Ukrainian Arts

by

Larry Dexter

 

When the Ukrainians first came to the Red River Valleythey settled in Canada not Kittson County. With them they brought manyfine arts. For example, their native dances which have Russian characteristics. Another fine art if cross-stitching or needle point. Many people are learninghow to do this art, even the ex-football player Rosey Grier does it. Oneof the most beautiful of all is the Easter Eggs that the Ukrainian womenmake.

Making Easter eggs is an art that requires steady hands. You can tell whether or not the person does it a lot by how straight thelines are. If you think it is easy, take a pencil and try to draw a straightline around the egg and have both ends meet at the same spot. You willfind it is a lot harder than it looks.

Many people think that the patterns are stamped on theeggs. I assure you that they aren't.

In order to make the eggs, you must have several items. The first would be the eggs. You must make sure it is a clean countryegg. If it is washed in a certain detergent, the egg will not hold thedye or the wax.

The second item is the beeswax. They use beeswax becauseit sticks better than paraffin. The third item is the kistka. There'retwo kinds of kistka's. One has a small cone shaped thing at the end ofa stick. You place wax in the cone and heat it over a flame to melt thewax as you can transfer it to the egg. The other kind of kistska has asmall tube at the end of a stick that you place into melted wax you transferto the egg.

The last item is the dye. There are different types ofdyes used in making the eggs. Mrs. Lyle Dexter uses crepe paper and putsit in vinegar. The dye in the paper is transferred from it to the eggs. You can also get liquid dyes that you dilute. However, Mrs. Dexter preferscrepe paper because the colors are brighter and there are more colors tochoose from.

To make an Easter egg you must first take the kistka andput the wax on the parts of the egg that you want white. This is usuallythe basic outline of the egg. Many people boil the eggs that they use beforestarting this. Mrs. Dexter does not do this because she has found out thatthe egg is more likely to explode if it is boiled. After you finish puttingthe wax on the parts you want white, you put it in the dye you wish to use. You must use the lightest color dye which you plan to use or else it willnot show up when you dye it. After the dye has dried, you place wax overthe parts of the egg that you want that color and put it in a differentdye again. You keep on repeating this operation until the egg is finishedas far as dying is concerned.

When you are done dying the egg, you must melt the waxoff of it. Mrs. Dexter does this by putting the eggs in an oven then rubsthe wax off. After that she puts varnish on the eggs. This helps preservethe color and also makes the color brighter.

Along with being beautiful, the eggs also tell a story. Each symbol used has a special meaning. Although Mrs. Dexter has beenmaking eggs for quite a few years, she did not know that the eggs had anycertain meaning until a few years ago. Even though she knows they meansomething now she does not know what they mean.

Another of the fine arts I mentioned is cross-stitchingor needle point. For this art you also need a steady hand or else severalthimbles.

Many people who are not Ukrainian take up needle point. As I told you before, Rosey Grier is one, you can tell just by lookingat him that he is not a Ukrainian.

To do needle point, you need a needle of course. You mustalso have colored yarn. There are several different types of yarn you canuse including some made especially for needle point. Then the last articleis the cloth. You can use any cloth from burlap to silk. It, however,is much simpler if you use a coarse to medium coarse unless you are goingto mark the cloth.

Some people are so good at needle point that the picturesthey do look so much like the real thing that it is frightening. And manydon't even need a pattern for they can do it free hand.

Needle point is not only used to decorate a wall but itis also used to decorate the clothing of the Ukrainians. The Ukrainianstake pride in their best clothes because of the fine job of needle pointthey have done on them. Another name for needle point could be embroidering. The Ukrainian woman's dress alone could be considered an art for the finejob of embroidering they do on them and also the way the dresses are made. Instead of having a separate slip and blouse, they are both connected.

The women embroider around the neck and sleeves to addcolor and make it more beautiful. The blouses are usually white and themain colors for embroidering are usually red and black. The skirts area piece of cloth that they wrap around their waists. It is usually blackin color and the embroidering is usually done in red and white. The skirtis usually embroidered all the way around.

So embroidering was very much a part of their life. Notonly as an art but as a part of their native dress.

Bibliography

Dexter, Jane, Humboldt, MN, Interview, January 19, 1974

Dexter, Larry, Humboldt, MN, Interview, January 22, 1974

Jordon, Robert Paul, Easter Greetings From The Ukraine,National Geographic, April 1972, pages 556 - 563

Newsweek, January 14, 1974 page 8

Sorenson, Harley, "Ukrainian Easter Eggs," MinneapolisTribune Picture, Sunday, April 2, 1972 pages 12 - 15ey, "Ukrainian Easter Eggs," MinneapolisTribune Picture, Sunday, April 2, 1972 pages 12 - 15