Meet the Pysanky Collectibles Artists
Kristina H. Schaeffer
My name is Krissy Schaeffer, and I have been doing the art of Pysanky in my spare time since I was very young. I began learning the batik method used in decorating the eggs at age 2 under the guidance of my mother, Nina Badulak-McDaniel, and grandmother, Helen Badulak. I assist in demonstrations, classes and media interviews.
I am currently an apprentice to my mother and grandmother, and I am learning everything I can about the art while practicing the steady hand both women have worked so hard to attain. I hope that if nothing else, I can teach my children a small piece of my cultural heritage.
I follow in my grandmother's footsteps and I prefer to do the intricate, traditional designs, mostly in yellows, reds, and blacks. I do get a thrill, though, from experimenting with different color combinations.
My name is Antonina Badulak-McDaniel, and I am Master of Pysanky Artist Helen Badulak's daughter. I am also a Ukrainian Pysanky artist. My first exposure to Pysanky occurred 35 years ago when my mother dragged me to her first craft show. Since then, I have been attending shows, demonstrating at various church and group functions, and also teaching anyone interested in learning.
But, I did not start to do the art of Pysanky full-time until I turned 35 years old. I realized that the art is not just a part of my culture but also an expression of my mother, and I wanted to learn all her craft secrets. The best way for me to do this was to become my mother's apprentice and learn all that she had researched and practiced extensively during her years of experience.
All of my designs are unique, original creations. While my mother's designs are intricately traditional, I put my own spin on the traditional designs. I use a stylus to create most of my Pysanky, but I also do some eggs by applying wax with the head of a straight pin, as they did centuries ago. But, instead of removing the wax, I mix it with crayons before application and the end result is a vibrantly colored egg with texture.
Currently, I not only practice the art of Pysanky, but I have also started learning and creating other eggshell folk art. I find it fascinating to learn and experience other ethnic backgrounds.
Some of my most notable accomplishments include:
"I have been fortunate to find Pysanky as the positive force in my life. Creating uplifting designs has helped me out of whatever low points life has thrown my way. Pysanky were and still are my saving grace."
I chose the above excerpt from the acknowledgement of my book Pysanky in the 21st Century to introduce myself. Very few people in life are lucky enough to find and hold onto an activity or hobby that fills his or her soul with joy and fulfillment. I am one of these lucky people, and my goal in life is to share my experience and inspire others to achieve excellence in their lives.
My journey started 67 years ago when I was born in Hajowniki, Ukraine (now a part of Poland). As my family's life progressed, things didn't get better. As World War II escalated, my father was separated from my mother and me by Nazis. I spent my toddler years with my mother and grandmother in slave labor camps. Liberation came to us when the United States entered the war and the displaced person camps were formed. In our camp, located in southern Germany and governed by France, we had to pretend to be Polish to avoid being taken by Stalin's regime in Russia and thrown into Siberian jails.
My life truly began when the displaced person camp we lived in was disbanded. By luck of lottery my father chose our new home, the United States. While I had lost all connection with my homeland, I was elated by the freedom my family was about to receive. And, when we arrived on the eastern shores of our new home, I was excited by the language, style of life, and the people from different nationalities I encountered. By today's standard we had a hard life, but during the time I remember how happy I was experiencing all the small comforts and qualities denied to my family during the war, even though we had no money or home yet to speak of.
We lived in Philadelphia, PA until I became a young adult. Time flew quickly, especially because I was learning something new everyday. When I had learned everything I could about the United States, I started to research and investigate my birth land.
At the age of 21, I married and gave birth to my first daughter. My family decided to move from Philadelphia to Quakertown, PA, and there I had two more children. As my children grew, I began to feel unsettled. While my parents and family friends taught me Ukrainian traditions and the language, I still felt like there was something missing. I wanted and needed more to rekindle the connection to my heritage, lost so many years before by war. So, in 1969 I bought a book on how to decorate Ukrainian eggs, or Pysanky. The art is traditionally passed down from generation to generation but, because no one in my family did the art, I was left with the only option of teaching myself.
Support from my family was minimal. But, the folk art became a form of meditation for me and I persisted. I practiced six hours every night after my children and husband went to bed. A car accident forced me to quit my job at Merck Pharmaceuticals, so I then took that opportunity to do eggs while my children were at school and husband at work. At the beginning, I donated most of my work to local bazaars; the eggs were more appreciated than my baked goods.
Due to the tremendous support from friends and colleagues, in 1971 I pushed myself harder and decided to start making an income from the art. Due to the encouragement I received from friends and recipients of my Pysanky, I felt ready for the challenge. I started teaching private classes in my home to those who wanted to learn. I held classes and demonstrations in public school systems and at local businesses, department stores, colleges, art schools, and retirement communities.
I felt so good about creating this Ukrainian tradition, Pysanky, I wanted to share it with the whole world. I taught everyone, whether they were Ukrainian or not, who wanted to learn. I wanted to give those interested the chance I was denied. Pysanky filled the hole left in my heart by war, and I wanted to share it with everyone around me.
In 1973 I participated in my first egg show in Phillipsburg, NJ . I reorganized my thoughts and became more competitive, pushing my technique and creativity to its best. From 1973 to 1988, I won 55 first place ribbons and five Best of Show awards for my Pysanky. During this time I also appeared on many television shows, including Channel 6 Action News, Prime Time, the Connie Roussin Show, Gary Geers, Gene London Show, Farm Home and Garden, and Captain Noah. I received the Humanitarian Award from TV-6 “You Gotta Believe” hosted by Tug McGraw.
In 1992 I was named Master of Pysanky by the National Egg Art Guild, now known as the International Egg Art Guild. I even judged many egg art competitions, providing constructive criticism to other egg decorators.
In July 1997 my husband passed away from Alzheimer's disease. I cared for him during his time of need, and while I continued to do eggs, the grief was difficult to overcome and I opted to not participate in as many shows, contests, or lessons.
In 2000, with the help of my daughter and granddaughter, I started becoming more involved again. To my surprise, both enjoyed attending shows and wanted to continue. With their help and encouragement I started pushing myself to do my best again. My granddaughter likes to say that I have taken a simple folk art and turned it into a fine art; my humble personality continues to disagree.
I teach advanced students now, while my daughter teaches beginners. I demonstrate in local school systems when asked, and continue to attend craft and egg shows. In March of 2004 I won first place for an ostrich Pysanka in a publicly judged contest at Eggsibit in Phillipsburg, NJ. My granddaughter, daughter, and I have also developed a small business, called Pysanky Collectibles, LLC. We carry all the supplies necessary to do the folk art and exhibit not only our work, but the work of other Pysanky artists in our shop (only in the shop, not at shows).
In June 2005 the International Egg Art Guild invited me to their Dallas/Fort Worth egg show. There I was asked to help revise the Pysanky Master's Program. The new program was released in October 2006 under the title "Batik Folk Art."
My life has culminated with the completion of my book, Pysanky in the 21 st Century. I put together this design book not only to preserve my original designs and color combinations for future Pysanky artists, but also to uplift the spirit of each person who flips through its pages. It is designed to inspire all Pysanky artists and to give away all my secrets in the attempt to get more people to try the amazing folk art.
I eat, breath, and sleep Pysanky today. The support from my family that was once lacking has been restored 10 fold. While my life was full of struggle in the beginning, that struggle guided me to an art that brings me an enormous amount of joy and fulfillment. And, if nothing else Ukrainian is passed down to the future generations of my family, I know that Pysanky will be the surviving tradition of our future.
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