It’s a tradition reaching back to antiquity. When Ukrainians first began decorating Easter eggs, the folk art expression known as pysanky was symbolic of creation. The egg was not only considered the source of life but depending on the designs and dyes used to adorn it often served as a talisman or a token of good luck.
Eli Bockol was in college when he saw a televised demonstration of pysanky one Easter. Intrigued by the history, he was even more fascinated by the opportunity to explore geometric design and patterns with the ancient art form. And he’s been creating these batik-style eggs ever since.
Bockol will display several of his creations in our farmhouse gallery today, October 28, when the pop-up exhibit, “The Body Eclectic,” opens. The show also features abstract visual artist Pia De Girolamo and furniture maker Charlie McGlinchy.
Here, the Penn Valley, Montgomery County, artist shares why egg decorating has been a passion for 20 years and how his childhood prepared him for the intricacies of the art form.
Playing with order: My mother says that when I was a child, I showed just as much joy arranging my toys as I did playing with them: neat rows of matchbox cars and action figures, sorted by sizes, shapes and colors — forming patterns, creating designs. When I was 10 or 11, I discovered intricate, geometrically patterned coloring books and could spend countless hours carefully filling them in with colored pencil and magic marker. I took art classes in high school and college for drawing, painting and sculpture, but it was exposure to a televised demonstration of pysanky one Easter when I was a young adult that made something click.
Revelation in works of wax: Pysanky are decorated with folk designs using a wax-resist method. Rather than painted, eggs are alternatively dyed and then “written” over with liquid-hot beeswax to preserve the dye color of the area underneath. Then all the wax is melted off to reveal the completed work — all that had been hidden throughout the process. Today, artists use the same ancient wax-resist process, though often with more sophisticated tools, to create modern works and are bridging the gap between craft and fine art. These are called “Batik” or “Batik-style” eggs.
The lure of an organic canvas: I was drawn to working on eggshells. No two “canvases” are alike and I find their organic nature appealing. With an eggshell’s symmetry, though often imperfect, I can explore my fascination of pattern and geometric design, and at the same time, create something three-dimensional (if not sculptural). Then there’s the challenge of drawing straight lines on curved surfaces…
Time in an eggshell: I work with double-yolk turkey eggs, goose, rhea and ostrich predominantly and include acid etching within my series of dye baths to create, in addition to color, an overall relief pattern. For the most intricate designs, on larger ostrich eggshells, it can take me nearly 100 hours to complete.
“The Body Eclectic” will be on view through Nov. 8 in the farmhouse gallery at the Scatter Joy Center for the Arts, 305 Horsham Road, Horsham, Pa. Information: 215-672-3140; www.scatterjoyarts.org.