Fine art eggs a meditation for Cain

By Anthony Welch

Walking into Marilyn Cain’s home, it’s impossible to miss a glass display case that houses numerous intricately-designed, porcelain-looking eggs. These aren’t your usual Easter eggs by any means.

Marilyn was introduced to the fine art of pysanka back in the late 80s and has been hooked ever since. A pysanka is a Ukrainian Easter egg, decorated with traditional Ukrainian folk designs using a wax-resist method. The word pysanka comes from the verb pysaty, “to write” or “to in scribe,” as the designs are not painted on, but written (inscribed) with beeswax.

“It’s an art form that goes back before Christ,” Marilyn said. “I call it the early Hallmark cards, because every color and every symbol has a meaning.”

In the Ukraine, some people call them Easter eggs, according to Marilyn. The eggs are made in secret throughout the year, then placed in special baskets and revealed later.

“No one wants anyone to know what their eggs look like,” she said. “It’s kind of funny.”

In the late 80s, Marilyn was at a gun show with her husband Joe when she noticed a woman setting up a booth with a bunch of jars that had colors in them.

“I was fascinated by what she was putting out there, so, finally, I went over and asked what she was doing.”

The woman went on to tell Marilyn about pysanka and gave her information on where to buy supplies to make her own.

“I basically taught myself, and I have been absolutely hooked on it,” she said.

The process behind pysanka involves using a fine funnel-shaped tool called a kistka, which is loaded with beeswax and used to draw lines on an egg. The egg is then dyed, and the process repeated through successively darker colors.

“It’s not a craft. It’s a fine art,” Marilyn said. “I just enjoy them.”

Marilyn became obsessed with her newfound hobby. And her husband Joe was super supportive, repurposing a gun case to display the eggs he was really fond of and didn’t want Marilyn to sell. That’s the very case in her home now. He also designed displays for her, and the couple ventured to art shows in Denver, Colorado Springs, Vail and Beaver Creek.

“It’s very interesting to watch the public when they see (the eggs) for the first time,” Marilyn said. “They don’t believe they’re real eggs.”

Marilyn recalls one experience at an art show, where a woman doubted that her creations were real eggs. She dyes chicken eggs, goose eggs and even much larger ostrich eggs.

“I handed her an egg. She started squeezing it. I didn’t like her attitude. They act like I’m lying to them,” she recalled. “She said, ‘Is it breakable?’ I said, ‘Yeah it is, and you’ll pay for it if you break it or damage it.’ She was squeezing a pretty expensive egg.”

Marilyn recalled another moment from one of the shows she attended.

“Another woman came up and asked if I had any with a Lutheran cross on it,” she said. “I said, ‘I’m not really sure what that looks like, but I’m pretty sure there’s not going to be any denominations in heaven.’ She went storming off.”

In 2010, Marilyn was in a serious car wreck. The accident knocked her out of commission for quite a while. Then in 2017, Joe succumbed to cancer. The couple was living in their home state of Kansas at the time, but Marilyn wanted to move back to Colorado Springs. The couple lived here in the 70s before returning to Kansas.

“I was born and raised in Kansas. I didn’t like Kansas,” Marilyn said. “Everyone kept saying, ‘You’d better start doing those eggs again.’ I thought, ‘Well, I’ll try.’”

Just two months ago, Marilyn restocked a ton of blank eggs in her house and took to the fine art once again.

“The first couple were terrible,” she said. “I just threw them away.”

But she quickly found her touch again, along with the calm and meditative peace the hobby brings to her.  Three weeks ago, Marilyn was sick with the flu. It left her with shaky hands as she recovered. However, when she’d sit down to work on her eggs, the shakes would go away.

“It’s just soothing to me. I’d rather do this than anything else,” Marilyn said. “I never know ahead of time what I’m going to do with an egg. The Lord just kind of takes over and does it … don’t ask me how.”

While she was sick, Marilyn’s children came to her aid, bringing groceries over and tending to her. Marilyn knew they wouldn’t accept money in return for the kindness, so she gave them one of her eggs. She did the same with the neighbor down the street.

“She had a look on her face like I just gave her gold,” Marilyn said. “It’s just so nice to see people’s faces when they get them, because they are special. It’s not something you can go to Walmart and buy.”

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