Keeping Pace with Babushka
“Children, be careful not to let the onion skins blow away,” warned babushka. ”It’s taken me months to collect all those. And don’t mix the brown ones with the red, Karl Gustavovich. Remember, it’s the brown skins for the red eggs and red for the blue ones. On Easter day you can choose your colour for a breakfast treat, you lot, but for now it’s just the gift eggs we’re dyeing.”
My grandmother would spend hours decorating them, just as she had when she was a child in Livonia. We loved to sit and watch as she prepared the pure white eggs, wrapping in leaves and flowers to make patterns of nature or using wax resist for exquisite lacy patterns, cross hatched lines or tear drop shapes in layers of colour.
Babushka always reckoned she must have passed down an eye for detail since Gustav my father went into the jewellery trade. I suppose I can thank her then that his shop did well enough to be able to send me on a Grand Tour. While his training ground was a simple apprenticeship in St Petersburg, mine was the whole of Europe and the splendours that Paris, Florence and Frankfurt had to offer. I wish she could have seen some of the magnificent settings of jewels and precious metals I saw and learned from there, though she would probably have preferred the bold colours and intricate enamelled designs of my recent work on objets d’art.
“That restoration work we did at the Hermitage has obviously gained a good reputation for the firm.” said Agathon. My brother is a talented designer and loves to work on detailed commissions. “The Emperor has asked to see you tomorrow, wants you to come up with an Easter gift for Tsarina Marie. Get some ideas together and take them up to the Palace.”
As I travelled to the meeting with the Tsar, I recalled the joy of seeing my grandmother’s Pace-eggs sitting in their presentation baskets. ‘Babushka,’ I shouted to the wind, ‘This could be the House of Fabergé’s big break!’