Pysanky & Ceramics by Sofika

Sofika Zielyk

Sofika, a native New Yorker, started making pysanky and ceramics when she was six, having learned the basics of these traditional Ukrainian art forms from her mother. What began as a hobby has through the years developed into a professional pursuit. She has lectured and exhibited her work most notably at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the American Museum of Natural History, the American Craft Museum in New York and the Embassy of Ukraine in Washington, D.C. Interviews with Sofika have been published in New York Newsday, The World and I and The New York Daily News. In 1993 a bilingual book on "The Art of the Pysanka" by Sofika was published in Ukraine.

"Lighting a candle. That simple, mundane act—one which I have repeated almost daily for most of my life is what draws me into the world of the pysanka. I strike the match, I bring it close to the wick of the candle, it catches, emitting a whiff of sulfur mixed with the smell of beeswax. A light plume of smoke rises from the flame into the air around me. That flame is my entry into the world of the ancients, where life revolved around legends and rituals, where people were content to believe in the intangible, where life moved to the slow yet relentless rhythms of nature.

I cannot imagine not making pysanky. They have become an integral part of me. Without pysanky I would miss the thrill of discovering a new design in some old, dusty book with cracked, yellowing pages. I would miss the excitement of learning a new legend associated with an ornamentation that I am working on. I find I long to reproduce ancient designs not only on chicken eggs, as had been done for centuries, but also to experiment with them on goose and ostrich eggs.

Some might consider making pysanky a lonely pastime in which I give of myself for the sake of the craft. They cannot be more wrong. For every egg I give, donate or sell, I receive joy tenfold. I receive stories from those who come to see my eggs—stories of remembered childhood experiences with the pysanka, stories about seeking and finding ethnic roots, stories of appreciation for my art; sentimental, funny stories. When I am alone at my work table with my egg and flame, these stories fill the quiet solitude surrounding me. I remember each person with whom my pysanky have brought me in contact, from First Ladies and United States senators to movie stars,waitresses, students and little children. Each and every one of them has enriched me in a unique way.

Is there one single, definitive reason I can point to which would explain why I do what I do? No. All I can say is that the pysanka makes me a part of the bezkonechnyk—the eternal line that stretches through time and place from ancient Ukrainian villages to my brownstone in modern-day Manhattan."

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