RICHLAND — Eggs sporting Crayon drawings, stickers and colorful dyes are appearing in baskets all around the Mid-Columbia.
Eggs fill a basket at Dianne Hara's home in Richland too, but they won't be egg salad, or sliced and diced in the next week or so.
Her Easter eggs are works of art, with each design painstakingly drawn on, then carefully colored in multiple dye baths.
Hara practices Ukraine's age-old art of pysanky -- decorating Easter eggs with multicolored, geometric designs portraying symbols of eternal life, bountiful harvests, prosperity and wealth, and Christian icons such as fish, which represent Christ.
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Hara learned the art in 1991 from Nancy Putnam, a fellow teacher at Christ the King School in Richland. Putnam learned it many years before and each year, around Easter time, taught her middle school classes to make Ukrainian Easter eggs.
"It's not hard. You just have to be careful and have a steady hand," said Hara.
The technique for decorating the eggs is called wax resistant because melted beeswax is used to paint successive areas of the design, which then repel, or resist, the dyes. It's similar to the process used in batik, a form of textile dying.
"The first step is to decide on your design and colors. You begin with the lightest color, usually the white of the egg.
Any part of the design you want to remain white you cover with beeswax, then dunk it into the first dye, usually yellow," Hara said.
Then, any parts you want to remain yellow are covered in beeswax and the egg is plunged into the next darkest dye.
"Colors are built up in successive layers from lightest to darkest, with black or brick red being the final over-dye," Hara said.
At that point, almost all the egg is painted with beeswax, hiding the design. Then comes the fun part, removing the wax to reveal the design.
Hara uses black beeswax because it's easier to see where it is on the egg. Other pysanky artists use a light tan, naturally colored wax.
She also prefers an electric kiska, the tool used to hold the melted beeswax and transfer it to the surface of the egg.
Traditionally, the kiska is held in a candle flame to heat and melt the wax.
Not only is an open flame risky, but "it and the melting beeswax give off fumes, and I just don't want to breathe that in," she said.
But a candle flame is indispensable when it comes to removing the wax.
"You hold the egg close to the flame and as the wax melts, wipe it off, gently, with paper towels," she said.
The whole process from the first dye bath to removing the wax can take 20 or more hours, even for someone who has been doing pysanky for two decades as Hara has.
"You can't rush," she said. "The dye has to dry between coats; otherwise it smears."
At this point, you have a highly decorated raw egg. The contents aren't usually blown out of the eggs before decorating because that makes the egg more fragile and the eggshells too light to sink down into the dyes.
"You'd have to keep poking them down into the dye and risk cracking them," Hara said.
Instead, the eggs are blown or sucked clean after decorating. Don't skip this step.
"You have to blow them clean and get the yolk and egg white out. Otherwise, they explode as they rot," Hara said. And yes, she knows that from experience.
"Handle them gently, there's nothing more frustrating and sad than to get to this point and have it crack or break," she said.
Some cracks can be stabilized with the polyurethane varnish used to give them a glossy finish.
"You put on multiple coats of the varnish, which helps make the shell thicker and the eggs less fragile," Hara said.
At this point, the eggs will keep indefinitely unless dropped. If that happens, you're best off getting out your wax, dyes and kiska and making a new one. Because like Humpty Dumpty, they can't be put together again.
Kits for making Ukrainian Easter Eggs are available at craft stores and online. One popular kit is Luba's Ukrainian Easter Egg Decorating Kit, selling for $25-$30.