Jane Auciello creates eggs that no Easter Bunny would want to hide.
The Sun City Center resident has learned the technique of egg painting that is unique to countries such as Russia, Poland, the Czech Republic, Romania and Ukraine.
In those Slavic countries, to color an Easter egg is to create a work of art.
Attendees at this weekend's 24th annual Apollo Beach Manatee Festival of the Arts and Music at E.G. Simmons Park will get an up-close look at the craft Auciello first learned 30 years ago.
While living in Delaware, a neighbor of Auciello's from Russia taught her this amazing form of art and sparked a lifelong passion for creating eggs that display original and intricate designs.
"Before World War II, you could actually tell where the egg decorator came from based upon the unique designs that were on the eggs," Auciello said.
Reproductions are not possible because each egg is one of a kind, designed and "painted" by hand, requiring many hours of a painstaking and precise technique.
Auciello spends a little more than 60 hours on one egg, not counting the time spent sanding the eggshells and measuring the shell for the pattern that she will create.
The cost of one of her creations varies according to the size of the egg and the intricacy of the design. Goose eggs can sell from $85 to $125, while the rhea and ostrich eggs can go for as much as $300. Eggs used to create these masterpieces include goose, ostrich and rhea, a bird slightly smaller than an ostrich that produces an egg about the size of a softball.
Auciello purchases her shells from farmers who raise these birds and sell the eggs that do not hatch in the incubator. Consequently, "no animals are ever harmed in the making of these works of art," Auciello said.
The farmer actually empties the contents of the eggs and cleans them before they are shipped, so she receives a perfectly formed egg that is ready to be transformed into something beautiful.
The entire process of designing and decorating the eggs involves many steps, but the most important one is the actual painting. Auciello does not use a paintbrush when she "paints" an egg, but rather a very finely pointed pen called a kistka, which in Ukrainian means "to write." So she is technically "writing an egg."
Using a combination of beeswax and special dyes, Auciello spends six to seven hours every day on her craft.
"I can spread out my time," Auciello said. "I don't do it all at once. But I don't have cable TV so I don't need to worry about missing my favorite show. I focus on my eggs instead. I probably put in more hours a day at my 'hobby' than I did when I was working full time."
That hobby has now expanded to include exquisite jewelry made from beautifully decorated ostrich eggs, as well as lamps.
Working in a large studio in her home, Auciello increases her inventory so she can travel to art festivals and shows to sell her creations. She has traveled as far as Virginia, New Jersey and Chicago and has attended as many as 10 shows a year in Florida.
During shows, such as the Apollo Beach Manatee Festival of the Arts and Music, she can display her unique artwork, sell enough eggs to pay for her supplies, perhaps make a little profit. That keeps her happy.
Contact Kathy Straub at email@example.com.