PAINTING ON EGG SHELLS
Painting egg shells might be a staple craft activity in many family households this time of year, but for a small community in the town of Romania’s Ciocanesti, it’s much more. Elena Craclunescu, a woman who’s spent her whole life there, was recently the subject of The Egg Painter, a short film produced by the National Geographic, profiling her exquisite skills in the ancient art of egg painting.
Akin to batik, Elena uses an iron-dipped stick called a kishitze to paint intricate designs on her eggs in pure beeswax. Between three different stages of dipping the eggs in pools of dye, Elena adds more and more detail to each layer, heating up the egg and wiping it down afterwards. Only then is the final artwork revealed in its astounding level of detail.
Part of a tightly kit community of egg painters in Ciocanesti, this skill was passed down to Elena from her grandmother, and her grandmother before her. Since the age of 15 she has painted 600-700 eggs a year, and now her own children do the same. “When I sit down to paint eggs,” she says, “I forget about everyone and everything.”
Inspired by the motifs on local houses and traditional Romanian costumes, this craft not only provides a livelihood for families like Elena’s, but it offers respite from the daily stresses of life, along with a close connection to family heritage.
To all of our readers we wish the exact same this Easter holiday, so happy Easter from Selvedge!
Such beautiful patterns. Wonderful to watch how the eggs are decorated with the lovely traditional patterns. I envied Elena’s steady hand! (I also decorate eggs at Easter, but using simple methods such as onion-skins, red cabbage or other natural dyes in hot water and wrapping string or other textiles around the eggs. So very impressed with the ones in the video.)
Absolutely lovely video we are celebrating Romanian Easter this weekend for my partner and know of the egg painting tradition. I didn’t realise the beautiful technique that went into those eggs this lady was painting. Stunning! Mulțumesc
I really loved this tradition and craft I think there is a similar craft in Japan for making patterns with coloured silk threads around balls of polystyrène but I don’t know the name for it.
My mother came from a small village in County Durham where there was a tradition of bowling the decorated eggs down a hill and chasing your egg to the bottom to see whose egg got there first,
The hill was known as the Paste Egg Bank and the eggs were called paste eggs, I think the word “ paste “ comes from Pascal , an old word for Easter.
The eggs were decorated by tying onion skins around them before hard boiling..
I live in the Fens so no hills to race eggs down but I do decorate eggs with onion skins.