THE BLOG
03/30/2013 06:08 pm ET Updated May 30, 2013

From Egg Lady to Egg-xecutive

My mom, egg artist Daniela Mahoney, celebrated her 30th anniversary as a nationally-recognized Czech folk artist in the United States this year. After many professional setbacks under the oppressive communist Czechoslovakian regime, she finally found personal and financial freedom through the traditional craft of egg decorating in the United States.

The letter below explains how an Oregon journalist inspired Mahoney to pursue the craft that shaped the course of the rest of her life.

Dear Diane:

My name is Daniela Mahoney and we met 28 years ago in Cedar Mill, Oregon in front of Mike's Auto Parts. It was shortly before Valentine's Day and you were shopping in the neighboring Bales Thriftway store at that time. I was standing in front of Mike's Auto Parts, selling crochet crafts, to raise funds for my upcoming wedding. The merchandise included black crochet poodles (wine bottle covers) and potholders.

You came to me and asked a lot of questions. I tried to answer them with my limited English. As our conversation progressed, you told me that you are a reporter from the Oregonian and would write a story about me if I could do something more newsworthy (in terms of crafts). Since Easter was coming up, I chose the art of egg decorating. My future mother-in-law went to the local library and gathered some books about the subject and fall in love with Ukrainian eggs. For the next six to eight weeks I decorated eggs day and night and contacted you later when ready for an interview.

Back in 1983 you wrote almost a full-page article about my art and my story for the Oregonian newspaper. Based on that story I got an exposure to local TV and was featured in the AM Northwest show with Paul Linnman, Faces and Places with Jack McGowan, and later in 1989, became a feature artist for the Grand Opening of MGM studios in Walt Disney World.

All these events inspired me to become a full time artist and I found my new identity in the USA -- I became "The Egg Lady." Patrick and I got married on April 9, 1983 (and are married to this date). Our son Patrick was born in 1984 and daughter Teresa in 1987.

Years have passed. Years of laughs and tears, hope and despair. Our son was diagnosed autistic at the age of four and my career path, as well as personal life, were greatly impacted by our son's disability. I later pursued a degree in Accounting and Marketing at PSU and eventually got a Master's degree in Social Work at PSU (currently work for the State of Oregon). Patrick Jr. moved to a group home to live with other disabled young adults. Teresa studied in college and now lives in New York to pursue her Master's Degree in Journalism at Columbia University.

I continue decorating eggs in addition to my full time job as a social worker. People wonder why. I guess, I simply lost my heart and my mind. I love decorating eggs and now have a customer base nationwide. My main customer in Oregon has been Made in Oregon since 1987.

Since I now have a master's level education, I could say that I have graduated from an Egg Lady to an Egg-xecutive. Last year, 2012, will mark the 30th anniversary of my coming to America. I am the first generation in our family to finally make it to the U.S. since 1923 when my grandfather Vaclav first attempted to come through Ellis Island without success.

The most important thing for you to know is that you were the person who changed my life forever. Our unusual encounter in late winter of 1983 took me into exploring a professional path that I would have never imagined. I have decorated more than 80 thousand eggs in the past 28 years, taught thousands of children how to decorate eggs and published several children's books. You gave me the inspiration to explore my artistic talents and helped me to enhance my self-esteem and sense of self-worth during my humble beginnings in the U.S.

I would love hearing from you.

Best regards,

Daniela Mahoney

Diane responded to Daniela and they met for lunch to catch up. You can find Daniela's egg art at danielam.com.

The video below shows how Daniela Mahoney uses a high-speed dental drill to engrave freehand onto the surface of a painted egg shell. She works out of the workshop in her garage in Portland, Ore.

Daniela Mahoney: Egg Artist from Teresa Mahoney on Vimeo.

Subscribe to the Culture Shift email.
Get your weekly dose of books, film and culture.