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Updated 11:00 AM April 5, 2004
 

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Spotlight: Elegant eggs



People around the world can be found turning bland white eggs into colorful treats during Easter time, but Misty Mills enjoys the holiday tradition of decorating eggs all year long.
(Paul Jaronski, U-M Photo Services)

Mills, a word processing operator in the pathology department of the U-M Health System, learned the art of designing and creating Pysanki eggs at age 16 from the woman who would become her mother-in-law.

"It's really relaxing," she says. "When you are working on one, you are in your own world. Eight hours will go by, and you don't even realize it."

The eggs, a Ukrainian tradition, are created through a wax-resistant process using three to six different colors of dye, Mills says.

"Wherever you put the wax the dye won't take, and you keep dying it darker colors," she says. Once the wax is removed, the intricate designs and colors are revealed.

Each color and symbol used to decorate an egg has a special meaning, allowing all of Mills' creations to have a unique message incorporated in the design. Some of her favorite designs are interlocking fish and a starburst, which symbolize Christianity and purity or life, respectively.

"A lot of times I'll be working on an egg, and I'll look through my sketchbook and see something I want to incorporate," Mills says. "Sometimes I'll think of someone and create a design specifically for them."

In recent years Mills has been sharing her art form with others in the community. She teaches an Ann Arbor 4-H group, as well as classes of up to 30 people at Washtenaw Community College.

"I find a lot of people are taking my class because it's part of their heritage, and they want to know more about it," she says. "It's a dying art form, so I like people to know about it as much as possible to keep it going."

Currently a graphic design student at Washtenaw, she finds parallels between her schoolwork and egg decorating.

"I'm finding a lot of traditional things—like certain colors representing certain things—are still accurate today," she says. "People will always associate blue with peace and calm, and red with love."

While Mills sells some of her eggs at craft fairs and gives others to friends and family as gifts, she keeps many of her creations.

"I really like that you would end up with something really beautiful, and it just took a couple of hours out of your life," she says.

When she is not hard at work on her egg designs, Mills enjoys creating Web pages and writing movie scripts.

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