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Hot Springs Egg Artist Named 2015 Arkansas Living Treasure

Arkansas Arts Council - Monday, April 06, 2015

At the age of eight, when most girls her age are playing with dolls, Lorrie Popow of Hot Springs was creating intricate works of art on eggs.

Her story began with a walk to the local drugstore to buy some makeup for her mother. She grew up in a Ukrainian neighborhood in Chicago, now known as Ukrainian Village. She passed a shop window where a woman was working on egg art. She stopped and stared and became fascinated with the process. In that moment, she made a promise that she would become an egg artist.

Almost 55 years later, Popow is an internationally-known egg artist, whose work is found in collections throughout the world, including the Ukrainian National Museum in Chicago. Her artistic accomplishments, along with her dedication for teaching the art to others, have earned her the title of 2015 Arkansas Living Treasure. She will be honored at a public reception from 5-7 p.m. on Tuesday, May 12, at Garvan Woodland Gardens in Hot Springs. Reservations are required. Call (501) 324-9766 or email faye@arkansasheritage.org by Friday, May 8.

The Arkansas Living Treasure program annually recognizes an Arkansan who is outstanding in the creation of a traditional craft and has significantly contributed to the preservation of the art form. An independent panel of practicing craft artists and professionals in the fields of craft and folk art select the recipient based on the following criteria: quality of work, community outreach and overall contribution to the field of traditional crafts.

Popow and her husband, Tom, whom she met in Ukrainian Village, moved to Hot Springs in 1973. She works on her eggs daily. "All of my adult life, I've been taking care of ill family members. When I work on my eggs, it's therapeutic. I go into another world," she said. "All of my eggs mean something to me."

She is mostly known for her work in pysanky egg art, but specializes in all aspects of egg artistry, including carved, filigree, etched, painted and decoupage.

She earned the prestigious Master of Egg Art in pysanky from the International Egg Art Guild, in addition to earning master levels in three other forms of egg art.

Pysanky is an ancient Ukrainian form of egg art using a wax-resist method, with dyes and beeswax. No painting is involved in the process. "The art of pysanky is said to be over 4,000 years old," Popow said. "In ancient times, it was believed the eggs had great powers. The eggs were created to protect homes from fires, increase fertility, ensure health and wealth, and decorated eggs were especially believed to make evil spirits powerless."

Popow uses a variety of farm-raised eggs in her pysanky art, including quail, peahen, chicken, duck, goose, ostrich and emu. "I use 100 percent beeswax from the best farms and I use dyes specifically for dying protein-based eggshells," she explained. "I use a wax tool stylist called a kistka for applying the melted beeswax."

Throughout her career, she has enthusiastically shared her passion for the art by teaching others. In addition to teaching from her home, she has taught classes at the Arkansas Arts Center in Little Rock and the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. She has also released dozens of free instructional videos through her YouTube channel, which reaches people from more than 100 countries.

She started a Facebook group page to provide instruction and offer encouragement to fellow egg artists around the world. More than a thousand artists are members. Every year, she co-organizes an international event called "Pysanky at the Gardens" at Garvan Woodland Gardens. Artists from as far as Australia, Canada, Japan, Kuwait and Scotland have traveled to this event to see her work.

She said her proudest career accomplishment came in 2005 when she was selected to represent Arkansas in a White House Easter egg state egg collection, coordinated by the American Egg Board.