Earlier this summer I was contacted by my colleague Cristina McCarthy, Interior Design Department Chair at Virginia Marti College, with a fascinating request!

Cristina is involved with the JOHN HAY HIGH SCHOOL OF ARCHITECTURE AND DESIGN on University Circle in Cleveland.   As part of the schools “EXTENDED YEAR WORKSHOPS” this summer, it was offering an “ART AROUND THE WORLD” course.

A “PYSANKA EGGS” workshop was part of the series! Would I, could I, come and speak to the students about Pysanky – the Ukrainian “Easter Eggs”!?

Needless to say my lights went on!!


Well you see, my entire childhood and formative years were spent surrounded by this unique art form. From infancy I was placed in a high chair next to my mothers work table where she sat by her lit candle and block of bees wax. Countless hours were spent watching her create, with brilliant skill and amazing precision, these incredible eggs. All the while she explained the history, designs and their symbolism to me. (I also learned to read- in two languages – while sitting at the side of that little table in the corner of the diningroom, occasionally admonished not to bump it or shake it!)   

At  Holidays at my grandparents in upstate New York – there was my grandmother in the corner of the kitchen doing the same thing. Weekends at my uncle and aunts farm in New Jersey – there were my aunt and her mother working on eggs. My sister even tried her hand at it! Pysanky everywhere! Little did I know then, what an impact all this would have on my own art work and the precision with which I do it today!!

So, I gladly agreed to go!

On the appointed day and time, of I went armed with three dozen of my mother’s Pysanky, and one each by my grandmother and sister. Three generations! (I also took along five of my woodcuts inspired by my mothers eggs.) What I did not know was that my mind was about to be blown!

Once at John Hays I encountered about fifteen African-American students eagerly waiting to learn about this ancient Ukrainian folk art!!!


 What followed, was a sharing of the history, symbolism and folklore surounding the Pysanka. I also had the opportunity to share some my own emersion experience. 

At the time we were in the midst of quite a heat wave ( an understatement 🙂 !) here in Northeast Ohio.  I was really touched that despite the sweltering heat, the class was attentive, interested and asked some wonderful questions.

Their teacher Nancy Murnyak  (above) had truly done her homework and was ready to lead them through the actual hands on creating of their very first Pysanka. When I left, each student guided by Mrs. Murnyak and her fellow instructor Miss Johnnie Smart (below), was totally engrossed in their project (despite a couple of casualties and re-starts!).  

I drove off smiling from ear to ear – very happy to have had the chance to visit this unique school and to share some of my mother’s “INCREDIBLE INEDIBLE EGGS” with a great group of young adults!

Kudos to Mrs.Nancy Murnyak!! 

Thank you for the opportunity!


(PS: To see examples of the woodcuts inspired by my mother’s Pysanky, please go to the Woodcut Category of this site at:  http://www.andrijmaday.com/category/portfolio/woodcuts/)


More summer fun to come…………



  1. Natalie says:

    How cool!

  2. Jurij Klufas says:

    HEY Andrij!
    Excellent work!
    Why don’t you try and do a “unique Pysanka project ” at the Bloor West Village Ukrainian Festival in Toronto?
    Come and check it out this year Sept. 14-16 and then next year have your own Pavilion!

  3. Mary Hargrave says:

    Mr. Maday,

    Wow, that sounds like it was a lot of fun for everyone. It’s always so interesting to hear the history along with seeing the art or craft. Wish I could have been there!

    M. Hargrave

  4. Janet Simonovich says:

    I taught 1st and 3rd grade not that far from that school – a couple blocks away. Welcome to my world!
    As a matter of fact…I just attended their graduation (my 1st graders who just graduated from 5th grade and will be leaving the school) with the parents of one of the kids I had in my class, at John Hay a few weeks ago.
    I still keep in touch with many of them.
    Probably one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.

  5. Vera says:

    Thank you for the beautiful account of the pysanka workshop.

  6. Annetta says:

    This is great…And such a nice, hearytwarming tribute to your mother!

  7. Cristina McCarthy says:

    This is so nice … terrific!

    Thanks for writing about it.

  8. Oksana says:

    How wonderful to share your treasure with others! Love this story.
    Have a great day!

  9. Andrij & Luba says:

    Thank for sharing with us.

    Your Mother must be very proud of your sharing the family heritage and tradition.

  10. Tianna Maxey says:

    Mr. Maday,

    Good morning. I would like to thank you for taking time out of your schedule to present to our extended year workshop students at the Cleveland School of Architecture & Design @ John Hay. We are truly grateful that our students received such insight and history about the pysanky egg art form.

    Thank you again and enjoy the summer.

    Tianna Maxey
    Cleveland Metropolitan School District
    Principal, Cleveland School of Architecture & Design @ John Hay

  11. Jan Dregalla says:

    Wonderful story. Thanks for sharing.

  12. Dora says:

    Andrij – thanks for sharing this Pysanka Workshop –

  13. Peter says:

    Wow Andrij!

    You have the art and the talent with aplomb!

    Your link is wonderful and very explicit! Wonderful ability to recollect. I have lost most of that [meaning memories] myself.

    Congrats and keep on smiling!

  14. Iko says:

    Greetings Andrij

    Congratulations on your unique lecture. Wonderful news!

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