Once again, Easter is almost here and I don’t have my act together. When I was a kid, my parents introduced my brother and me to the joys of Pysanky, or the art of Ukrainian easter eggs. Every year we’d break out the permanent dyes, beeswax and kistkas, the little tools you use to draw with the beeswax, blow out the egg yolks through little holes in each end and dip the eggs through a series of dye baths, similar to a batik process. Never mind that we’re not Ukrainian. I don’t even know where they learned about this craft, but they seamlessly incorporated it into our Easter tradition.
Sometime around my second year of college, I started to run out of time in the weeks leading up to Easter, and what was a multi-week process became a rushed afternoon of egg dying. More recently, it hasn’t happened at all, even though throughout the rest of the year I look forward to Easter and egg-dying. This year I really thought I might get around to figuring out where to buy the supplies in Oakland, but here it is, the Wednesday before Easter, and I don’t think it’s going to happen.
So imagine my joy when I stumbled on the booth of Lenka Glassner and her husband at the Oakland farmers’ market last weekend! Lenka makes beautiful dyed eggs in the Eastern European tradition, though her style hails from the Moravian region of the Czech Republic and is slightly different from the Ukrainian patterns I learned as a kid. Some look much more modern, with fruit and mushrooms and butterflies, but many have the traditional geometrics and floral patterns of Eastern Europe.
In addition to the eggs (chicken and larger goose eggs), Lenka also sells cards with beautiful photos of her works. In each card, she includes some history of the tradition. Here is what she has to say about it:
“Egg decorating is an ancient, yet surviving, Eastern European folk art. Hollowed, painted eggs are not just a symbol of Easter, they are used as a special gift to help celebrate the birth of a child, to wish a happy life to newlyweds, to send a get well wish to the sick, to exchange a message of love with friends and sweethearts, or to remind us of eternity, for the round shape of an egg has no beginning or end. Depending on the region, decoration techniques vary. Some create geometrical shapes on the eggs using melted bee’s wax, while others knit metal wire around the eggs. I use the etching technique of the Moravian region where my family originated. I am proud to continue this tradition, which allows me to stay connected to my ancestors.” Lenka Glassner.