Egg decorating isn’t just for kids
Post Independent Arts Writer
Glenwood Springs, Colorado CO
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – The egg. This time of year, eggs become more than a food item. They become canvases for little works of art.
In ancient, pre-Christian cultures, decorated eggs came to symbolize springtime, nature and renewal. In Christianity, eggs have also come to represent rebirth and resurrection.
Jaci Spuhler of Glenwood Springs learned the art of Ukrainian egg decorating when she lived in eastern Europe and worked for the foreign service “thousands of years ago,” she said with a little chuckle.
Since then, besides teaching Russian, she’s been leading Ukrainian egg decorating workshops like the one she just completed at the New Castle Branch Library.
“This group created beautiful egg designs with great color combinations,” she said. “Plus, no one dropped an egg. That’s a first.”
Carbondale fiber and batik artist Jill Scher also held a Ukrainian egg decorating workshop last Saturday at the Third Street Center through Carbondale Council on Arts and Humanities. Scher uses her expertise in batiking to create her eggs, since this type of decorating uses beeswax as a resist to apply the eggs’ unique color combinations.
It’s hard to imagine anything more difficult to draw or paint on than a round, hollow, fragile egg, but that hasn’t stopped people from decorating them for thousands of years.
Today, at one end of the spectrum, children dye hard-boiled eggs in a rainbow of colors to include in their Easter egg hunts. At the other end, fine artists create intricately decorated, delicate eggs.
Lots of Egg Trees
At Gallery 809 on Grand Avenue in Glenwood Springs, the Egg Tree is filling up fast. The gallery is holding an egg-decorating contest for third-, fourth- and fifth-graders, (see box) and each entry is carefully hung from the Egg Tree’s branches.
Last Monday, the tree was empty. By Wednesday afternoon, there were 17 eggs hanging from the tree’s branches – and a couple dozen more were headed to the gallery from artistic kids at the Glenwood Springs Center for the Arts.
“We’re setting up another tree,” said Arlene Law, a Glenwood Springs artist and part owner of Gallery 809. “It’s a little overwhelming. We sent out 643 invitations. If they all respond, we’ll be here day and night cataloging eggs!”
The children are using a wide range of mediums to decorate their eggs.
“We have eggs decorated with scraps of paper and feathers glued onto them,” said Portia Griefenberg, an artist and also a part owner of Gallery 809. “The children are painting them with acrylics, and using markers. They’re darling.”
Law said the egg contest entries show the creativity of young minds.
“We want this contest to encourage budding artists,” said Law. “Children don’t worry about if they can do something or not. We may worry, but they don’t.”
To accommodate kids who fall outside the contest’s age range, the gallery has set up yet another tree.
“For the little bitty kids, and for older kids, we’re setting up the Scrambled Egg Tree,” Law said with a laugh. “We’ll be giving them prizes, too.”
Meanwhile, in the Ukraine …
During the past 20 years or so, Ukrainian egg decorating has seen a resurgence of interest. The art is called pysanka, which means “to write.” Patterns specifically using the traditional Ukrainian method are applied or “written” with beeswax, and are not painted on.
Interestingly enough, Spuhler said during the Soviet regime, the art was suppressed and relegated to an afternoon activity.
“It was, ‘Let’s learn about our culture,'” in small, controlled doses, Spuhler said.
Now, in post-Soviet 21st century life, the art has come back – not only in eastern Europe, but it’s continually developing an interest in the U.S. as well.
“It’s really a culturally significant activity,” said Spuhler. “It’s much like European stained glass windows. The patterns and color all tell a story. It’s a very visual cultural representation.”
And though it’s the season for the decorated egg, their appeal is year-round.
“I’ve taught classes through CMC, through the libraries, and at my kitchen table,” said Spuhler. “I sometimes even teach a class at Christmas time. They look great on the Christmas tree, and they make wonderful birthday presents, too.”
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