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Tracy Frank, Published April 09 2014

Transforming eggs into works of art

FARGO – When it comes to egg decorating, MaryJo Cayley doesn’t just dye eggs, she creates elaborate works of art.

The 56-year-old Fargo artist has been practicing pysanky, Ukrainian egg decorating, for 30 years.

“My first thought when I was younger was, ‘Who would want to paint on an egg?’ It is very fragile,” Cayley said. “I just think the eggs are so beautiful.”

Pysanky is a very old tradition of Ukrainian folk art, according to The Ukrainian Museum in New York. The Ukrainian pysanka (singular form of pysanky) was believed to possess an enormous power in the egg and in the symbolic designs and colors drawn upon the egg in a specific manner, the museum states on its website.

“The intricately colored eggs were used for various social and religious occasions and were considered to be a talisman, a protector against evil, as well as harbingers of good,” the website states.

In decorating pysanky, Cayley drains the eggs and draws a design on them with hot wax before dying them.

Her eggs are adorned in intricate patterns and vibrant colors. She says each one tells a story.

Cayley decorates chicken, goose, and ostrich eggs and sells the eggs for anywhere from $10 to $250, depending on the size and intricacy of the pattern. She also makes urns out of the decorated ostrich eggs.

Cayley is teaching the basics of pysanky at the Fargo Public Library Saturday and has offered classes through Moorhead Community Education. She says the classes are popular. Her free library classes are nearly full.

Cindy Mason, Fargo Public Library children’s librarian, who also plans programming events for the library, says she thought the pysanky classes would make for a unique program, especially around Easter.

“Part of our mission talks about providing opportunities and resources to promote lifelong learning,” she said. “It’s also a way to give people who may not come to the library a reason to come in and see what we have to offer.”

Cayley is also displaying some of her eggs at the Heritage Hjemkomst Interpretive Center through June 2 for the FMVA (Fargo Moorhead Visual Artists) Big Art Show.

A variety of two- and three-dimensional art from emerging and established artists is being displayed along with a statement from the artists about their inspiration in creating the work and the technique involved in making it.

“They are just gorgeous,” Mason said of the eggs. “It’s also really interesting to learn about the cultural significance.”

Cayley hopes to participate in the FMVA Studio Crawl in October. The educational event gives local working artists the chance to demonstrate and discuss their art for the public.

If You Go

WHAT: Eggs with Flair: Ukrainian Eggs decorating class, by Fargo artist MaryJo Cayley

WHEN: 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Saturday

where: Fargo Public Library main branch, 200 3rd St. N., Fargo

INFO: Free, but space is limited and pre-registration is required, http://goo.gl/S6UNxz or (701) 241-1492. Contact Cayley at maryjocayley@yahoo.com or (701) 280-0646

If You Go

WHAT: Fargo Moorhead Visual Artists Big Art Show Reception by Historical & Cultural Society of Clay County

WHEN: 5 to 7 p.m. Tuesday

where: Hjemkomst Center, 202 1st Ave. N., Moorhead

INFO: Free and open to the public, www.hcscconline.org

Readers can reach Forum reporter Tracy Frank at (701) 241-5526