Nest-building days and Easter eggs herald spring


Clark Art Institute

With most of its famed collection of Impressionist paintings on tour around the world, the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown is taking a close look at other fine works of art on display.

On Sunday from noon to 4 p.m., the decorative arts take center stage at a free family day. Master crafters will offer demonstrations in skilled in the arts of silversmithing, wood carving, bookmaking, pottery wheel throwing, glass blowing and Japanese lacquer work.

Sterling and Francine Clark were avid collectors of treasures made from silver, porcelain, glass and wood, as well as the more widely known paintings and sculptures, and the museum has galleries filled with elegant decorative wares that once graced the homes of gentry and even palaces throughout Europe and America -- delicate hand painted tea sets, fanciful porcelain sculpture, elaborate chased silver serving ware, and even a lavishly decorated Victorian piano.

Whimsical items such as a cow-shaped creamer and a hand painted plate bedecked with butterflies, beetles and bugs may appeal to young and old alike.

Hands-on activities include art projects such as designing three-dimensional clay tiles and mirror stenciling, as well as an appetizing edible art workshop on making decorative foods. Local band "The Wandering Rocks" will lead a sing-a-long for a musical finish to the afternoon.

Admission and activities are free; some may require timed tickets. Information: (413) 458-2303.

Ventfort Hall

As spring and Easter roll around, Ventfort Hall Mansion and Gilded Age Museum in Lenox invites longtime supporter Tjasa Sprague to lead a pair of workshops that demonstrate the traditional art of Slavic Easter Egg decorating.

The wax-resistant technique resembles batik. Using unwashed, residue-free raw whole eggs supplied by a local poultry farm, Sprague draws a detailed design on the shell using melted wax. She then bathes the egg in aniline dye which adheres to the plain surface, adding color within the outline of the pattern. Repeating the process produces layers of dye and complex shapes, traditional and contemporary designs in delicate pastels and rich jewel-toned hues. Once the artwork is complete, the egg white and yolk are blown out.

Sprague learned how to craft these intricate egg adornments, known as "Kraslice," from her Czech mother, Maria Krofta, and has shared her knowledge through numerous workshops across the years. The resulting artworks have graced countless holiday tables with colorful crafted shells that in their native region are often carefully passed down through families as heirlooms.

Two workshops will take place on Saturday, at 10 a.m. and at 12:30 p.m., for adults and children aged 12 years and up. The cost is $25, and reservations are recommended. Information: (413) 637-3206.

Wildlife Sanctuary

Everyone deserves to have a warm and secure home that meets their needs -- especially those who nest. On Saturday, from 1:30 to 3 p.m., learn how to build a bluebird nest box using pre-cut white pine kits at Pleasant Valley Wildlife Sanctuary in Lenox.

Instructor and Audubon sanctuary director René Laubach will also provide helpful advice on the correct habitats in which to locate the boxes.

The bluebird is not the only Berkshire resident known to avail themselves of these handy homes, which are attractive in size and location to a wide variety of cavity-nesting small bird species including the tree swallow, black-capped chickadee, house wren, tufted titmouse and white-breasted nuthatch, many of whom are familiar cold weather visitors to bird feeders across the region.

The cost per nesting box is $20 and includes all materials. Bring a carpenter's hammer. The program is suitable for adults and children aged 5 and up, and registration is required. Information:, (413) 637-0320.


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