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Mendhi hands by Pushpa Jain. Photographer unknown. All rights reserved.Fish decoy. Photo by Pearl Yee Wong. All rights reserved.Embroidered dress detail. Photo by Pearl Yee Wong. All rights reserved.Cedar bird by Glen VanAntwerp. Photo by Al Kamuda. All rights reserved.
Michigan Heritage Awards

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Photo by Mary Whalen

Photo by Mary Whalen

Photo by Mary Whalen

Mary Torsky
2000 awardee, Cedarville (Mackinac County), pysanky artist

Mary Torsky, born in 1912 and a resident of Cedarville since 1948, first began practicing pysanky at the age of ten. Pysanky is a complex process of decorating eggs with the use of wax and colors. Under the supervision of her mother, an immigrant from the eastern Carpathian Mountains, Mary used straight pins to draw her designs. Only later did Mary acquire a stylus, which she taught herself to use, but she frequently still uses straight pins.

Concerned with maintaining family and ethnic traditions, Mary has taught her children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, and two daughters-in-law the art of pysanky. "I wanted all my children to be able to decorate eggs." She also goes into the schools to teach local children about pysanky. "I have taught people in the community for decades. Their names are too numerous to recall." (1)

Mary was commissioned to decorate an egg with a Michigan theme for an Easter egg display in 1998 in the White House. She applied icons imbued with Christian symbolism that also were characteristic of Michigan: white pine, deer, gulls, and fish. She also added the Mackinac Bridge, and cherries. This egg is now part of the White House permanent collection.

In Mary's family, pysanky were given as gifts to family and friends. Today Mary decorates eggs for every occasion and continues the tradition of giving pysanky. In 1999, for example, she decorated 24 Christmas eggs for her grandchildren; she gave each child of her church an egg at Easter in 2000; she presented Governor Engler a Michigan egg similar to that decorated for the White House display. Mary often donates eggs for fundraisers.

When Mary and her husband, John, moved to Cedarville, they established Torsky's Resort. Although the resort now belongs to her son, Mary still keeps very busy. In addition to pysanky, she maintains her own home, including mowing her lawn, and runs a bed and breakfast; she bakes, cooks, makes wine, and arranges wreaths.

(1) Torsky, Mary. Cited in Mary Kostecki, Nomination form. December 1999.

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