Farewell to Hanusey’s

A few years ago, my dear friend Pat had an idea for wax modeling for lost wax casting. She suggested a kistka.

What’s a kistka? I had no idea.

Turns out it’s a tool for putting wax in delicate patterns onto eggs as part of the art of Pskanky, Ukrainian Easter egg decoration. It’s a process of sequential masking and dying to create colorful details on eggs.

Wow. Who knew? Well I didn’t know where to get a kistka so I didn’t pursue it any further.

Several years pass. I was working on some precise waxwork and remembered the kistka idea. A quick check online and it turns out there is a Psanky shop right here in Philadelphia. Why order something online when I can drive there and look at what I want to buy before purchase.

And that’s why I found Hanusey’s on the 200 block of Girard Ave.

But once I visited this shop and purchased the items I needed, which worked very well for my purposes, I was hooked. I tried out the art of Psanky myself and even used it for a project in my Foundation classes at Tyler. Together with Pat’s family, we have gathered as a group with our children to enjoy this traditional art.

Subtle Gestures

I was there last Summer sometime and asked the elderly woman who ran the shop if she was the only one. She told me she was. She had a stroke at some point and walked very slowly. She kept the door locked during business hours and would open it remotely from the back when you rang the bell. This way you could browse the few minutes it took her to hobble to the front of the store.

She sold finished Ukrainian decorated eggs and kits. All the dyes, supplies and wax, everything you need for art of psanky. She would patiently answer your questions. The parts of the store that didn’t have psanky supplies were filled with Ukrainian music and books. It was all Ukraine, all the time.

Pat is Ukrainian on her mother’s side. I mentioned this and we ended up in a discussion of family and connections worthy of any hobbit of the shire. And I’m not even Ukrainian.

We talked about the history of the store, I believe she said it had been there for about 80 years and was in another location before that run by her family.

I asked her what would happen to the store when she is gone. She said “I don’t know. There isn’t anyone else to run the it.”

I drove by last week and there was a sale sign on the building. The once colorful windows were empty. Even the website is down.

Sadly, Philadelphia has lost a brightly colored easter egg shaped jewel.

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