Friday, March 29, 2013

The Skinny: Pysanky

Every spring, it seems like all of the magazines engage in fierce competition to have the boldest, brightest, most graphic, most creative Easter eggs on their covers. Some go for the super-saturated solids. Others use soft pastels, with marbled patterns or some kind of shabby chic application (how many toile eggs should there be in this world???). We see hand-painted flowers, dye-transfers, decals, lace patterns...the list goes on. But one technique that I haven't seen much fanfare about is pysanky, the Ukrainian art of egg decoration.

This traditional art form uses dyes and beeswax to create beautiful, highly intricate patterns on eggshells. The artist uses a combination of geometric, plant, and animal motifs--each one highly symbolic--to transform the egg into a mini-canvas. These patterns have evolved over the centuries into more modern versions, but the technique is still the same. A process very similar to batik, the beeswax is applied to the shell wherever the next layer of color is not wanted, thereby preserving a design motif in an underlying color while a darker color is applied as the next layer. It is tedious work, but the results are spectacular.

The origins of the technique are based on various myths or religious stories, most of them related to Christianity (with the first eggs being decorated by Christ's blood or the Virgin's tears). But, I came across another origin story that sounds like a Sinbad movie: The Earth's survival depends on the preservation of the pysanky art form. If egg decorating continues each year, everything is fine. However, there is an evil monster chained to a cliff somewhere who is held in his bonds by the power of pysanky. His minions patrol the globe, counting the eggs that are made. If the numbers fall, the beast's chains get a little looser. If the tradition ceases altogether, he will break free and destroy the world. So get crackin', people. Let's make some pretty eggs!

Hutsul Pysanka Egg - Ukrainian Highlander Pysanky Art - Real Handmade Traditional Ukrainian Goose Egg
By UkrainianTreasures on Etsy
And some artists are going a more non-traditional route with their eggs:
Pysanky Easter Eggs
Bird Black and White Pysanka - hand painted batik egg, Ukrainian pysanky Easter eggs, chicken egg shell
From UkrainianEasterEggs on Etsy

Easter Egg Plaid , Aqua, Turquoise Colors, Ukrainian Batik Eggs, Easter Bunny Eggs, Pysanky
By GoldenEggPysanky on Etsy
Pysanky is also used to make jewelry. Decorated eggshell pieces can be mounted in pewter, silver, or gold. You can find them on Etsy, Amazon, or elsewhere online.
Or, some artists prefer to use the traditional Ukrainian designs with enamel and metals instead of eggshells and dye. Vanessa Neily's work is some of my favorite. Check her out on Etsy!
Enamel Brooch - Pysanky Egg Jewellery - Pumpkin OrangeEnamel Hook Earrings Pysanky Egg Jewellery - Pine YellowLarge Enamel Pendant Necklace - Pysanky Egg Jewellery - Bitter Green II


Wednesday, March 27, 2013

On the Radar -- Love Triangle

Geometry was never one of my strengths, but I have to say, I'm loving the geometric designs that have been out this past year.  What's more, spring seems to be the season of the triangle.  Everywhere I look, I'm seeing them -- from jewelry to home decor to fashion!  So while last week's On the Radar gave you lots of circles to choose from, this week I'm going angular...

This wall hanging was my first find...

By sfettingis on Etsy, available here.

Then came the dresses...both high fashion and low(er) end...

Cushnie et Ochs, Spring 2013

ASOS dress, available here.

Then the jewelry (my favorite part)...

Fendi bangles
Collar by 11Objects
Vintage from FuzzBuster Variety on Etsy, here.
Pin from Sonia Boyajian, available here.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Junk Love Monday: Allow Me to Tip My Hat

The last two weeks have been hat-filled for the Blackbird girls. We both love hats, and have collected them on a small scale for years. We have some top hats, as well as several vintage fedoras (we like to hang them on the ends of our curtain rods, alongside our necktie collection that doubles as window valances), and a couple of womens' hats. We always look for them when we're on the hunt for junk, and have actually sold quite a few in the shop. But hats, at least in our area, have been a little scarce lately--until a few weeks ago.

Working at the antique mall has allowed us both to meet and bond with a lot of great people. We might not go to slumber parties and cocktail hours with them, but we still consider them friends. Some of these people are a little closer to family. So, I ran into one of these people three weeks ago, a man who is usually poking fun with a twinkle in his eye. Not on this day. His wife died several months ago, and the family had been pressuring him to clean out the house. A practical man, he finally decided that it was the right thing to do, so he loaded up her clothes and neatly stacked her shoes, still in the original boxes, in the back of the truck and headed to a thrift store to donate everything. And then he had to stand and watch the employees rip the boxes and throw them in the trash, and then toss the shoes into a barrel in the corner. They never had a lot of money, but his wife was serious about her accessories, and some of the shoes looked like they had never been worn. He always took pride in making sure that she could have a few nice things, and she tried her best to take care of everything. Her death was not unexpected, and he thought the grieving was finished--until he saw her shoes being thrown into what looked like a giant trash can.

Then, he came clean with a secret. He still had her hats (in the boxes, of course). If the family found out, they would accuse him of hanging on, but he didn't want the hats to be mistreated the way the shoes had been. He wanted somebody to care about them. Enter the Blackbird girls.

Yes, we are in the business of resale. But we also respect the love that people have for their stuff, because it is often an extension of the love they have for another person or time period. We offered to buy the hats, sight unseen, because we knew that we would love them they way he needed us to. They have been in a farmhouse closet for decades, so some of them have yellow spots or a little bit of moth damage. One of them has feathers that shed faster than Charlie Brown's Christmas tree. A couple of them are fabulous. And we do love them--all 14 of them.

Several days later, I was walking through the antique mall and spotted a tweed fedora hanging from a hall tree. Curious, I checked the tag. It was surprisingly cheap. Hat in hand, I turned a corner and spotted 4 more fedoras on another hall tree. That's five fedoras, which is more than we have found in the last 3 years. Of course, they had to be mine.

Two days after that, the other Blackbird did a thrift store run and came back with 4 more fedoras. The next afternoon, I found a fabulous green and black plaid one. And then two days later, someone offered me yet another fedora, for the delightful price of $5. Are we counting? That's 25 hats in 14 days! We have put some in the shop. Others are still of "to be determined" status. I find myself wearing a hat for important tasks, like watching cartoons or folding laundry, because it's easier to put it on my head than find a permanent home for it. Now we just need the same run of luck on costume jewelry, and every day can be a fashion show....