Of course you’ll see rabbits and chicks hopping around during the Easter season, but one of the most cherished symbols of this springtime holiday is the egg. From egg hunts to pieces of art, you will encounter the egg many times during the next few weeks.
We went on our own egg hunt around Columbus and here’s what we found.
In the Lenten season in Columbus, you might notice a clutch of women with hands stained in many brilliant hues. These women might be egg writers, or creators of pysanky eggs.
The word psyanky derives from the Ukranian word for “to write,” named for the way crafters place designs on their eggs in wax. These colorful, intricate eggs are made using a process similar to batik, and they are typically produced during the Lenten season.
“The lore is if you dye eggs out of Lent, the dye will not last,” egg writer Melinda Chew said.
The Columbus egg writers create their art using blown eggs.
According to Chew, the form of psyanky egg art she studies is from pre-Christian eras of Ukraine. When Christianity spread, Christians took pagan symbolism and the idea of rebirth and incorporated these concepts into eggs.
Immediately after World War II, Patricia Probst, of Columbus, said, Ukraine was divided up amongst Russia and Poland, with Russia getting the lion’s share.
“(Russian officials) purged anything that would have to do with national pride,” Probst said.
Probst has been informally teaching the art of psyanky eggs for the past seven years.
The cultural purge in Ukraine included language, religion and psyanky eggs, although the craft was still practiced in Ukraine’s rural areas. The eggs made their way to the United States and Canada with ex-patriots from Ukraine, creating a diaspora of egg writers.
Probst and Jill Forster, another Columbus woman, began in 2007 informally teaching the art of psyanky eggs to interested friends and neighbors.
Probst fostered an admiration for the psyanky eggs for years before she attempted to make them. During an egg hunt in 1974 in Donner Park, she saw a woman crafting psyanky eggs.
More than 20 years later, in 1998, she heard of a class in Valparaiso and made the journey north to learn to learn how to write eggs.
In 2005, Probst and Forster sat down together and mastered the process of creating psyanky eggs. Once they had their skills down, Probst and Forster began teaching others; those students taught even more people.
Probst’s student Chew, for example, has created some
75 psyanky eggs and has taught others to make their own eggs.
“It was very addictive,” said Lori Moses, one of Probst’s egg students. “I enjoy small detailed work. (The eggs) are just so pretty and it’s so fascinating.”
For the egg writers of the past and present, crafting psyanky can be a spiritual experience.
In Ukraine, priests would bless the eggs and tables would be cleansed before egg writers sat down to work, Chew said.
Eggs were made in silence, as the patterns on the eggs were strongly linked to spiritual matters.
“For me, it’s kind of a contemplative activity,” Probst said. “It’s a time to be peaceful and a time to be thoughtful. I make eggs for a lot of people, and I’ll pray about that person as I’m doing it.”
Locally, it’s tough to find a psyanka that’s for sale.
The people who produce them tend to give them as gifts — if they’re generous. It’s easy to become a little miserly with your psyanky, as the eggs often take a couple of hours to produce, depending on how detailed the design and the size of the egg.
“You become attached to them,” Chew said. “You have a relationship with your eggs.”
aster candy is one of many traditions related to springtime. Locally, Maggie Mae’s owner Carol Morris makes her quarter-pound chocolate eggs in assorted flavors, including dark chocolate, white chocolate cheesecake, cappuccino, and white chocolate raspberry. Morris started making chocolate eggs because “it’s kind of tradition.” She grew up eating See’s Candy. Her eggs are $5.95 each, available at The Savory Swine. You’ll also find bright and cheery Sweet Shop USA Fudge Lovers eggs, from Baker’s Fine Gifts, $2.85.
f you’re looking to celebrate eggs in unlikely formats, artisan eggs come courtesy of the Columbus Visitors Center Gift Shop, 506 Fifth St.
Gazing at an Eickholt Glass Egg, $90, Columbus Visitors Center Gift Shop, will bring memories of egg hunts past into sharp focus.
You might want to hide candy in a sweet box with and egg-shaped handle and legs, from Bloomington-based Sleeping Dogs Studio, $42, available locally at Columbus Visitors Center Gift Shop.
Eggs will show up in a surprising place with egg-shaped earrings, from the Nashville-based Amy Greely Studio, $40, available locally at the Columbus Visitors Center Gift Shop.