The Book Begins with Ted
Born and raised in a traditional Ukrainian household, Ted Wasylyshen has always been proud of his culture and an advocate for the Ukrainian peoples. In his formal years (when he wasn't working for Agriculture Canada), he dedicated a lot of his spare time to the Ukrainian community across Canada. From exercising his responsibilities as President of the Holy Trinity Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral to expanding his private collection of Pysanka with his wife Evelyn, Ted was a Ukrainian man and proud to be one.
Ted and Evelyn's involvement in Ukrainian tradition and culture was an ever growing passion. Over the years, their Pysanka collection in particular continued to expand and gain popularity. As they continued to travel around the globe, they collected different versions of the Pysanka from different countries. Specific to each culture, these Pysanka are regarded as ancient talisman and are said to uphold specific powers to anyone who beholds them. Ted and Evelyn's collection grew to the point where they were asked to tour and showcase their Pysanky across the world, including various locations within North America, Europe, and Asia. Their collection became so popular that it was even featured in National Geographic. As it continued to expand, Ted began to experiment with new ways to showcase his Pysanka.
In 1992, Ted developed a technique to strategically cut his Pysanka in half, allowing him to showcase the eggs in professionally framed displays. He loved the idea that he could now celebrate the Pysanka all year around versus the 1 time of the year when they are showcased in a "giant cognac glass or bowl" for Easter (found in most Ukrainian-Canadian homes).
In 1993, Ted expanded on his idea and began to cut up eggs and make collages (primitive mosaics), but his process took hundreds of hours. Ted completed only four of the initial art works which we refer today as the Pysanka mosaic. Each family member was given one of Ted's mosaics with the fourth being purchased and displayed in the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Gatineau, Quebec. Before Ted died in 1995, he taught his technique and process to Dave.
The Story Continues with Dave
It took Dave another 2 ½ years of research + design through trial + error to finally come up with a process that would display the Ukrainian Easter Egg (Pysanka) to another level of artistic beauty and preservation. He has incorporated a traditional form of Ukrainian art that can also be celebrated in a contemporary fashion.
The new technique that Dave developed still incorporates a lengthy process. Dave uses a unique saw with carbide and diamond tipped blades to cut the eggs with extreme precision. Eggs that are too brittle or too old can instantly shatter, meaning that there can be accidents where complete Pysanka are destroyed instantaneously if not careful enough. "At times you are very lucky to get 60% of an egg." None the less, when a pysanka does shatter, you can bet your bottom dollar that we gather each fraction of shell and include it in the mosaic. We as a studio have a zero waste policy.
After the eggs are cut, there is a process of soaking the pieces for a very specific length of time in an unique three-part solution to soften and preserve the dye from fading or running. Once this is complete, the next process begins - puzzling together hundreds if not thousands of pieces together and forming the unique mosaic before the pieces harden once again.
Once each piece is complete and had time to dry, each mosaic is finished with a unique two-part commercial clear resin. The finish is equivalent to over fifty coats of varnish and can be best described as a smooth, glass-like finish that both seals and protects the mosaic. Often parts or pieces of pysanka are left intentionally to protrude from the mosaic, giving the piece a three dimensional effect.
Since developing the art, Dave has taught the process to his mother Evelyn, and to his son Derek. Together, they form the Pysanka Mosaic Studio and work with one another to develop unique and exquisite pieces. Over time, we have seen that each artist has developed their own means of technique and style to each piece, with a wide variety of differences evident in the results. With that being said, each mosaic will always have contributions from all 3 generations of Wasylyshen. The studio has interval critiques during the construction process to which we often advise one another of how to follow through with each design.
We as a studio are continuously trying to push the envelope to determine what can and cannot be done to this traditional art form. We look to experiment with different mediums and applications in the future but we will never divert from the traditional Pysanka art and will always make it the star of the show.
Each Pysanka Mosaic is an original by right. There will never be two mosaics alike as it is impossible to replicate. Each Pysanka Mosaic has its own identity and story to tell that can never be changed nor duplicated.