Description of Informant
NM (49) is a Massachusetts native living in California. He commits to a regular exercise routine and owns/operates a metal decking supply firm. NM enjoys strategy games, world news/current events, and participates in a weekly chess match with friends.
Context of Interview
The informant, NM, is met in his garden by the collector, BK, his nephew. They speak poolside.
BK: How about folk objects? Often these are handmade crafts, with a long tradition.
NM: Well, my mother is almost a professional Ukrainian egg [maker]. You’ve seen her eggs?
BK: Can you speak to those a little bit?
NM: I think she picked that up completely on her own. It was not something her family did. I think one of her friends introduced her to it. But yeah, I mean, the way it works is you’ve got these small little, little scooping tools that you heat up in a candle, scoop up a little bit of wax. And then if the metal of the scooper is heated up there’s a small pin for coal at the other end of the scoop. So then you’re drawing on an egg with that melted wax in a pattern, and then you’d dye-in a particular column. Let’s say you wanted to dye it blue, and then you wanted to heat up your little tool, the wax melts, and color in the triangle [with wax] that you wanted to remain blue. Then you’re dipping again in another color, so you’re losing whatever didn’t get covered in wax.
NM: So you’re starting off, you know, there’s some planning obviously going on if you’re– if the base color, the whole thing is red, you started with the red egg, and then you’ll have to cover the whole egg with wax and leave a couple [sections open to be re-dyed]. Yeah, like I know [my mother] has one that’s like red, white, and black. So she would have needed to make parts that she wanted to stay white. Make that design. Dip the whole thing in red. Then color all that in, in, in wax to keep the red and then leave little strips if she wanted those black and then dip that last bit in black.
NM: That’s my basic understanding but she’d do it with a full egg, not hard-boiled. And then after it was the way you wanted it, you would take this little contraption that would poke a hole in the bottom and suck out the goop, and put a shellac on it. And then hope the cat doesn’t jump up on the table and knock the basket onto the ground and break them all. Because it happened a couple times.
BK: Oh my gosh, how long would one take to make?
NM: Yeah, I mean, it depends on the time she had. But I think if you were dedicated to it on just the weekends. Yeah, weeks. Yeah, cuz it’s, I think, yeah, because it’s slow. It’s kind of slow work getting the wax. And they would actually, my sister would know, too, because they both did it. But my mom was, you know, [my sister is] pretty good at it, too. But my mom was really good at it. And I was little, so I wasn’t really ever paying attention to how long it took. But I think it would take a while. And maybe she’d have a couple going at once, where you’d get a basic pattern going. And what made it easier, were a lot of thick, elastic, rubber bands, so that you could create, you know, you put a thick elastic rubber band around, then you would have a guide that you could follow with your wax. So I think that helped a lot in some of the patterns. But it’s still very time-consuming. I don’t know if that’s big in New England or if she just took a little class on Ukrainian egg making.
The process of Ukrainian egg making is laborious and time-consuming, but the end result is more than beautiful. Their traditional nature adds to their value, but NM’s mother’s involvement calls the value into question. As NM mentions, his mother “picked up” Ukrainian egg making. Their family is mostly Irish; this was not a tradition that was “theirs” or passed down. So, are her Ukrainian eggs still “valid”?
In the case study of the New Mexican Natives selling traditional jewelry at the portal, the courts decided that such “appropriation” would not be supported or protected. But in that case, non-natives were looking to sell native-passing works. NM’s mother does not sell her eggs, though she may gift them. Though I, a non-Ukrainian, take no issue with her hobbyist involvement, I am curious to hear a Ukrainian perspective.
Pictured Below: Two of NM’s Mother’s Ukrainian Eggs