Women's Guild Room
An initiative of the Balzekas Museum's Women's Guild, the Women's Guild Room features a collection of Lithuanian folk arts and amber (gintaras), including elaborate textiles and sashes (juostos), traditional folk costumes, dolls, Easter eggs (vėlykaičiai), wood carvings, jewelry and sculpture. Traditional Lithuanian textiles, usually woven from linen or wool, are noted for their colorful and intricate geometric designs: checks, stars, stripes, and stylized leaves and flowers. In addition to costumes, the Women's Guild Room exhibition features numerous hand woven blankets, tablecloths, towels, and sashes, representing some of the finest examples of Lithuanian weaving.
The exhibition is always evolving as new bequests and acquisitions continue to expand the Museum's extensive folk arts collection. The most recent updates include a collection of dolls (playing musical instruments and dancing) by artist Aldona Pečiurienė, as well as a collection of amber jewelry from the estate of the late Paulina Vaitaitis, D.D.S.
The Women's Guild Room features a display of Easter eggs by two renown Lithuanian folk artists, the late Ursula Astras, from Michigan, and the late Ramutė Plioplys, from Chicago. For many years, Mrs. Astras would travel from her home in Grand Rapids, Michigan, to conduct Museum workshops in the traditional etched method of decorating Easter eggs. A linguist and ethnographer, Ms. Plioplys took traditional egg decorating techniques to new levels, intricately carving the fine shell surfaces. (See more about the artist and her work.)
An egg came to symbolize creation, fertility, and life. The oldest known decorated eggs, two colored goose eggs with decorative scratches, were found in a 4th century grave of a young girl near Worms, Germany. By the 12th century, decorated eggs were blessed in churches during Easter ceremonies and the tradition to decorate eggs at Easter is wide spread in Saxony, Bohemia, Poland, Ukraine, Romania, and Hungary. By the 13th century, egg decoration is also know in Lithuania: archaeological digs at the base of Gediminas Hill in Vilnius uncovered decorated artificial eggs made of stone, clay, and bone. In 1549, Martynas Mažvydas, the author of the first Lithuanian book, a catechism, mentions the tradition of giving decorated eggs during Lent was wide spread in all parts of Lithuania.
People in the countryside believed that decoration added to the already existing mystical powers of the egg. A decorated egg afforded its owner protection from life's disasters and brought luck and fortune. The head of the household would bury a decorated egg at the threshold of the front door to his home as a way of protecting his family and hoe. Decorated eggs were also buried in the stable to protect animals; in the fields, to ensure a plentiful harvest; and in the orchard to make the bear more fruit. It is no wonder that decorated eggs were and continue to be welcomed gifts and prized possessions.
Learn more about Easter egg making techniques at the Museum's Easter Egg Making Workshop. More . . .