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Nichole Holcombe

Mixed Media / Alexandria, LA

Artist Statement

Pysanky making is a reflection of my interest in folk art and traditions. It started as a hobby, but has progressively become a passion. Part of the attraction for me is that pysanky making is affordable, uses simple materials, and does not require any special artistic talent besides patience. I enjoy giving my eggs away to friends and family as much as I enjoy sharing this tradition with others. As the Ukrainians believe, the world will come to an end when the last pysanka is made, and I am doing my best to prevent that from happening.

This technique is equivalent to batik on eggs. I use raw eggs, a kistka (a metal funnel), beeswax, aniline dyes, and polyurethane varnish. I draw on the eggs with the melted wax to create intricate designs and put the eggs into successive baths of dye, going from light to dark colors. After each bath, more wax is applied to protect areas that are to be maintained in that color. The designs are generally based on traditional Eastern European patterns, but I also use American quilt patterns or Native American pottery patterns. After the egg is completed, it is varnished and emptied. The finished product must be protected from direct sunlight, which fades the dyes.

Biography

- Date of birth: April 15, 1953 in Brussels-Belgium
- Education: Social work degree (Institut d’Etudes Sociales de l’Etat- Brussels, Belgium 1976)
- Married to Dr. David Holcombe in 1981 in Brussels, Belgium
- Four children: Renaud (26), Tanguy (24), Joffroi (23) and Thibault (21)
- Moved from Brussels, Belgium to Baltimore, Maryland in 1983
- Moved to Alexandria, Louisiana in 1986

Nicole and her husband have a long-standing interest in folk traditions, including folk dancing and folk costumes. Nicole became interested in the art of pysanki (kraslice) making in 1991. With the help of books and videos, she learned this art form and has perfected it over the years. She sends over 100 of her eggs as Easter gifts to family and friends all over the world.

She has taught the art of pysanky making to the children of Prompt Succor School in Alexandria since 1993. This tradition has been integrated into the religious practices of the school, much as it is in Eastern Europe, with an annual blessing of the eggs. She has volunteered to teach over 300 children every year for the last fifteen years.

Nicole has also re-introduced the art of pysanky making (kraslice in Czech) to the women of the Czech communities of Libuse and Kolin, Louisiana since 1999. For three months starting in January, women and girls of that community come to her home to produce eggs that are sold at the annual Czech Heritage Festival in mid-March. These revenues are, in turn, re-invested in folk costumes, music, sound systems, workshops, and other activities related to the resurgence of folk traditions within the Louisiana-Czech community.

Nicole’s eggs have been accepted in numerous fine arts and craft shows throughout the State of Louisiana. She has demonstrated the art of pysanky making at the Natchitoches Folklife Festival and during the Sugar Day at the Kent House in Alexandria for the last six years. She regularly volunteers to teach at workshops to any group interested in the art of pysanky making.

Her eggs are featured on the web site www.holcombegallery.com, where the steps of pysanky making are shown.