Elisa Mason

Pysanky Maker, Newton

Mason is a native of Pensacola, Florida, but has been living in Mississippi since 1991. In the late 1980s, she met a first-generation Ukrainian American woman who was living in Pensacola and was a master of pysanky, the Ukrainian egg decorating tradition. Mason worked with the woman from 1986 through 1989 to learn the tradition and has been active in the art form since then.

Pysanky (pronounced “pee-sahn-key”) eggs are not painted but are created with a process similar to batik. Designs are drawn on the egg with hot wax, using a tool called a kistka. The egg is then dyed and the areas covered by wax resist it. This process is repeated with a number of different colors of dye. When all the desired colors are applied, the wax is melted off of the egg to reveal the designs that were covered up in each stage of the process.

Mason creates a number of different traditional pysanky designs. Since the eggs traditionally have been made as part of Easter celebrations, many of the design elements are related to Christian beliefs, including fish, crosses, and triangles (symbolizing the Trinity). In addition to chicken eggs, she also uses goose and ostrich eggs for her designs, which provide larger surfaces for her to work. The ostrich eggs also have thicker walls, making them sturdier and longer lasting.

Mason also creates her own designs using the pysanky technique. Each fall she creates a unique Christmas design that she applies on chicken eggs and sells as ornaments. In 1999 she was a recipient of the Folk Arts Fellowships from the Mississippi Arts Commission. She also created eggs that were used as the awards for the 2000 and 2001 Governor’s Arts Awards.

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