Grandma’s style

Here is a different technique of drawing with wax on eggs. My grandma, who taught me to draw on eggs used to do these with a simple matchstick, while heating wax in a tin on the stove. I haven’t done this for probably 25 years (first attempts look a bit shaky), finally decided to try again. Not with a matchstick, but with a thing they call here drop pull tool, but who knows, now that I figured out the other components of the process, I might even try the matchstick again.

This technique comes from a very special region of Western Ukraine, Lemkiwshchyna, mainly in present-day Poland (and perhaps also partially Slovakia). It is a very tragic place, and very special place, that has been robbed of its people during and after the second word war, it had its own dialect that was very different than others, its own amazing sings, and its own manner of drawing on eggs, of course, among other things. My grandma grew up there, her father was a priest and was sent there to serve, and lived there still for a few years after marriage. My grandfather’s plan, who was also a priest, was to immigrate to US, and the tickets for the ship were already bought, but apparently my aunt got sick, and grandma refused to take a sick baby sailing across the ocean. That chance was lost and they ended up moving to the Soviet Union in the middle of the war. Even though originally we are not “from” there, my grandma’s best years were spent there and she loved the place very much and gladly shared the memories, stories, and these kinds of eggs as well.

Here, above, is the tool I used for these. This is a thick one, I have also some thinner ones somewhere in the box, I will probably explore those next time. You dip the head of this “pin” into liquid hot wax, and draw these elongated drops on the egg surface.

And here, below, the oil-heating thingy I used for heating the wax. It’s quite convenient. Someone gave it to me as a gift a while ago, and I was saving it actually for this purpose. I wasn’t sure whether a tea light candle would keep the wax hot enough, but it does.

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Now, the dyes.

The beige one is black walnut on its own. I’ve used this dye few years before, and it’s a bit strange – thick and dark brown, almost like molasses, but it doesn’t absorb well into the egg shell. Almost like henna, which gave very disappointing results. This one is more interesting though, because it seems to have the capacity to lighten the darker egg, which could be useful if one wants to use incompatible colors on the same egg. I’ll show this to you later on another egg.

The pink, or maybe scarlet is a few weeks old sappan wood dye. I wasn’t so pink in the beginning, maybe the dye is wearing out, and maybe it became a bit more sour since a few eggs have been in vinegar baths. When used on fabric, this dye apparently can change from orange and warm red all the way to crimson and even purplish. when the Ph is changed. So maybe this is what happened…

The reddish-brown is walnut over sappan wood.

The purplish-maroon is sappan wood over logwood. I played with logwood last lear a bit, there is already a post somewhere earlier about it, what I have noticed today is that while on its own logwood does not like to adhere to the shell, looks powdery and easily comes off with wax, overdoing with another dye, in this case sappan wood, helps the color stick to the egg, and saves it from wiping off with wax. I’ll play more with this and will probably show more eggs.

Now, both (or rather all three) of my yellow dyes have died, the seem to spoil very fast, I was quite disappointed that I didn’t get a chance to use buckthorn more, but I just received an order of my favourite coreopsis extract. It’s a different make, so I’m not quite sure whether it will work, but I guess we will see :).

Roger.

First experiments with natural dyes complete.

Here is the result:

You already saw the previous post with yellow coreopsis dye. I must say this was my favourite dye, and I was extremely lucky to have started with it, because I have struggled quite a bit with the next dyes. Coreopsis give a good intense yellow with relatively little dye, without cooking (just boiling water), it dyes quite fast and works well for a long time. While the red dyes have spoiled by now, this one seems fine still, and smells as beautifully now, as it did in the beginning, in spite of having been sitting in a jar in a hot room. I love this dye and will definitely keep using it.

Now, one by one.

1. coreopsis – yellow, madder standard and cochineal – red (50-50 mixture, twice).

I would have probably dyed it for the third time, the plan was to leave it in the dye over night one more time (it had already a session of few hours and then once overnight), because it still had some patches not fully dyed to my liking, but when I came from the week-end of being away, the dye has spoiled, so I’ll have to try a new batch of red dye eventually. I have really struggled with both madder and cochineal, I was not getting the intensity of color that I was expecting based on other people’s reports (and probably based on my amazing experience with coreopsis), I have used up the small container of madder standard in the process. I still have a container of madder rich, but that has turned from powder into a piece of rock, so I’ve let it be for now. I am tempted to just buy some regular madder in a herb store – it comes both in the root form and in powder, and see whether it works better that this fancy dye powder. We’ll see.

2. red cabbage – teal, vinegar – white.

Red cabbage was a nice experiment, because that is something that is easily available in a grocery store. I did add a mordant, and changed the pH balance to have a blue tone instead of purple. It smells like cabbage, is rather weak when dyeing, and takes a while, but still it works, and let’s see how the color withstands time and light. Maybe I’ll show later in a separate post and in detail, how I made that dye, especially if I manage to get another egg or two dyed in it.

3. coreopsis – yellow, black walnut – brown. Goose egg.

Black walnut worked sort of OK, but took a while to dye. It’s good as foundation (or over-dye) for other colours to make them darker. Perhaps I should have dyed this one two or three times. The dye powder is coarser than others, and I have more of it, so I will likely play with it a bit more, to see whether I can get the color more intense or have it dye faster. The egg pattern is not traditional, it is from a memorized and partially improvised version of a trypillya-style egg I have seen before. Not sure who is the author of this pattern, if I knew I would say.

4. black walnut – brown, vinegar – white.

I did an experiment here, because this was an etched egg and I did not want to mess up the while background by taking the wax off with the candle, I did half of it with hot water and half with hot oil. Turned out, walnut did not like one of those procedures (neither, by the way, did the etched cabbage egg above), guess which was the procedure not liked by walnut and cabbage? You can see that the dye on the right (or bottom) half of the egg has partially washed away. Didn’t like the water, liked oil just fine. You’ll see later that lac did not like oil. But maybe would not have liked water even more, who knows…

5. coreopsis – yellow, red cabbage – pale green, lac and then black walnut – brown.

This is the egg from the previous post.

So the red cabbage gave this pale green instead of teal-blue after coreopsis. I fell in love with this pattern earlier this year, so here is a comparison, the same pattern dyed with chemical dyes, with natural dyes and without dyes – etching with vinegar on the brown egg.

6. coreopsis – yellow, madder and cochineal – red, lac – burgundy, vinegar – white.

In the photo below you can see that lac was not happy at all and came off with the wax. Not sure whether it did not like the hot oil, which I used to take it off, or maybe it was just generally unhappy. It did not behave like this in the egg above when I used black walnut over lac, maybe this is what I should have done here. But, in general, lac stinks (worse than cabbage), it takes a long time to dye, the color is not particularly nice, and as we can see, does not stay so well. And it spoiled also within the same timeframe as madder+cochineal. I still have some left, so I might do more research to see whether I can add something to the dye to make it more happy (chalk? cream of tartar? something else?) and play more with it, but probably not any time soon. I will probably try out other versions of similar colours that I have not tried yet before coming back to this one.

See, this is lac by itself, the first try on plain egg – I should have known still from this first run, that is does not stick all that well to egg, the dye came off just by me wiping the egg dry.

So, that’s it for now. Ask questions if you have any.

All the dyes I have used here besides red cabbage are Maiwa extracts in powder form.