Eggs in search of their heritage – Winnipeg Free Press



Pysanky for Ukraine Day, an annual event that fell on April 1, invited people from all walks of life to create pysanky – brightly painted eggs adorned with traditional Ukrainian symbols and patterns – to show their support for the Eastern European nation.

Tracy Rossier, a Headingley-based artist who runs an Etsy shop dubbed Pysanky by Tracy, participated again this year and noticed a higher than usual number of registrants by posting photos or TikTok videos of their finished products. , probably due to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.

Also, more and more people seem to be exploring their Ukrainian heritage due to the Russian invasion, she says, sitting in a café on Portage Avenue, where other patrons peek in to admire a assortment of pink, yellow, orange, and blue dyed eggs she brought for show-and-tell purposes.

“The weeks leading up to Easter have always been a busy time for me, but lately it’s been mostly go, go, go,” she continues, politely correcting our pronunciation – “It’s pih-sahn-kah” – when we pronounce “pie-san-kee” by mistake.

“It’s always nice to bring new arrivals to the (online) store; I just wish it was for a totally different reason, that’s all.”



Tracy Rossier operates an Etsy shop dubbed Pysanky by Tracy.

Rossier, whose maternal grandfather was Ukrainian, made her first pysanka 35 years ago at the age of six, when she and her sister signed up for an egg-painting class held at Saint -Vital, close to home. It was a two-hour session in which they learned the history of so-called Ukrainian Easter eggs before being given the necessary tools – hot wax pens called kistkas – as well as several pots of dye .

Her egg turned out fabulous, she recalls, other than dropping it on the floor 20 minutes before the end of class, which meant she had to produce a second specimen to take home.

She continued as she got older, often making pysanky for family members as gifts. In 2010, she was a star seller at Folklorama’s Ukraine-kyiv pavilion and two years later, after a friend asked her if she knew Etsy, she opened her own virtual shop, entirely devoted to this art form. .


Rossier uses a small container of oil to hold a pysanka in a pot of black dye.

Rossier uses a small container of oil to hold a pysanka in a pot of black dye.

She laughs when she says her original photos were ‘awful’ and her self-composed biography wasn’t much better, but she made almost a dozen sales in her first two months in business, this which allowed him to buy more supplies.

Rossier doesn’t catalog himself by producing similar-looking eggs over and over again. First of all, she doesn’t plan ahead by sketching designs on paper like some of her counterparts do. She definitely has a pattern in mind when she starts — flowers one day, a checkerboard pattern the next — but by the time an egg is almost done, it rarely looks like she originally envisioned it, she admits.

She is also not very demanding on the size. Besides conventional chicken eggs — she prefers farm-fresh canvas, finding they have tougher shells than those available at grocery stores — she also dyes turkey, emu and ostrich eggs, the latter which can take him up to 100 hours. (“Don’t ask,” she says, when asked what her hourly pay rate would be like, in a situation like this.)


Dye pots are ready to use.  Rossier usually works on a few pysanka at a time.

Dye pots are ready to use. Rossier usually works on a few pysanka at a time.

And while Pysanky is most closely associated with Easter, it produces Christmas-themed eggs, as well as custom orders for special events. Not too long ago, she made a pysanka for a newlywed couple and included shades of yellow, green and red, meant to portray hope and joy in life. After that, she made an egg for someone who was battling cancer. For this one, she incorporated images of pine trees and pine branches, Ukrainian symbols of strength and determination.

“I thought I would, but no, it didn’t turn out to be the case,” she replies, when asked if she’s ever had any salesman’s remorse, considering that each pysanka is unique in its own way. gender. “I like to think of them being displayed prominently in someone else’s home, and I love getting comments about how seeing my eggs made a family member think of themselves who also had the habit of painting eggs.”

To date, Rossier has shipped pysanky to people in 19 US states and all Canadian provinces and territories except Prince Edward Island and Nunavut. It wasn’t like she had to ramp up production at the start of COVID — unlike bleach and toilet paper, pysanky wasn’t a hot commodity, all of a sudden — but she did. found spending more time in her four-season -porch-as-studio than she usually did, just to distract herself from the pandemic.


Rossier teint, puis dépose une dernière couche de cire d'abeille sur une pysanka.  </p>
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<figcaption>
<p>Rossier dyed, then put a final layer of beeswax on a pysanka. </p>
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<p>“I run a full-time outlet, and because we were considered an essential service, there was no working from home or anything like that for me,” she says, noting that she is often so lost in her work that her husband pricks her head.  walk through the door to let her know that supper has been on the table for a few hours.			</p>
<p>“After working all day when so many others were in total lockdown, making my eggs gave me much needed peace and relaxation. There were probably days when I made them more for myself than as something for sale.”			</p>
<p>Besides his online store, Rossier’s pysanky are also occasionally available at Kalyna Ukrainian Bookstore, 952 Main Street.  She has led a few workshops over the years – before COVID she was a regular guest at the Lac du Bonnet fire and water music festival – and would love to do something similar again in the near future.			</p>
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Pysanky surrounds an emu travlenka (engraved egg).

Pysanky surrounds an emu travlenka (engraved egg).

In the meantime, she has a few students willing to share her expertise.

“I have two nieces, 9 and 11, and every time we get together it’s DIY with aunt,” she beams. “We all decided this was the year they were going to egg them. You have to be old enough to concentrate for a while, I told them, and both of them feel ready to give it a try.”

There’s an added bonus to her vocation: because she makes a point of emptying her eggs before applying the dye – not everyone does this, some leave the innards intact or cook first their hard boiled eggs – her husband Paul is the recipient of as many quiches, omelettes and bennies as he can handle, she says.

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Mike Deal

Mike Deal
Photojournalist

Mike Deal started freelancing for the Winnipeg Free Press in 1997. Three years later, he landed a part-time job as an overnight photo editor.

Christy J. Olson