Ancient Art Taught at the Soap Gallery

By Victoria Remley

Ukrainian egg decorating, a 2000-year-old folk art tradition, was taught at the Soap Gallery in Youngstown March 23 just in time for Easter, which allowed customers to put their own designed art on the eggs.

Carol Novosel, folk artist and instructor from the Shenango Valley, said Ukrainian egg decorating has rolled through the generations in her family, and she learned it from her mom at the kitchen table when she was five or six years old.

Ukrainian egg decorating was a dying art, but because of perfect situations, it came alive again. Novosel called the process boutique, which involved wax and dye. In addition, ancient symbols were incorporated on a real eggshell.

People at the event learned about art and color and had the chance to explore the folk art.

“This art is passed down from hand to hand, from person to person,” Novosel said.

Participants worked with a raw egg, a candle of beeswax and dyes. Wax was applied to the egg in a pattern the artist desired. Dye that was put on the egg adhered to the shell, but not to the wax. When the wax melted off, the design remained on the egg.

“The process is something that you need to watch someone work with to fully understand,” Novosel said. “Someone who knows the background of the art, so that what you do has extra meaning.”

The eight-pointed star holds a lot of meaning to the Slovak culture. In some Slavic cultures, it represents a rose, which means love. When a Slovak child was born in ancient times, a star appeared in the sky. That star was assigned to the child.

A Slovak egg represents a greeting card. Each symbol on the egg relates to the person receiving it. To prepare, Novosel provided tools and supplies for her classes.

She made new dyes, printed background notes and patterns and set up tables with supplies. After a short presentation on how to create the eggs, customers dove right in.

Jean Josa, Novosel’s helper from Sharon, Pennsylvania, said people at the event learned about different heritages.

Andrea Sargent of Youngstown said Ukrainian egg decorating was awesome, and apart from the class being full, she was very excited to be there.

The class was not a typical art class. Sargent said the class brought something new to Easter and brought families together. She said she thought it would be fun to try something that added a twist to the family’s tradition of decorating Easter eggs.

“You’re learning about history and culture, and just enjoying the experience with other people,” she said.