As a special treat for you this Easter weekend, here is an entire article from our current issue. Writer Brendan Harrison delves into his heritage to discover the art of decorated eggs.
Growing up, I didn’t identify strongly with any particular ethnic background. Typical dinner fare in the Harrison household consisted of ground beef paired with a rotating selection of starches. Lunches alternated between cheese slice sandwiches and Pizza Pops. Breakfast unfailingly came from a cereal box.
And yet, looking back I realize that vestiges of my parents’ heritage remained, subtly informing our traditions and beliefs. Easter in particular was a holiday where my mother’s Romanian roots showed through, and not only in her insistence on following the Orthodox calendar. Like many children, we’d spend afternoons dyeing and decorating hard-boiled eggs. Unlike other families, however, before we could eat these eggs, we had to tap our eggs against one another, end to end, in the hopes of cracking our opponent’s egg, while ritualistically calling and responding, “Christ is risen. Truly He is risen.” The person whose egg remained unbroken would be the victor. This competition was taken seriously and seemed entirely normal to me.
While we kids spent hours attempting to fortify our eggs through decoration, my father, having little in the way of a competitive spirit, would amuse himself by coming up with increasingly complex designs for his eggs. One year he came home with a handful of strange implements that he’d purchased from the local Ukrainian church. Instead of boiling his egg as we did ours, he poked a hole in either end and blew the raw yolk and whites into a bowl. As we scribbled on our eggs with crayon and dipped them into a single vat of dye, he lined up a series of dyes from lightest to darkest and applied beeswax to his eggs between dips. When he finished with the dye, he placed his eggs in a warm oven to melt the wax, then wiped them gently with a cloth as he removed them, revealing vibrant eggs unlike any we’d seen before—delicate and intricate and beautiful.
This was my first exposure to the ancient art of pysanka. Although this technique of wax-resist egg decorating is most closely associated with Ukrainian culture, the practice is widespread across many Eastern European countries. The word pysanka derives from the Ukrainian “pysaty,” which means “to write,” and refers specifically to eggs decorated with the written wax method (our primitive crayon and dye versions would be closer to the Ukrainian krashanky—boiled eggs dyed a single colour to be blessed and eaten at Easter). The purely decorative pysanky hold a place of importance in Ukrainian culture that can be difficult to overstate. When the Ukrainian-settled town of Vegreville, Alberta, sought a symbol to celebrate its heritage, they built a 31-foot-long, three-and-a-half-story tall, two-ton sculpture of an intricately decorated Easter egg.
But how did egg decorating come to play such an important role in Ukrainian culture? Archaeological evidence suggests that eggs decorated with sun symbols were part of pre-Christian sun god worship, revered as symbols of the renewal of spring. As the Christian faith began to take hold in these regions, eggs were repurposed as symbol of the resurrection and soon came to play an important role in Ukrainian Easter rituals. By the 15th century, this practice had become widespread, as evidenced by an intact pysanka from this era found in Lviv. The tradition was passed down from mother to daughter through the generations into the early 20th century. As emigrants sought new opportunities in North and South America, they brought the tradition with them, keeping it alive even as Soviet authorities were banning it in the motherland as a forbidden religious observance.
Traditionally, the women of a family would make pysanky in the last week of Lent. They would heat a vat of beeswax on a stove to the melting point, then dip a stylus with a conical reservoir into it. Dyes would be prepared in a variety of colours from traditional plant- and animal-based formulas, including extracts from dried plants, roots, bark, berries and insects. Working from lightest to darkest dyes, they would apply wax to the eggshell between colours to keep the covered section protected, building up the complexity of their designs layer by layer. Although the image most commonly conjured up by the thought of a Ukrainian Easter egg is of a complex geometric pattern, the variety of designs and approaches is vast and laden with symbolic meaning that changes from region to region. The most popular include nested geometric patterns, waves, spirals, farm implements, and animal and plant motifs, as well as Christian symbols.
Pysanky are crafted today in much the same way they always were, though they are frequently created for artistic rather than religious purposes. The only equipment required for creating your own pysanka are raw eggs for a canvas, a needle (or specialized egg blower if you’re feeling fancy) to remove the innards of the egg, dyes in a variety of colours, beeswax for melting and machined brass styluses (known as kistka, psychok, psyak or pysal’tse, depending on region) for applying the wax to the egg in a variety of thicknesses. Unlike standard vinegar-soluble Easter egg dyes, Ukrainian eggs require specialized water-soluable dyes, and you’ll want to get at least the six basic colours—yellow, orange, light blue, light green, bright red and black. Once you get the basics down, you’ll be amazed at how quickly you can come up with heirloom-quality eggs that you’ll want to keep around long after Easter.
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In the spirit of the arrival of Spring, and celebrating the Easter holiday, I thought I would post some photos of my rabbit, Angel. At Christmas my husband surprised me with a trip to the Calgary Humane Society to choose a rabbit to take home. We had talked about getting a dog, but since we live in a condo, we didn't think it would be fair to keep a dog cooped up all day.
Having Angel as our pet has been a wonderful experience! She lives in her cage while we're at work, but roams freely around the condo when we're home. (We had to do some bunny-proofing, of course) A lot of people ask me if she needs to be walked. As much as I would love to take her for a jaunt in the park, Angel likes to do her own form of exercise–running laps around the coffee table in the living room at warp speed! Rabbits need 2-4 hours of exercise, play and socialization a day, and Angel gets plenty of that.
Wishing you and yours a very Happy Easter!
The National Poster Retrospecticus is a touring poster show launching in May featuring more than 250 hand-printed event posters from over 80 of the most outstanding poster designers in the USA.
"Our mission is to celebrate posters, the made-by-hand aesthetic and help spread that enthusiasm around the world."
Take a look at the National Poster Retrospecticus' upcoming tour on their website.
We're celebrating Janine's birthday tomorrow with a gift for you: purchase a two-year subscription and receive a free everyday notebook set!
* Sale ends Sunday, April 20. Shipping costs not included with notebook offer.This offer cannot be applied retroactively.
Natalie K. Nelson is a designer and illustrator based in Atlanta, Georgia. She has a tumblr site dedicated to her "What's On Your Mind?" project where she posts an ongoing collection of real Facebook statuses in illustration form. Each humorous illustration is completed in under an hour! You can take a look at some of her other illustrations on her tumblr page.
Sumner Stone is a typeface designer based in California, USA. From 1984-1989, Sumner was the Director of Typography for Adobe Systems, Inc where he created and carried out Adobe's typographic program. In 1990, Sumner founded the Stone Type Foundry Inc. where he continues to work as a typeface designer.
Sumner will be teaching a four-day type design workshop called "Structure and Emotion in Letterform" from May 28-31 in San Francisco at Letterform Archive and the letterpress studio at the City College of San Francisco. If you can't make it to Sumner's workshop, he is lecturing on the same topic on Wednesday May 28 at 7pm at the Adobe Town Hall. Click here for more details!
When I'm sifting through reader submissions, I never know what I'll find. From a fresh-faced illustrator hoping to get their first published piece or a seasoned creative who has turned a new leaf and is looking to share their new direction... surprise and delight are the hallmarks of a good submission.
The work of Peter Vogel of Nutmegger Workshop in Portland, Oregon prompted an immediate response from me—I began to follow him on Twitter, sent out a tweet, emailed a thank you and planned this blog post.
Peter introduced himself as a "30-year graphic designer/design director/creative director now making vintage sign art." His talent for lettering and his love of old signage is combined into his business of making vintage-looking signs. His signs are not meant as functional signage—they don't fabricate signs and to site installations—rather the signs are art meant to be hung interior settings, somewhat like charming set decoration or as interior design features.
"Generations ago, sign writers were a busy, sought-after bunch, but the heyday of their hand-lettered art was no match for the rising tide of digital sign-making technology. Nutmegger Workshop was created to celebrate the alluring charm of this long-forgotten art form. It is our mission to offer the finest period reproductions and original designs — handcrafted works of typographic art that add unique personality to any well-designed space."
Our contest collaboration, "It's a Creative & Curious World" with They Draw & Travel, ends on April 20. Be sure to submit your map of the creative and curious places and sights in the vicinity of where you live or where you grew up for a chance to be featured in UPPERCASE magazine.
We want to know about the quirky or unusual things in your world!
As we continue to celebrate all things patterns here at UPPERCASE, we thought we would show you some patterns submitted for Issue #21's creative challenge. We included ours as well!
What does colour mean to you?
Take a photograph of the colour media that is special to you (paint palettes, paint, trays, pastels, crayons, pencils, inks, pigments, etc) and write a brief description of how and why this art supply goes beyond being just a tool or medium. How does it enhance your creativity? What makes this particular medium special to you? How is colour tied in with your identity as an artist?
• Take a photo of your favourite media in good natural light against a white backdrop to show the object or artifact in its entirety
• Get up close and personal with some detail shots highlighting colour and texture and labels
• Provide a wider view of your workspace and artwork, showing your art supplies and various colours
Images should be RGB jpgs at least 6 inches wide at 300dpi. Please title the files with your last name. To submit your work, click here.
DEADLINE MAY 1, 2014
Is there something you've always wanted to know about UPPERCASE? Do you want to take a look at something specific behind the scenes? Do you have a question for me about the current issue?
Join my media experiment and send a tweet or Instagram question to @uppercasemag #uppercaseQ and I will answer your question with a quick Instagram video.
Keep track of the Qs and As over here.
In 2012, Sarah Cameron started a custom clothing design, alterations, and wardrobe consultation company in Calgary called Pure Couture.
Before starting her own company, Sarah worked for a vintage clothing store as a vintage clothes hunter. Each day she travelled to a clothing warehouse and went about hunting through piles and bags of clothing seeking unique vintage clothing and accessories to be sold in store.
Tell me about your job as a vintage clothes hunter working at the clothing warehouse. What was your job like?
I had a master list of what the store was looking for, and I would open bag after bag hoping for something amazing. It was hard work, but super rewarding if—after digging and searching and ripping open bag after bag—you found a real vintage Chanel bag, a beautiful embroidered wool parka with fur trim, or the perfect worn-in-just-right leather biker jacket. If I was really lucky, I would find a band t-shirt from the 70s. If the store I was picking for did not want what I found, I could buy it myself at a crazy cheap price, like a dollar fifty a pound. It was a very lonely job, though, because I was the only one searching for finds.
What were some of the unique things that you found while working there?
The best situation was if I could find beautiful leather shoes from the 40s and 50s—made in Italy and just so gorgeous. I once opened a bag, and it was full of shoes like that. Some little old lady must have passed away, and no one wanted her amazing shoe collection. That was a good day. My boss was super happy!
Tell me about the quilt that you made your daughter from the fabrics that you found while clothes hunting. Do you remember when you found the fabrics?
It all started with a dress. I found what looked like a old 50s-style dress that was falling apart, and I saw past that. It was made out of beautiful blues, greens and purple, it was a rose print but sort of modern. It was perfect. It not only inspired the quilt but most of my daughter's room decor. The back of the quilt is made out of what looked to be a old sheet. But not just any sheet—this was a beautiful teal and peach floral print. The both of them just fit, and along the way I found a few more remnants here and there. I started collecting fun fabric when I started clothes hunting in 2010, and when I found out I was having a girl I knew I wanted a baby quilt for her.
What do you enjoy about fabric patterns? Why do you like vintage ones?
I love unique fabric, but not fabric that's too weird. I think thats why I love vintage fabric, its different, but something about it is so happy and fun.
When and why did you start sewing?
I started "sewing" when I was about 10 years old and I was bored with my Barbies' clothing and wanted to design my own clothing for them. The clothes I made for them were mostly taped together. My grandmother gave me a sewing machine when I was about 12 and I loved it! She inspired me, and gave me everything I needed to start sewing. I still have my first sketch book from her. She wanted me to see beauty all around me.
What do you enjoy about sewing and designing clothes?
I enjoy designing clothing for myself, my family, and my clients. The best feeling is when people try a piece of clothing on I've made for them and it fits just right and feels just right. I have had a few clients cry over a perfectly fitted dress!
What made you decide to go into the Fashion Design program at Saddleback College in California?
I was sort of unsure what I wanted to pursue in college. My first semester was a mish mash of classes like marine biology, rock climbing, and introduction to fashion. When I realized I could have a career doing something I loved, I jumped at the chance. I was really lucky because the program at Saddleback was amazing!
Visit Sarah's portfolio for some vintage-inspired couture.
Post by Cara Howlett
Our neighbour here at the Devenish, Eric Goodwin, is a leather craftsman and founder of his own apparel company called Forge Apparel. Eric is pleased to be releasing his first women’s collection of purses and clutches this week.
Designed to fit Forge's classic look of leather and waxed canvas, the women’s collection will have the look and feel of Forge Apparel's men’s products, but with some feminine touches.
“I had my brand manager Kelsey Laugher help me out with some of the designs. She helped me out with what women want as far as dividers and pockets and zippers,” laughs Eric. “I merged her influence and design aspects with my own aesthetic and style.”
After graduating with a business degree, in 2011 Eric rented a studio at Art Central in downtown Calgary where he designed, created, and sold his rustic bags and backpacks until moving to the Devenish building in 2013.
Describing his products as gritty and organic, Eric’s designs are inspired by the Rocky Mountains and travel. “I love that really heritage feel to it, like back before there were five-star resorts and when travel was still pretty gritty,” says Eric. “That’s why I still work with the wax-canvas and the leather–very classic materials.”