Through her 25 years of egg dying, Laurie Bedard has discovered an appreciation for the intricate detail, time and thought put into a decorated Easter egg.
“The colours mean things. The symbols mean things. It is more than just an egg,” said Bedard. “Some of the designs are more contemporary, but I like to stick to the traditional if I can.”
One of the earliest pieces of evidence of dying eggs for Easter dates back to the 13th century, according to an article written by the TIME USA.
During Easter celebrations, eggs represent new life, which could be interpreted as a celebration of spring. For those celebrating in the Christian faith, it symbolizes Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.
Traditional Ukrainian eggs are Bedard’s favourite. She said the eggs she creates hold a lot of symbolism in the colours and patterns she chooses.
“I’ve even given them as wedding gifts,” said Bedard. “I get their wedding colours, and I make them by finding out what they like, and what’s important to them. And I’ll put those symbols on their eggs because there is more to dying eggs than just the egg.”
In Bedard’s egg, shown in the picture, the colour black and the bands around the egg represent eternity. The colour red represents passion. The small white crosses, that resemble netting, represents Christ as a fisherman while the colour white represents purity. By Bedard centring the red, it represents the heart of cross.
In addition to weddings and Easter, Bedard has designed eggs for Christmas and Mother’s day and has done custom work on eggs of different sizes. For Mother’s day, she’ll design a mother’s favourite flower on the egg.
Once, she designed a custom goose egg for a woman in South Africa who wanted a depiction of the crucifixion and resurrection.
The best egg to dye is one with a white hard shell, according to Bedard.
“When I first started, I had my mother raiding the onion bins in Safeway,” said Bedard. “Way back when, they would boil the onion skins and the colour would come through. That process was how I got a really soft yellow dye.”
Now, she buys her dye from Alberta and they easily mix into water. Dye is applied in layers, with wax covering the areas not receiving dye. This process creates a “pysanka” – a traditional Ukrainian Easter egg.
Bedard’s paternal side of the family has European roots. Her grandfather came to Canada, during the Bolshevik Revolution in the 1900s, when he was 12 years old.
“I didn’t see any of my families’ eggs,” said Bedard. “But I thought it was something that I wanted to learn to do.”
Bedard makes her eggs by using an electric tool called a kistka.
She said it is much easier and more accurate than her original kistka that had to be heated manually with a candle. By sketching on her eggs first with pencil, Bedard ensures the design is symmetrical.
Once the design is pencilled on, she begins dying, from lightest to the darkest colours. The final touches in gold are painted on before she covers the egg in a clear oil-based polyurethane to give them a gloss finish.
Bedard said she has been working through variations of traditional patterns. She found a book that covers the interpretation of the meaning behind colours and symbols used called, “Pysanka: Icon of the Universe.”
“Not every egg comes out completely perfect, because it will never be perfect,” said Bedard. “But it’s close.”