Hungary’s folk art heritage is colorful and varied, encompassing virtually all materials and objects that formed a suitable basis for decoration around the house. It is only natural, that objects related to important festive occasions, such as Easter were meticulously decorated as well.
Hungarian Easter egg decorating techniques and motifs show the same regional variety as do Hungarian embroideries. Besides the resist-dyeing methods we explain below, other decorating techniques included “etching” the eggs, applying metal horseshoes to the delicate eggs, or painting colorful motifs on the eggs using paintbrushes. But the most widely known, down-to-earth natural technique is wax resist dyeing.
How to create Hungarian folk art easter eggs
The two methods introduced below both work on the same principle: applying a screen material to the egg and subsequently immersing it in the dye produces a “batik” effect, with the screened surface left undyed.
Any egg dye can be used, but for a beautiful traditional and natural effect, use onion skins to color the eggs reddish brown. Put the dry skins of red onions in water and let it boil for about 10 minutes. Put the eggs in the broth and leave until preferred color is achieved. The more skins you put in the water, and the longer you leave the eggs in the broth, the darker the color. (You can also boil the eggs themselves in this broth, saving time.)
Wax resist dyeing
The most popular Hungarian easter egg decorating technique, wax resist dyeing works on the same principle as dyeing batik fabric. Wax is applied to the surface according to a pattern to prevent dye from coloring the egg. After coloration, the wax is removed and the pattern is revealed. The technique can be used to create monochrome and multicolored eggs.
While this technique is the most widely known folk art easter egg painting method in Hungary, used across the country, the use of different motifs and different ways of applying the wax resulted in many unique regional styles.
Materials: “íróka” – wax pen, beeswax (or uncolored candle wax), candle, egg dye
The wax pen is a simple handmade utensil that is used to draw on the egg with the wax. It has a wooden base that can be held like a pencil, and a metal funnel on its end that holds and evenly applies the wax. (The easter egg kit available in our store includes this handmade tool!)
Since this technique uses hot wax, and a candle, be very careful, especially if children are around.
- Put a small piece of solid wax in the funnel of the pen and melt it by holding close to the candle. Don’t use too much wax at once, because it will drip or run.
- When you are done decorating the egg with the wax, dye it in your preferred dye.
- When dry, hold the finished egg close to candlelight to melt off the applied wax and soak it up with a paper tissue. Continue rotating the egg untill all the wax is gone. Don’t hold the egg above the flame, but next to it (to prevent it from being blackened by the flame).
Creating multicolored eggs
To create multicolored waxed eggs, you need to work in phases, dyeing the egg in one color at a time, applying wax, and dyeing in the next color. You can start out with an undyed egg or dye it in one light color, such as yellow or red.
Work from the lightest to the darkest color, applying wax between colors to create the multicolored pattern. Traditionally, white, red, yellow, green and black were used to create multicolored decorated eggs using this technique. For example to create an egg using white, red and black colors, work in this seqeuence:
First, apply wax to the areas where you wish the base color to show on the finished egg. Dye the waxed egg in red. Then apply wax to the areas where you wish the red to show (leaving the first wax application intact!) and dye the egg black.
Patterns and kit: Easter Egg decoration kit from the Folkology shop
Leaf application method
If you don’t want to draw, but rather leverage nature’s drawing skills, here is a fun batik method to decorate easter eggs. The principle is simple: apply lovely leaves to the eggs tightly, immerse the egg in dye, and when you remove the leaves, they will leave behind a clear area where the dye did not color the egg.
Materials: small leaves with nice edge pattern (such as paisley), nylon tights cut into 15*15 centimeter (6*6 inches) pieces, thread, egg dye (see below for options)
- Soak the (clean) eggs for 30 minutes in lukewarm water.
- Wet the leaf with a little water and stick it on the egg. You can apply several leaves to create patterns or use a single one.
- Carefully wrap the egg in a nylon piece and making sure it holds the leaves tightly in place, tie the nylon at the top of the egg with some thread.
- Immerse the egg in your chosen dye. When it is done, remove the nylon and the leaves and admire the beautiful batiked pattern.
(Kellemes húsvéti ünnepeket!)
Photos from the collection of the Hungarian Museum of Ethnography
Instructions based on the book “Painted egg of magic power” by Monoriné Rohlik Erzsébet.