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Just in time for Easter: Ukranian egg art

Theres something about bird eggs that have attracted the human eye since ancient times. Source of life, nourishment and symbolic of spring, the egg has also been linked with spiritual rebirth and resurrection since ancient times; eggs have been a part of religious and secular traditions for many thousands of years. The exotic, highly detailed art of egg-painting, while identified today with Christian Easter, probably had its roots in pagan times. But no one really knows when or how the art of egg painting actually began. Of special interest to egg-art enthusiasts is pysanka, a Ukrainian technique of painting eggs in exquisite detail. Enter Theresa Somerset who developed her own unique pysankaian method of drawing on eggs. Somerset is recognized for her unique skill; she was invited by President George and First Lady Laura Bush to the White House last Easter where she both displayed her delicate egg art and represented Vermont. The word pysanka, according to Somerset, means to write on; it employs wax and colored dyes. Somerset carefully chooses avian eggs as her canvasgoose, chicken, duck and ostrich eggs are best. A wax-bearing stylus, called a kitsha, is then used for writing on the egg. In a news announcement about the current exhibit of Somersets eggs at Frog Hollow Gallery in Middlebury, Myk Martinez of the gallery said Somersets designs are first hand drawn in pencil, then the kitska is employed. She next draws over her initial design in beeswax. The process includes bleaching, rubbing to create shadow effects, and a faux batik design. The egg then goes through a variety of layers of dipping in non-edible dyes and wax, according to Martinez. When the egg is finished, it is polished and covered with a varnish. This makes the egg a near permanent piece of art to show year round. Martinez noted that Somerset has won several awards and has as participated in juried shows. She is the president of the Essex Art League, a board member for the Northern Vermont Artists Association, a board member of the Bryant Memorial Gallery in Jeffersonville and a member of the Miniature Painting Society of Vermont. Last week, Martinez was on hand to help showcase an exhibit of Somersets pysanka art at Frog Hollow Gallery. The artist was also present and gave a rare demonstration of how a pysanka master craftswoman works. Somersets eggs will be on display and available for purchase at Frog Hollow just in time for Easter. Call (802) 388-3177 for hours and more details.

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