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Mask Up #13


Honor your family’s hard work, resilience, and drive to protect others during the brutal times of the Pandemic with this regal, powerful pysanka.

Featuring a blend of traditional and modern motifs, this pysanka is a one of a kind creation sure to delight. Although pysanky is traditionally considered a Christian art, despite its Pagan origins, Nolie Marie practices it as an art of inclusion for all cultures, out of respect for their own Jewish roots; and it is in this spirit that Nolie has incorporated a pattern of theirs nicknamed “Oranges on the Seder Plate,” a vivid citrus pattern harkening to a Jewish proverb about the value of protest, and inclusion.

As the story goes, during the days when cis women fought for ordination in Jewish rabbinical institutions, a cis male rabbi once said, “A woman belongs on the bimah (the stage from which Jewish ritual ceremonial public life is conducted) like an orange on the seder plate (the ceremonial plate from which the ritual Pesach foods are served).” This meant the total exclusion of women from the highest precipices of Jewish public spiritual life. In response, generations of Jewish women placed oranges on their Seder plates, “in honor of Miriam and Batya and the other women of hte Exodus story, who deserve greater honor in the retellings,” and stood their ground against any male kin who objected. Nolie grew up with this tradition, and the arguments surrounding it, even as it morphed to LGBT Jewish people placing a crust of bread–Chametz– on their seder plate as well. This tradition is even more forbidden–turning the statement on its head, to be a bold cry that no one can ever be Chametz, or forbidden. That all are welcome, and will be cared for.

It is in that spirit that Nolie designed the “Oranges on the Seder Plate” pattern, and utilizes it to celebrate stories of activism, advocacy, community resilience, and resistance to oppression. Solidarity with each other, and with those “still in bondage”, as we say at Passover, has been a key experience of many through the Covid-19 Pandemic, and Nolie wished to ensure that those who felt this drive had an outlet to discuss that with any younger kids, or future generations, who might need to process the urgency with which we have cried “BLACK LIVES MATTER”  or “SAY HER NAME!” Paired with compasses for wisdom and guidance, flowers for wisdom, spirals for protection, and tiny stars for wisdom, this egg speaks of the kind of community leadership and wisdom that leads to protest and collective action. For many of us, that defining experience of the Pandemic is what we most remember, or wish our families to remember, and process. The feeling of the world changing, and us having a moment to change it, and not return to a status quo that worked for very, very few of its inhabitants. For those who are too young to have experienced it, it provides an opportunity to talk about eviction pauses, rent freezes, essential workers, stimulus money, emergency housing for houseless people, and other such emergency measures that were enacted that would have been thought impossible even in July of 2019.  This egg celebrates protest, protest art, community resilience and drive for change–spirits we may need with us in fore, as vaccines’ efficacy wanes, undervaccination continues, and people become increassingly afflicted by Long Covid, with increasingly endangered access to the range of treatments to help it. Mask Up #14 is both a discussion of the past, and a wish for the future, for an activist family who wishes to center their drive to change, to strive for Tikkun Olam, to put it in Jewish terms. 

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For centuries, people have used the art of pysanka to document life cycle events, or well wishes for loved ones. In keeping with this talismanic intent, Nolie Marie Wilson designed the “Mask Up” psanky series, to enable people to contextualize their own family’s experiences during the Covid-19 Pandemic with larger historical events, and offer wishes for the future, or talk about continuing fears.

Cunningly designed to adapt a traditional pysanky division (method of laying out large spaces on the egg to be filled with smaller patterns or shapes) into stylized facial masks, each of the two masks and backdrop dimensionally laid out on the egg is filled with modern motifs based on traditional Pysanky symbolism designed to describe various aspects of the things people have endured during the Covid-19 Pandemic, or wishes for the future. With the eggs designed to be both exquisite, one-of-a-kind conversation starters, and therapeutic tools to enable families to discuss painful topics with young children, such as which memories are most important, and which emotions left the deepest impressions on them, it is Nolie’s hope that whether you aim to acquire your Mask Up egg from the ready-made collection based on symbolism they combined in awareness of many of their own loved ones’ paths during the Pandemic, or whether you are seeking to acquire a custom-made Mask Up psanka with further customization, perhaps a loved one’s birthday or Yahrzeit worked into the designwork, these eggs will foster a sense of peace, perspective, history, and understanding among those you share it with. Mask Up Psanky are available as hanging ornaments, with the drain hole on top covered by the ornament mounting, or as a stand egg, with the drain hole on the bottom, where it will be concealed by the stand. They will be shipped with either a protective varnish finish, or a UV resistant, impact-resistant, resin coating ($35 extra per psanka, and requires additional time to prepare the pysanka for shipping, so that resin can be cured.) Each ready-made egg will state in the description which type of egg construction it is; where the drain hole is placed, if it has already been mounted on hardware for hanging, if it may have structural flaws that make it more likely to crack during curing if a resin topcoat is added. Please be sure you are aware of this when ordering, as well as the necessity of requesting the resin coating as an add-on, as we cannot accept returns, owing to the highly fragile and unique nature of the pysanky. It simply would not be possible to produce ready-to-ship variants of every display construction, every durability finish, without drastically reducing the options available to pick from. If a particular display method is more convenient for you, it still may be possible to adapt the egg to suit it, mounting an ornament top, in addition to a covered drainage hole on the bottom, for instance.

Each psanky egg comes packaged with material explaining the symbolism in the designwork of the series, so that you can see how many motifs you can spot in your egg’s minute details, some so fine that they require application under a magnifying glass for precision. While each egg is priced based on the amount of time and colorwork that goes into it, they are aimed to include a variety of price levels across restocks. Not included: Your display stand of choice. The one in the picture is this one, from Amazon. Affiliate links may be used. We suggest applying a tacky wax designed for use with pysanky eggshells, to aid in gripping the egg, if your area of display is one that may have heavy traffic, such as a low table, instead of a raised shelf. If you do not see a Mask Up egg with your story in mind, please visit the Custom Ordering FAQ for information about what questions to ask, inspiration to send, when contacting Nolie about a potential custom order.

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