Five days of “playing eggs” with friends old and new, now that is my idea of what heaven is like. I just got back from the Pysanky USA Retreat 2015 in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, and am still on a pysanky high. Together with 70 other pysanky artists we spent our days giving and teaching classes, hanging out in the play room working on eggs, and catching up on each other’s lives. True community at its best.
This is a far-flung group to say the least. One person came from Japan and not only that, she comes from the same city where I was born. Such a small world, isn’t it? Another spent this last year on the medical ship Mercy Africa in Madagascar. Many folks came from the Northeastern states but we had attendees from the South, the Midwest, the West Coast and also Canada.
Here are just a few photos to give you a taste of my personal heaven.
Back in 2010 I had a solo art show of my eggs in the Art & Soul Gallery of our church. It was a huge leap of faith for me because it was the first time I really connected my art with my walk with God.
It ran throughout Lent, which is traditionally forty days of preparation for the Easter celebration of Christ’s Resurrection. Fasting and prayer often accompany this time of waiting. It is a season for reflection and taking stock. A time of soul-searching and repentance.
As I gave this thought and prayer, I recalled my childhood experiences with Lent. We usually chose to give something up as a reminder to pray and to look forward to the Easter celebration to come. It took a while but gradually words bubbled to the surface to express my Lenten experience. Fasting, prayer, listening, repentance. But the story didn’t stop there. At Easter fasting becomes abundance, prayer becomes hope, listening becomes growth and repentance becomes forgiveness. God’s story of love and transformation became more real now that I had words to express it.
Now I wanted to experience and express visually what that time of preparation meant to me. So the big question…how in the world do I take this colorful, traditional art done on eggs and give the viewer a sense of my own journey of faith? Eventually this thought crossed my mind. What if I gave up the use of color on these eggs? What if I only worked in black and white? My next thought was, “Are you crazy?”
I knew my designs would have to be strong enough to stand alone, without the distraction of color. How in the world do I create interest using only lines? I’d never tried this before and I was pretty sure I’d be able to do a few but could I create enough to fill the whole show? And what if I couldn’t come up with enough material in time? What if I failed? Fear, self-doubt, and a sense of the enormity of this task sidetracked me for a while.
As the days ticked by I kept hearing a soft voice say, “Just make one egg.” So I did.
“That wasn’t so hard,” I thought. And so I made another…and another…and pretty soon the design ideas flowed until chicken, duck, goose, and finally an ostrich egg all in black and white covered every surface of my workroom.
The show looked great in the gallery but I have no idea if anyone understood what I was trying to say with these eggs. And it doesn’t matter because the important part of the show for me was what I learned along the way. Sometimes God doesn’t give you the big picture. Sometimes you just have to start the journey and not focus on the goal. And sometimes you will find a joy in that journey that surprises you.
It’s that time of year. The 2015 Incredible Eggs calendar is out and I think this one is the best yet. And that’s not just because I have two egg photos in it this year. Click here to see the details and to preview the gorgeous photos.
Many of you know that I play the cello. I began as an adult and have been taking lessons for nearly seven years now and although I can see progress, I still can’t bring myself to claim the title of cellist yet.
The learning curve for this instrument is steep. For each note the fingers of my left hand have to press an exact spot on the string to produce the correct pitch. Depending on the sound I want and what the next notes will be, I have to choose which finger to use and whether to press just my fingertip or a flattened finger onto the string. Do I hold it steady or rock my hand to create vibrato? Meanwhile to form the purest tone my right hand controls the pressure, angle and placement of the bow as well as its speed across the string. So many choices with each and every note.
Truth be told, practicing is not always a pleasant experience…for me or the other inhabitants of my house. If I know my practice session will include work on some horribly hard stuff, I try to schedule my cello time when no one else is home. If that can’t happen I warn my family with our code phrase, “It’s going to be two-door bad.” That’s means I not only close the door to the room where I am practicing, but I also close their door in order muffle the sound as much as possible.
Over the years I do see improvement in my playing but it’s a painfully long and slow process. Sometimes that’s discouraging. Cringing as I hit yet another awful note can be debilitating. If I stop my bow, the note is gone but its memory lingers to mock my attempts. I often think, “Should I just give up now and spare the world this agony?” Thankfully God whispers life lessons to me in odd moments like this. It struck me recently that each time I pick up the cello I have a choice. I can’t do anything about the bad notes I played before but I can make each note I am currently playing as beautiful as possible. Those past regrets take away from today’s beauty and I need to let them go. Learn from them but move on. A valuable life lesson indeed.
Doing what you love is a good thing…but doing it with a bunch of other people who also love it is an amazingly good thing. I spent last week in Pennsylvania with 60+ other pysanky artists at an egg retreat learning, teaching, connecting and laughing with friends old and new. To put it simply, I went to summer camp for adults…and I highly recommend it.
This is my third year attending the Pysanky USA Retreat. I took a few classes, taught a few classes and mostly hung out in the “play room” where we could work on our own projects as we talked and shared about egg art and life in general. The room population ebbed and flowed throughout the day as classes started which allowed me to meet new people with the luxury of unhurried time on our side. Free flowing ideas sparked new techniques, new color combinations, new dyes to try. Wow, my brain got full fast!
I came away from this week not only with a renewed enthusiasm for this art but with a sense of community and connectedness to my fellow pysanky artists across the country. And I’m already looking forward to next year!
Here’s a glimpse of our week at Oak Hills Church Arts Camp!
God blessed me with 12 wonderfully creative 5th and 6th grade girls, two loving shepherd helpers and a calm and cheerful assistant teacher this year. Together we learned about God and His love for us while we learned the art of pysanky and how to create these jeweled wonders. We also learned that occasionally eggs break but life goes on because you get to start over on a new egg.
All valuable life lessons in my book.
Once again I’ll be teaching a week-long class of 5th and 6th graders how to create pysanky. Oak Hills Church in Folsom, California, bursts with activity as the campus transforms into a vast studio of kids and volunteers all focused on finding God through the arts.
Dance, music, theater, visual arts, creative craftsmanship, and even culinary arts come alive as we all learn how to nurture our creative souls.
For more information and to register, click here.
Her name is Fiona. At least that’s what I call this duck nesting in my yard. She actually belongs to my neighbor but kept finding her way back into my yard. Every day my neighbor would take her back home but Fiona got what she wanted. One day I found her sitting firmly on a nest and knew she was here to stay, at least until those eggs hatched.
A month is a long time to sit on a nest, but Fiona did her job well. She returned home very briefly morning and evening to eat but the rest of the time she sat…and sat…and sat. I found the nest empty once so I reached my hand in carefully to feel how many eggs she had. Unfortunately Fiona was just returning to my yard and she did not take kindly to me touching her precious eggs. Did you know ducks can hiss? And run really fast when they want to? It’s scary!
The big day arrived when nine little yellow puffballs followed their mama around my yard. There is nothing cuter than a baby duck! We ran out to snap a few photos, steering clear of Fiona’s fiercely protective pecks then left them alone to find their way back into our neighbor’s yard.
Fast forward a couple of days and now Fiona and her brood are regular visitors to our koi pond. She takes them back to her own yard to eat and sleep, but at least three times a day they make a field trip to go swimming. It would have been fine if they just swam, but now they were starting to dig in our plants and muddy up the water. I wondered what the fish thought of their new neighbors so I watched carefully. One of our bigger koi started nibbling on a baby duck’s paddling foot and that baby just gave him a good peck. Problem solved. I laughed at their antics but I knew we had to do something because I was tired of dealing with the muddy pond.
Last week as the ducks swam happily I found their secret entrance to my yard. Now to get the ducks out of the pond and back to their own home. I tried shooing them but that didn’t work very well. Next I used my arms and a pond skimmer which helped with the herding somewhat. I managed to get them back to the fence near their escape route but Fiona held her ground pretty well and wasn’t much interested in taking her babies home.
Next idea…maybe if I could grab a couple of babies and push them underneath the fence she’d take the hint. I herded them all against the fence and got close enough to pick up two babies and push them into the yard next door. Fiona went ballistic at that and started attacking me…and ducks peck hard! I managed to get another duckling under the fence when all of a sudden Fiona nipped the tender skin of my forearm and hung on for dear life.
It’s funny how your brain can operate on a couple of different levels at once. As I raised up my arm with the mama duck hanging in midair, one part of me thought, “That’s not right…and it hurts!” But the other part of my brain said, “Hey she’s occupied, now’s my chance to get the rest of those babies out of here.” So with my free hand I kept grabbing and shoving until all the babies were next door peeping for their mama. Fiona let go and I was able to catch her and shove her under the fence too. Whew! It took a couple of cement blocks to fill the space but we haven’t had any more duck visitations since then.
Through February 5, 2014
Some of my eggs are on display Monday to Friday from 8 AM to 5 PM at Gallery 625 in the County Administration Building 625 Court Street, Woodland, CA 95776
Sunday September 8, 2013
Veterans Memorial Center Theater and Community Hall
203 East 14th Street
Davis, California 95616
Come see Ukrainian arts, crafts, dance, music, and food at the Ukrainian Festival celebrating the 30th Anniversary of the Ukrainian Heritage Club of Northern California.
I will be there with a wide variety of my pysanky for sale so stop by and say hi!
Here is a link for more details.
Maybe it’s my “almost-an-empty-nester” stage but more and more I find myself taking stock of where I am in life, where I thought I would be at this age, and wondering what I will become in the future. And of course those dreaded comparisons and regrets start creeping in. The what-ifs and why-didn’t-I’s can all too easily overwhelm me and take away the joy of the present.
A while back I came across a line about allowing God to transform the broken places in your life into prisms. Can’t you just see that? What a beautiful word picture of redemption and hope. That idea has been rolling around in the back of my head for a while and so I began to review my life again. What if I start looking at my faults as prisms reflecting God’s beauty outside of my selfish little world? How this happens I don’t know but I’m holding onto God’s goodness and grace and letting Him be in charge, or at least I’m trying to.
I love when God whispers His truth to me through my art. I love it even more when I pay attention and actually listen. Over the years I have collected quite a pile of broken eggs. Some were completed and accidentally cracked. Some didn’t turn out as I’d hoped and were abandoned partway through the process. I couldn’t bring myself to toss any of them so they just sat in a drawer collecting dust. Every time I opened the drawer they shouted at me that I had failed in some way.
Now what if I used those broken bits somehow? Could I really transform them into something more? After a lot of experimentation I can finally say yes.
These egg mosaics have been a challenge and a delight to create. I’m still discovering new ways to improve my designs and having fun in the process. Not only that, I will be teaching a class on this technique at the Pysanky USA retreat in Pennsylvania next week.
There is nothing better than combining kids and God and art all at the same time. That’s what Arts Camp at Oak Hills Church does…and does very well I might add. Our Children’s Pastor, Colleen Gray and her amazing team turn our church campus and hundreds of volunteers into a smooth-running, exciting, enthusiastic machine where nearly three hundred kids get to experience God for a whole week through arts such as Dance, Theater, Music, Visual Arts, Creative Craftsmanship, and Culinary Arts.
The seven fifth/sixth grade girls in my pysanky class accomplished much more than any previous year’s class. Most of them finished four eggs and some more than that. I beamed as they proudly showed their parents the results of their focused work in class. And their excitement spilled over at home as parent after parent reported back to me how their child couldn’t stop talking about their eggs and how sad they were when Friday finally arrived.
More than thirty years ago in my former life (those days before marriage and children) I worked as a registered nurse first in a hospital and then in a doctor’s office. Another life chapter began when I started teaching Body & Soul, an international program that combines faith and fitness. Twenty three years later I’m still leading my fitness class weekly and have also been speaking and demonstrating the art of pysanky to individuals and small groups whenever the opportunity arises.
As I reflect back on all those experiences I noticed a common thread…teaching. I never thought of myself as a teacher before but the more I thought about it, the more it makes sense. Even when I worked as a nurse, the part I liked best was that one-on-one time teaching.
I delight in taking complex topics, breaking them down to understandable pieces, and communicating those ideas in a simple way the listener can grasp. I also love the challenge of coming up with different ways to transmit knowledge to help the student gain success. And I especially love seeing that student’s eyes light up with understanding when the “light bulb” turns on at last.
In a couple of weeks I get to teach another group of fifth and sixth grade students all about this egg art called pysanky. Arts Camp 2013 at Oak Hills Church in Folsom is one of the highlights of my year. Students from first through sixth grade come together for a week of fun and excitement where they explore a particular art and in the process learn more about the God who created them.
If you know of a student who might be interested, it’s not too late to sign up for this great adventure. My class still has a few spots left and I know there are openings in a wide variety of other arts as well. For more information, click here.
Let the fun begin!
I am a “behind the scenes” person by nature. I do not like being the center of attention. And that sentiment goes a long way back. In second grade I remember vividly a time when our classroom ended up with an extra red rubber ball after recess one day. My teacher asked for a volunteer to return it to the neighboring classroom and everyone jumped up waving arms ecstatically in the air. That is, everyone except me. I sat quietly with hands folded thinking, ”Why would anyone want to go and do that?” Sister Mary Vincent settled the class down and then imagine my shock when she called on me. I began quaking in my saddle shoes as she handed me the ball. I can still feel the terror of leaving the safety of my classroom to walk that long hallway, knock on the door and then enter the other classroom, all eyes fixed on me. Oh the horror!
Given my aversion to the limelight, it’s rather hard to imagine myself on television but that’s what happened on the Friday before Easter. With just a few days notice Channel 31 Good Day Sacramento’s Cody Stark and his camera man came into my kitchen to highlight my egg art. Me on live TV, just like that. I didn’t have much time beforehand to fret and get nervous which is probably a good thing. And talking about pysanky and demonstrating the process was easy. While I can’t exactly call myself a television star, I can at least say,”Want to see me on TV? Click here.”
I got a package in the mail this week. I knew it was on its way but had nearly forgotten, so seeing it in the postal box and tearing it open brought a Christmas morning thrill. At last, the promised September 2012 issue from the Egg Artistry Guild of Australia. And on page 19 I found an article with my name and some photos of my eggs. I’m practically famous!
In case you’re wondering, here’s the path that led to this article. At the egg retreat in July I took a class on etching emu eggs and posted a photo of the finished egg to my pysanky chat group. The editor of the Australian Guild saw it, contacted the owner of Pysanky USA, the online store that sponsored the retreat, who called me to ask permission to pass on my information. A flurry of emails back and forth and voila, people in Australia are now reading my one page feature. Small world, huh?