and adults.
Making decorated Ukrainian Easter eggs known as 'pysanky' ('pysanka' in the singular form) is one such activity. These are beautifully decorated eggs that are made using a wood and copper stylus, hot wax and dye.
On Sunday April 21, 2013, the Ukrainian Culture on Melrose Ave. invites all Los Angelinos, young and old, to come and learn to make this traditional folk art. The Center had previously held this annual event during the 1980s and 90s. Now for the first time in over a decade, it is being revived.
Professional egg writers such as Barbara Wetzel will be one of several pysanka artists at the Ukrainian Culture Center from 11 am to 5 pm, holding workshops to teach the public how to make the eggs.
The day-long open house event - which falls between Catholic Easter on March 31 and Eastern Orthodox Easter on May 5 - will also feature other Ukrainian artists showcasing their wares. The stage will have performances by Ukrainian dancers while a variety of different "varenyky" - otherwise known as "perogies" - will be served from the kitchen, along with some delicious poppy seed cake.
Wetzel - who has been teaching Southern Californian adults and children in the art of pysanka making for over 25 years - sat down with the Huffington Post's Zorianna Kit to talk about working with kids on the pysanky, the symbolism and legends surrounding the eggs, and how making them can translate to other forms of art.
Q: Does working with kids to make a pysanka get messy or dangerous? After all, you're working with eggs, wax and flames!
WETZEL: Children are really free and they're not intimidated by trying to make them perfect. They just want to learn how. I find that children are very good about following direction. I've had more trouble with older people dropping eggs. Myself, I started making them when I was 8 years old and I looked forward to it every year.
Q: What's your process with the kids?
WETZEL: I pick out three designs. They can choose their own colors. I give them several color options. I use eggs that are hollowed out. I put a thin coat of varnish on them at the end and then they can take them home.
Q: What do the children learn during this process?
WETZEL: It's learning the technique because it's so different from anything that they've ever done before. It's applying the wax and learning how to think from light to dark. And how the darker colors eat up the lighter colors so that you get a nice finished design.
Q: You're like an art teacher in a way.
WETZEL: Well, it is a unique art form but it also translates in to other mediums of art. It's a wax resist form of fine art. You can use that when working with a canvas and not have the paint adhere to a certain areas. It's also a batik effect that (can be translated to) to fabric when making quilts because the designs are not so uniform.
Q: What kind of art form is pysanka making?
WETZEL: It's a very ancient art form. Each eggs packs a lot of meaning with all of the symbolism. Everything on the egg means something. It's also one of the very last religious art forms. The only other religious art form is icon painting.
Q: What types of symbols can the eggs have?
WETZEL: There is the sun, because in the pagan days, they worshipped the sun and flowers and things like that. Animals symbolize prosperity. Spiders bring good luck. Today, they take on a more religious meaning. The sun represents Jesus Christ, the Son of God, flowers still represent love, although they can be God's love for people. Triangles on eggs represent the trinity. Dots are the tears of Mary.
Q: What if someone is not religious?
WETZEL: You can do the pagan symbols or you make something using the colors or designs that speak to you. I had someone once draw Mickey Mouse.
Q: What's the biggest misconception about making pysanky?
WETZEL: Usually people don't realize there is so much work involved or how they are actually made. I've had people say, 'Oh, they put the designs on with stencils!' No, not quite. Others think we use a machine. But they're all hand done. There is no ruler that is egg shaped, although I wish there was!
Q: What's the most prominent legend surrounding Ukrainian Easter eggs?
WETZEL: As long as the Easter eggs are made every year, good will prevail over evil in the world. The more eggs that are made, the less evil there will be.