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English \ Culture \ Anderson woman turns plain eggs into pieces of art
ANDERSON -- The place where the magic of her creativity happens isn't big.

There's a bench, a lamp and a chair located at the end of hallway that also serves as her washroom. It is a utility room, yet a peaceful place with its walls of grass green and wicker baskets.

Everything here has a place.

And at one end of her work bench stands a small metal tree with ornaments hanging from it that offers a glimpse into what she does here -- in the quiet hours when she's not cooking dinner or raising her daughters.

This is a corner of Kelly Milko's world, the place where she takes an ordinary egg -- from a chicken, a goose or an emu -- and turns into a work of art. In a couple of hours, Kelly can take a egg and decorate it in an array of colors and designs using beeswax and dye.

"The first time I saw the eggs, I was amazed," said Kelly, of Anderson.

The eggs, called Pysanky, are a traditional art form from the Ukraine, the birthplace of her husband, John's parents. The first time she saw them, Kelly said, was when she visited her in-laws, who lived in Ontario, Canada. There she saw several Pysanky on display in her mother-in-law's china cabinet.

"I would sit across from the china cabinet, when we ate dinner, just so I could admire the eggs," Kelly said.

From there, John's niece taught her how to create the Pysanky.

She showed her how to take a small pen-like tool with a funnel on the end, drop a small piece of hardened beeswax into the funnel, hold it over a candle to melt the wax. Then she would draw a design on the egg slowly and dye the egg, dipping into a glass jar filled with dye with a metal spoon.

The process is repeated over and over again, using the various colors and building layer upon layer of design.

That was 15 years ago.

Since then, Kelly has created collages of geometric patterns and designs on hundreds of eggs of all sizes. She's made them for family members, friends and sold them at shows. Her hair stylist even has some on display at her salon on North Main Street in Anderson.

"My favorite ones are these with the curls," Kelly says, pointing to her metal tree adorned with Pysanky ornaments. "The curls mean protection and defense. They remind of a hug."

A small-framed woman with short, pixie-style hair, Kelly quickly admits she is someone who didn't always listen to her creative side, the artist within.

"I used to draw all the time as a child," Kelly said. "When I watched cartoons, I could draw the cartoons really well. My grandmother used to say, 'You could sell those commercially.' But when I finished school, I started working in factories and thought nothing about it."

But like many of us know, life often makes circles.

For Kelly, creating the Pysanky is calming, she says. She can sit there at her bench and slowly let her imagination play. The tools are minimal. And she says the art is a frugal one because eggs are an inexpensive canvas.

Aside from the physical beauty of the Pysanky, Kelly -- herself originally from Canada -- says she was also intrigued by the culture and the tradition behind them.

"Maybe it's because I'm a Heinz 57," Kelly said. "In my family, we had no culture that we really focused on. So I find my husband's culture really interesting."

The decorated eggs can be traced back more than 2,000 years ago, she said. They were treasured because of the great power believed to have been embodied in the egg. However, after the advent of Christianity, the Pysanky came to symbolize the resurrection and the promise of eternal life.

In traditional times, Ukrainian women would paint the Pysanky throughout the season of Lent -- often working on them after the daily chores were complete and the children were in asleep, Kelly said.

Then on Easter, the Pysanky would appear in the children's Easter baskets and would be given to friends and family members.

As with most traditions, they are always threatened by the apathy of youth.

Such is the case with the Pysanky. However, Kelly has a carton of eggs on display in one of her china cabinets now -- full of eggs decorated by her children. So this artist is doing what she can to pass on the mystery of the beautiful painted eggs to another generation.

Now, Kelly is telling her 16-year-old daughter, Natalie, the same thing that her grandmother once told her -- hoping that she too will keep the artist alive.
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