Meet Artist Suzanne Walker and Her Exquisite Pysanky Eggs

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I met Suzanne Walker at an event this year. I was impressed by her artistic talent and phenomenal attention to detail. While purchasing one of her beautiful eggs, I asked if I could interview her for this blog. So, here we are!

Suzanne Walker is definitely pursuing her passion — creating Pysanky eggs.

What got you started?
When I was about 12, my mom got me the book, A Summer to Die, by Lois Lowry. In the book, the protagonist blows out two eggs and then paints them with watercolors. I did that for years. And I mean YEARS. My mother still has lots of painted eggs from when I was younger. Then, when I was in my early-30s, I saw an egg in a friend’s house decorated in the Ukrainian style. I was flabbergasted. I asked my friend how the egg was made, and she said, “Oh, you know … the wax and dye method.” I had no idea what she was talking about. A couple of years later I was in a gift shop, with my mother, and we found a kit for making pysanky. My mother bought it for me, and I made my first pysanka (very poorly) that very day.

Who or what serves as your inspiration?
I don’t really need inspiration to do eggs anymore. I think originally I was inspired by the perfection, intricacy, and temporary nature of the eggs. I say temporary nature because these eggs are so fragile, and they can break very easily. I’ve learned to mend them sometimes, but sometimes they are beyond repair. Every time I finish an egg, I am egg-cited to remove the final wax and reveal the bright colors and detailed design underneath. That “reveal” moment can be wonderful, disappointing, surprising, or (as often happens) can be a learning moment. Just getting to that reveal moment inspires me to do more eggs.

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Can you describe your creative process for us?
Making pysanky requires a technical process and a creative process. The very basic technical process is as follows (this is greatly simplified): empty an egg shell, and prep the shell with vinegar; draw some guiding lines on your egg with a pencil; apply wax using a special heated stylus to the egg in all the places that you want the egg to remain its natural color (usually white). Now it’s time for dye. Dye the egg a light color; we’ll say yellow. Apply wax again on all the areas that you want the egg to remain yellow. Dye the egg another color; we’ll say orange. Apply wax again on all the areas that you want the egg to remain orange. Repeat with other colors. Your final color, which usually ends up looking like your background color, even though it’s the final color you’ve applied, is usually the darkest color. You do not have to apply wax over this color. By now the egg should have a fair amount of ugly wax on its surface. Remove all that wax with a heating method and the design that you’ve been building underneath the egg will be revealed.

The creative process is the process of deciding what designs to use. Pysanky is full of ancient symbolism. One of the things that I love about pysanky is that it pre-dates Christianity, so it can give us a glimpse into the life of an early people who thought that pysanky held charm, luck, and protection. That being said, I will put anything on an egg. I usually have a list of eggs I need to do, whether they are to celebrate a special event like a wedding or to celebrate a holiday like Halloween. I like to use both old-timey symbols and more modern designs on my eggs. For example, I make have been making eggs to commemorate the Indy 500 for the past 3 years. This was certainly not done before Christianity.

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Did you receive any training or take any classes?
I have not taken any training from anyone. I have read several books about pysanky … my favorite being Helen Badulak’s, Pysanky in the 21st Century. Her book helped me solve problem and think about the technical side of making an egg. YouTube videos and other websites are also very helpful.

What is your biggest challenge?
Finding time is always a challenge, but my biggest process challenge is to take my time at the beginning of an egg. The first lines that I write on my egg are the basis for the whole design. The division of the egg needs to be straight but above all else, balanced. If I can get the egg divided equally from the very beginning, then the end design will look much more amazing and professional.

Is this something you see yourself doing in the foreseeable future?
Yes. I really hope that I can continue writing eggs for the rest of my life. For me it’s “me-time.” It’s meditative. It helps me deal with the world. Sometimes I make eggs to commemorate terrible events, however, lately the terrible events have been coming fast and furious, and that just becomes depressing. Making an egg helps me honor and remember.

Do you have other creative interests that you would like to explore?
I have a half-written novel in a drawer. I’d love to get that done one of these days.

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Do you teach others how to do what you do?
Yes! I’ve done two classes and one lesson. It’s hard to find time to plan these out, but I really enjoy teaching others how-to. I’m set up to give lessons for up to 16 adults now, so feel free to reach out to me if you are near Indy and want a class. Pysanky requires the use of a lit candle which is why I don’t mix kids and adults. I can teach kids as young as 8, but they need to be in smaller groups.

Do you do this full-time or part-time?
I do this part-time. I tend to do a lot in the months leading up to Easter. Sometimes I’ll have a summer that seems full of eggs. I’m quite busy from Oct-Dec with family and travel, but I usually manage to squeeze a few eggs into my schedule.

Do you have a favorite or special piece in your collection?
I have several eggs that I love and will never part with. My first pysanka is technically very poor, but it was my very first one, so I’ll never give it away. I like my Halloween eggs a lot. I have one that I made after the 2016 Brussels bombings that is very special to me.

Where can we find you?
I have a “show” that I do in the fall.  I sell at “Shop ‘Til You Drop” at the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church up on 106th street, in Carmel, IN, the third weekend in October. I’d like to do a show in the spring as well (looking for an indoor, well-attended craft show).

Otherwise, you can find me via my website — www.pysanky.net. I was pretty lucky in snagging that one.

Thank you, Suzanne Walker, for sharing your talent with us!

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Friends, pictures do not do these eggs justice. They really are exquisite! The egg I purchased was an ornament egg. It’s hanging on my Christmas tree. My apologies for the flash spots on the egg. Despite the flash spots, you can see the intricate detail and what a gorgeous shine it has to it.

I highly suggest buying some eggs to display in a lovely bowl, or to adorn your Christmas tree, or a loved one’s tree. They make great gifts for those hard-to-buy-for people. And they can be displayed throughout the year.

And you can learn to make your own precious keepsakes by taking one of Suzanne’s classes! How awesome is that?

Check out her beautiful collection and class opportunities on her website:  www.pysanky.net

#pysanky

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My Review of The Book of Mormon

     I was thrilled to have a ticket for opening night of The Book of Mormon in Indianapolis. I had been looking forward to seeing this show for ages.
     When I told some friends I was seeing The Book of Mormon, they said they love going to the pageant every year.
      “Um, I’m not going to the Hill Cumorah Pageant. I’m going to The Book of Mormon. There’s an enormous difference.”
     The pageant is a wholesome family-friendly event, rated “G.” The Broadway show, which won nine (9) Tony Awards, gets a big, bold flashing neon “R” rating.
     For those unfamiliar with the Hill Cumorah Pageant, every year, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints puts on a grand show about their origin, near Palmyra, New York. I am including the link to the pageant, in case you are curious. Although I have never been, I have heard it is quite the spectacle and fun for the whole family. http://www.hillcumorah.org/Pageant/
     The Book of Mormon, on the other hand, is a religious satire musical about two Mormon missionaries sent to Uganda. Here is a link to the opening number that was performed on network television at the 2012 Tony Awards. I love the interaction with other stars, you will too. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zy5K8ApSzhI
     The Book of Mormon was written by the South Park guys, not the South Pacific guys. Trey Parker and Matt Stone are not Rodgers and Hammerstein. Although the latter might be impressed with the former’s orchestral score, they might have been appalled with the profanity peppered throughout the lyrics.
     I was not appalled. I was amused and entertained. I know…I hear gasping from all directions. I can feel prayers being offered up to save my soul. Sorry gentle readers, but I go to the theater to be entertained. I knew what the show was about before I bought my ticket. So, I was prepared.
     As I flipped through the Playbill, I noticed that the Mormons had bought three pages of advertising space. I thought that was awesome. They were not protesting or picketing, they bought advertising, which in turn supported the show. Obviously, they can take a joke. So, we should be able to as well.
     The Murat Theatre was jam-packed. I am guessing that the show was sold out. Unfortunately, the air conditioning was not working. So we were dying of heat. But the show went on!
     The performances by the cast members were stellar. Very high energy. You could tell they loved what they were doing. You saw it in their facial expressions. You heard it in the notes they sang. You felt it in the steps they danced. This troupe was having a blast. From what I observed, most of the audience members enjoyed it as much as I did.
     The satire and social commentary were sharp and in your face. Did some of it go too far? Yes. Could they have cut out all of the swearing? Most definitely. But then it would not have had the same impact.
     Parker and Stone are smart and witty creative geniuses. They are not about decency and decorum. They are about shock and awe. All of their works are over-the-top by design. They get people talking about controversial social issues. And that is the point. They are forcing a dialogue. In that, they have succeeded. Not to mention, they have made millions of dollars in the process. Good for them.
     If I still went to confession every week, this week’s session would start like this, “Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. I loved The Book of Mormon and would definitely see it again.”
     The priest might give me five Our Fathers, ten Hail Marys and a Glory Be as my penance. But it would be worth it!
     Yes, I highly recommend this show, but only to people who are not easily offended. This show is not for ultra-conservative, deeply devout and/or religious people. The material is blasphemous and sacrilegious. If you will be making the sign of the cross or searching for your rosary beads when the “F” word and “God” are uttered in the same sentence, then do not go. I repeat, do not go.
     There might have been more “F” bombs dropped during this show than on any Sopranos episode, and I believe it rivaled the total in most Quentin Tarantino films.
     A dismayed friend could not understand how I enjoyed this performance. It was a clever artistic piece of work. Just because I appreciate a performance does not mean that I am going to stop believing in God or that I am going to run around swearing up a storm.
     I am Catholic, and I pray at least one rosary every day. But I can still laugh when something is smart and funny. And I never say the “F” word, let alone the “F” word and “God” in the same sentence. So, I think I’m good. But just in case, I’ll do my self-imposed penance anyway!

     For more information on The Book of Mormon, here’s the official link: http://bookofmormonbroadway.com/

Copyright © 2014 by Suzanne Purewal

Featuring Cast Member Stacy Gray

Stacy headshotToday’s Listen To Your Mother spotlight is shining on Stacy Gray. I had the pleasure of sitting next to Stacy on audition night. We were surprised and delighted to discover we both made the show. What were the chances of that, considering all of the women who auditioned? Here is a link to her interview. http://listentoyourmothershow.com/indianapolis/2014/04/02/cast-spotlight-stacy-gray/

Tickets are currently available for both shows for $16. But ticket prices will go up on April 15th to $20, so get your tickets now! https://tickets.indianahistory.org/Info.aspx?EventID=1

Introducing…Amparo de la Peña!

Amparo_Headshot.jpg-300x254     Amparo de la Peña is the first cast member to be featured for this year’s Listen To Your Mother Indianapolis show! There will be two performances this year. They are on Sunday, April 27th, at 1:00 P.M. and 5:00 P.M., at the Indiana Historical Society.
     Although I can not reveal the subject of Amparo’s piece, I can tell you, I related to it personally. I guarantee many of you will too. I am looking forward to sharing a stage with her.
     Here is her interview with event organizers. http://listentoyourmothershow.com/indianapolis/2014/03/30/cast-spotlight-amparo-de-la-pena/

     Tickets are currently available for both shows for $16. But ticket prices will go up on April 15th to $20, so get your tickets now! https://tickets.indianahistory.org/Info.aspx?EventID=1

See Me Perform Live On Stage!

     Yes, friends, I will be performing live! I am thrilled to be part of the cast of “Listen To Your Mother!” What is “Listen To Your Mother?” Well, click here to see what it is all about. http://listentoyourmothershow.com/indianapolis/
     As you can see from their website, I will be reading my own original work on stage, along with thirteen other creative women.
     There are two shows on Sunday, April 27th. For show times, tickets and more details, click here:  https://tickets.indianahistory.org/Info.aspx?EventID=1

     Ticket prices go up after April 14th, so get your tickets now! Hope to see you there!

World Cancer Day

CourageToday is World Cancer Day. And I am pleased to announce that I am 12 ½ years cancer free. When people asked me today how many years I have been cancer free, I’ve been rounding up to 13 years. That is what I posted on my Facebook Page. But for this blog post, I decided not to round. Perhaps because I need to express “the half.”

When we were children, we always gave our ages in halves. Back then, those milestones were important. As adults, we round. Sometimes we round up, other times, as with our ages, we round down. Of course some adults pretend to forget their ages, and others refuse to acknowledge them entirely. However, I just realized at this very moment, “the half” is important again.

It’s funny how something as basic as time becomes so critical, especially when one does not have much of it left. Or the perception of living on borrowed time comes into play.

I am one of the lucky ones. My cancer was caught early. The tumor was removed, albeit in multiple surgeries, but nevertheless, it was cut out of me. The radiation treatment afterward was otherworldly. In my opinion, the treatment and subsequent side effects were worse than the cancer. But I, like so many others, persevered. I moved forward, slowly but surely.

The scar left much deeper wounds than I anticipated. Due to the multiple surgeries, the incision did not heal properly. Even scar revision surgery did not work. For quite some time, all I saw when I looked into the mirror was that scar. I felt ugly and broken, exhausted mentally and physically.

People made unbelievable comments about my scar. “Frankenstein” came up frequently. One of the commonly used phrases was, “Well, it’s not that bad.” Never once did I ask anyone how bad my scar looked. So, the unsolicited comments made the situation worse. My brother thought their comments were as ridiculous as I did. He decided to mock them. He would joke, “Oh, it’s such a pretty scar!”

I have to say he made me laugh every time he said it. Thank you, Timmy.

Humor is how my family deals with adversity. And it helps. Tremendously. And it keeps everyone in the hospital wondering what we’re up to in our hospital room. And when the nurses and the rest of the staff started laughing, it would carry into other patients’ rooms. Laughter is contagious. And it is good for the soul. And that’s not just a line I’m trying to feed you. It works, and it’s a gift that keeps on giving.

I honestly don’t know how I would have gotten through those dark days without my loved ones and the laughter and mayhem they created. I can not thank my family and friends enough for their love and support, and the seemingly endless stream of “Get Well” chocolate.

Today, I am praying for each and every one of you who has been touched by cancer. I hope that you feel the love, peace, happiness and understanding that I am sending your way. All I ask in return is that you celebrate a part of each day with a little laughter, whether it is for a half an hour or a half a day. Because halves do count.

Copyright © 2014 by Suzanne Purewal

KJ’s Vintage Button Bouquets

Today’s installment of the Pursuing My Passion series features KJ’s Vintage Button Bouquets! Karen’s creations are true works of art. http://www.vintagebuttonbouquets.com/Home_Page.html

856349_383531205078531_1421207457_oHow did you get started?
A local photographer friend of mine, Jean Loper, told me a story about several of her brides who were allergic to fresh flowers and wanted a unique alternative. She found pictures of these amazing bouquets using vintage buttons. It was love at first sight! They are extremely popular in the United Kingdom, Ireland and Australia, and I am hoping to bring the trend to the United States.

Where does your inspiration come from?
I love…love…love the look of vintage items; pictures, movies, clothing, jewelry. My inspiration comes from the past. I feel that it honors those who came before us.IMG_2928b

Are most of your creations custom orders?
Almost 100% of my orders are custom-made, although I do list some ready-made items in my Etsy shop. The fact that a bride can add family items makes my bouquets all the more special. However, not every bride has vintage items or family heirlooms. This is where I come in. I scour vintage shops, thrift stores, yard sales and estate sales looking for something that will look spectacular in your bouquet.

Do you make products other than bouquets?
Yes, aside from making things for the wedding party, I also dabble in adding rhinestones to bridal shoes and making birdcage veils.

Where do you procure your materials?
Estate sales, thrift stores, consignment stores, and sometimes, the brides themselves.

IMG_2886bWhich is your favorite piece?
I recently made a custom bouquet for a bride who had hundreds of her grandmother’s buttons. They were all different colors, and I was not sure how it would all pull together. She also had her grandmother’s watch that I put in the middle of her bouquet. Not only did it all come together beautifully in the end, it was the sweetest tribute for someone who meant so much to her granddaughter.

Which was the most difficult piece to create?548476_259468294151490_477259813_n
My brooch bouquets.Especially if they are made with vintage items. They are much heavier than today’s pieces and the rhinestones tend to pop out during the wiring process. I have many different sized rhinestones kept in a jar for the purpose of repair. Sometimes those brooches are a bit fragile as well. I do my best to handle with care, but there are mishaps.

Do you have ideas for new products for this year?
I am trying my hand at hammer engraving, so that I can add an even more personal touch to some of my items.

Where can people order and buy from you?IMG_2942b
I have an Etsy store and a new website. I am also a Facebook addict. You can find me on there everyday. I do my absolute best to answer any and all questions.

What is the best thing about creating a custom bouquet?
The best thing about creating a custom vintage bouquet would have to be that it is such a unique idea. You can tell a tale with each and every one. Buttons from a loved one, buttons that follow a theme/movie/story. Why not be original? Maybe a bit off-beat? You can bet that no one will have anything like your one-of-a-kind creation.

IMG_2957bCheck out the creative musings of KJ’s Vintage Button Bouquets on Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/kjj44
Or on her website:  http://www.vintagebuttonbouquets.com/Home_Page.html