Published on March 31st, 2013 | by Charu Suri3
In the Czech Republic, Hand Painted Easter Eggs As Art Form
I remember strolling through the Union Square Farmer’s Market last year around the time of Easter and stopped to marvel —no, drool—at the incredibly detailed hand-painted eggs from Czechoslovakia. To say that these were miniature works of art would actually be an insult to how beautiful and intricate they were.
“Please, no touching,” the saleswoman scolded me, as I reached out to take a closer look at the candy-like item, much like a kid. I then realized I was looking at a hand-painted original.
While I did not purchase these eggs (they were far too expensive for my budget), I went home thinking about them, and how such a tradition transpired.
Kraslice, the Czech word for Easter Egg, is elevated to a different level in the country. Traditionally, girls decorate the Easter egg and give them to boys as gifts. The Czech Easter tradition is called Velikonoce and the attention to detail is painstaking, often involving several hours. None of this “I dyed the eggs blue and went to town with my Sharpie,” but rather, these eggs are painted through several methods.
Photo credit, Flickr
Photo credit, Flickr
Some of the methods include the batik dye method whereby the entire egg is wrapped in several knots made of wires, and then brushed with wax. As with the typical tie dye method, the surface is scratched to reveal the colors, but obviously one has to be extra cautious with the eggshell if any scratching is involved. Materials used include bee’s wax, straw and watercolors. Some eggs are also made from purely natural materials, including clay, wood, twigs, straw and even linen.
In the Czech Republic, Easter typically means the heralding of spring because any religious connotations were buried under the table with communism. Even though Easter is by no means a huge or significant religious holiday in the Republic, the traditions of hand painting the eggs are strong and vibrant. By far the most recognizable patterns are the geometric ones, especially in various shades of the same color, but you’ll also see leaves and flowers and other patterns like snowflakes. Red and other bright colors are thought to symbolize joy and happiness, so many Easter eggs are decked in these, especially with the advent of spring.
Many regions in the Czech Republic have acquired certain specialties when it comes to decorating the Easter egg: in Valassko (Wallachia), eggs are decked in certain colors to depict roosters (red, orange and black). In South Moravia, Easter eggs make use of the scratching (tie dye) technique. Because these eggs were actually given as gifts, it was unthinkable to give someone pure white eggs without any thought or effort behind them.
In Prague, a shop called Manufaktura, was created to preserve and present Czech and Moravian craft which is in danger of disappearing nowadays. The shop has managed to bring together more than 250 small craftsmen, former masters of folk production, to ensure that this tradition stays alive.