Easter, while not as great a gift buying season or party giving occasion, offers a challenge to the craftsman in the development of ideas. The delicacy of Easter's traditional colors, silver, white and pastel tones, inspires a similar delicacy and fragility in the objects to be made. There are interesting, unusual and profitable things you can make for the Easter season. Your own imagination will dream up many more than those suggested below.
Of all the items produced for the Easter season none is more characteristic than the Easter egg. Decorating the eggs for this season is one of the oldest customs we have. All races and religions adopted the egg as a decorative symbol expressing spring and the creation of new life. The decoration ranged from the crudest drawings to the most exquisite workmanship. The decorated eggs you can make fall between the average dyed job that anyone can do to the jewelled masterpieces of the old French and Russian courts.
A hardboiled egg will last for fifteen or twenty years providing it is not cracked. The basic color may be applied directly while cooking the egg. Eggs such as you will decorate will never be eaten for they will be too lovely to destroy, therefore regular all-purpose fabric dyes may be used. Prepare about a pint of dye according to the directions on the package. When it is thoroughly mixed with the water and just about the shade you want, let it simmer while you are preparing the eggs.
Draw design on a board. Hammer nails into the board at those points where tin must bend to follow design. A 3/4" wide tin strip is shaped to the design using the nails as guide-Join the ends with liquid solder. Try the original designs below. Dotted lines indicate shape to follow; tiny circles are guide nails, solid lines show where icing-lines are placed to emphasize the design.
Use only pure white eggs. Wash them in warm soapy water and rinse well. Put them gently into the simmering dye bath and keep them simmering until the shell has taken the tone you desire. Color only a few at a time. Since they will keep indefinitely, this preparatory work may be done over quite a long period.
See if you can get some duck or goose eggs. They are much larger (will take much longer to cook hard), easier to decorate and, because of their size, have good sales appeal. Experiment with color. The old time method of boiling the eggs in various vegetable and root juices is still a good one. Beet, onion and spinach waters give good tones to the eggs.
Another method of coloring hard-boiled eggs is by spraying them with paint or lacquer. The wax sprayer attachment of the vacuum cleaner may be used. Thin regular paint with turpentine, or lacquer with lacquer thinner are good. With this method very beautiful opaque colors are achieved which serve as perfect backgrounds for further decoration.
Gold and silver paint and artists' oil paints, used with small pointed sable brushes, may be used to develop small designs on the painted surface of the egg. Extreme delicacy in handling the brush is necessary, so it is a good idea to practice with poster paint. Being a water paint, it may be washed off. You might buy one or two china nest eggs from a farm supply store for practice purposes. When you have become quite skillful in handling the brush, do some designs with oil paints on the china eggs. The lustre of the china is a perfect background for colorful and delicate decorations.
Extremely tiny paper cut-outs, pasted down with Duco cement, may be combined to make beautiful designs. Tiny flowers and birds, facsimiles of precious jewels, wee geometric motifs are to be found for the looking in the color advertisements and illustrations of such magazines as "Vogue", "Harper's Bazaar", "House Beautiful" and "House and Garden". If you can't find exactly the right shape or size you want, design your own and cut it out from a richly colored section of some illustration. Use sharp nail scissors when cutting for they go around curves and into tiny crevices better than straight blades will. An eyebrow tweezer will handle very small pieces easily, especially when the cement has been applied tp the backs. Put the piece to be pasted to the egg in position and pat it down. Do not rub it for it will slip and perhaps mar the background color.
One of the most charming forms of decorations for Easter eggs is that achieved by means of sugar flowers and garlands. The same icing used for cakes and cookies is used here. Any standard cook book will give you the necessary recipe. Simply omit the flavoring. Delicate colors are obtained by adding a drop or two of vegetable coloring liquid to the icing before it is applied.
The best work will be done if you use specially designed pastry tubes for forcing the icing into the desired shapes. They are not expensive and may be bought in the housewares department of large stores. Tube #3 is used for stems, #15 for flowers, #65 for leaves and #46 and #86 for borders. Sometimes a set of tubes assorted and boxed, will be less expensive than buying them individually.
Before actually working a design on the egg, try it out on a piece of paper to see just how much icing to force through for each shape and how to lift away the tube to finish off the shape. A few minutes' practice will give you the knack and you'll be doing this form of decoration with quite a flourish.
This type of decoration should always be delicate in effect. Use pale colors only and quite sparingly. The background color should also be pastel in tone. If a touch of richness is desired, a dainty border or thin outline of gold or silver paint may be used. Sometimes but a few dots of metallic paint are all that are necessary to dramatize the design.
These eggs are really exhibition pieces to be treasured and displayed each Easter and then put away safely until the following year. Small stands to keep them from rolling may be constructed as shown on page 83. Easy to make, they are a bit of stage-setting that increase the importance and beauty of the egg. They also add to their sales appeal.
Like Christmas decorations, Easter eggs should be ready well in advance of the season, particularly if you plan to show them to gift shop buyers. The samples should be as perfect and as beautiful as you can make them. Do not try to have too many styles or colors. Confine yourself to showing only a few. They become more attractive by being exclusive, and your job in filling orders will be much easier if you have only three or four styles to duplicate in any quantity.
One of the most beautiful Easter ceremonies is that practiced in the Russian Orthodox Church. All participants at the Easter Mass carry lighted candles. These are sometimes decorated with fresh flowers and ribbons. The same idea may be effectively used for decorating the Easter breakfast or luncheon table.
Special Easter candles, decorated with pastel colored sugar flowers and tiny garlands, give a truly lovely effect. Make individual bases for each candle and cover the base with a garland of flowers. Pile them up slightly as they touch the candle to give the effect of supporting it.
The bases may be fashioned of thin pieces of wood, jigsawed in the desired shape. To be steady, the base should be at least 3" wide. Paint it a soft spring-like color, using enamel. When dry, drive a half-inch wire brad through the bottom at the exact center. The candle is impaled on that part of the brad which extends above the top of the base. By heating the brad slightly in the flame of a match, the candle may be pressed down on it more easily. Be sure candle is straight. Now decorate the base with the sugar flowers.
Delicate work and a lively imagination can transform ordinary eggs into collectors' pieces. Hard cooked, they will last for years. Dye, paint or laquer them in delicate pastels or rich dark tones. Decorate with painted designs or tiny little cut-outs pasted on with Duco cement. Finish with a coat of shellac. Another attractive style of decoration is that of sugar flowers. Put on with a pastry tube they harden and last indefinitely. Try them around the base of candles.