Montevideo woman creates one-of-a-kind art at Easter
When it comes to Easter eggs — the Ukrainians simply do them better.
That’s a lesson Carol Siverhus learned 32 years ago after attending a class in Montevideo about making the eggs, a time-honored tradition in Ukraine. She’s been creating one-of-a-kind Ukrainian eggs during the Easter season ever since.
“Ukrainian eggs are beautiful,” Siverhus said. “It’s a way of expressing yourself.”
With their intricate, geometric designs and vibrant colors, Ukrainian eggs look nothing like the eggs most people create around Easter, with vinegar dye and stickers from a box kit. These eggs require much more effort and artistry, and Siverhus has mastered the process.
“I’ve learned a lot of things as I go,” Siverhus said. “It didn’t all come on the original instruction sheet I got.”
It begins by choosing the right eggs, she explains. She buys her eggs from farmers around the region who feed their animals as naturally as possible. Unlike regular Easter eggs, she doesn’t hard boil them before decorating, either.
She’s also found that different animal eggs work better for different designs. For example, a duck egg will have more shine than a chicken egg, and goose eggs are bigger and sometimes easier to work with. She also has two very large eggs, one from an emu and one from an ostrich, which she plans to use in the near future.
Once she has an egg, she then decides on a design and the colors she wants to use. Siverhus freehands all of her designs and can find inspiration from anything. One of her eggs, a multicolored design, was inspired by the stained glass at Vinje Lutheran Church in Willmar.
When she has a clear design in mind, she sketches it out on the egg with a hard lead pencil, using a dot system to connect lines and shapes. Then, she dips the entire egg in the first color of dye, which she specially purchases from a Ukrainian shop in the Twin Cities.
Once the egg has dried, she heats a candle for wax and uses a tool called a “kistka,” which has a funnel on one side, to gather some of the wax. The other side of the kistka is pointy, and she uses that end to draw the wax on the part of the egg that will be the color of the first dye. She then repeats the entire process, using various colors of dye.
The final step is to put the egg in the oven to melt the wax off, finishing with a coat of varnish.
“It’s always a surprise to see what the egg looks like when you pull it out of the oven,” Siverhus said. “It’s much like a potter, when they put their pots in the kiln. You don’t know exactly what it will look like until it comes out.”
A Christian as well as an artist, Siverhus has created many eggs that have a religious meaning. For example, a triangle on a Ukrainian egg symbolizes the Holy Trinity. A net or a fish has ties to the Bible verse from the book of Matthew, when Jesus says, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
Nearly every one of her eggs has a symbol on it that carries special meaning, as well as her initials and the year she completed the egg.
“I like the meaning of the eggs more than anything else,” Siverhus said.
She has also made Ukrainian eggs for special people in her life. When her great-granddaughter and great-grandson were born, she made an egg for each of them, which she plans to give them when they’re older. When her husband died in 2002, she created a special egg in his memory.
In the springtime, she displays many of her favorite eggs in her Montevideo home, including the first egg she made back in 1981, enclosed in a glass case.
Over the last 32 years, Siverhus has made “too many eggs to count,” not only for herself but for friends, family and neighbors. This year, she has about three dozen displayed around her home, and 15 dozen packed away in an upstairs room. Despite her massive collection of eggs, she never tires of making new ones.
“Egg art is just fun,” she said. “It’s a lot of work, but I love doing it. I like the intricate work of it. It’s nothing like coloring eggs with the dyes from kits you find in the grocery store.”