Online Artist Archive
Avalyn Ennen is a descendant of Ukrainian immigrants who came to the United States in the late 19th century. They, like many Ukrainians, eventually settled in North Dakota and introduced many traditional arts to the region. One of these arts was pysanky, or Ukrainian Easter Eggs.
Designs on pysanky eggs are made using a kistka, a stylus that deposits thin lines of melted beeswax like a pen releases ink. (Kistkas in the past were often made from a sharp willow stick with a small funnel to hold the wax. Today, many are electric.) A design is drawn in wax on the surface of an uncooked, room-temperature egg. After the wax is dry, the entire egg is dipped into a color dye. The wax resists the dye and only the white surface of the egg is colored. Another design is drawn on the egg, which is dipped into a different color dye. Both surfaces of wax designs resist the new dye. This is repeated again and again until a complete design of many colors is visible. Once this is finished, the wax is removed by heating the egg in a low-temperature oven or placing it over a candle. (The designs on the finished egg are often Christian-themed and include crosses, doves, and fish among other symbols. The eggs are often used a religious décor or as part of a Christian ceremony or service.)
Ennen was introduced to the art of pysanky, in part, by her mother Anastasia. Her mother raised chickens for a living and on occasion sold some eggs to their neighbor Mrs. Hauluck, who used the eggs to make pysanky. Ennen became fascinated with the art while watching Hauluck and later, Ennen sought out a mentor to teach her. She found Betty Sprynczynatyk in Bismarck and after much study, Ennen was skilled in both the process and the history, designs, and color.
Nationally recognized, Ennen was chosen four times by the American Egg Board to represent North Dakota at the White House Easter Egg Exhibit. In 2000, she traveled to Washington, D.C. to personally present her “millennium egg” to the exhibit. It featured Lewis and Clark, Sakakawea, and stems from wheat.
Additionally, she has exhibited all over the state and is a member of the state’s Arts-in-Education Artists’ Roster, which makes her eligible to conduct in-school residencies funded, in part, by the North Dakota Council on the Arts.
- Ben Nemenoff
Contact Avalyn Ennen:
18050 22nd Avenue Southeast
Menoken, ND 58558
Geist, Troyd A. From the Wellspring: Faith, Soil, Tradition. Bismarck: North Dakota Council on the Arts, 1997.