Darla Tinker wakes up every morning to quietly drink her coffee and let her dog out, then spends the next 15 hours working tirelessly at what most would consider a lost art.
When Tinker was 8 years old, she went to a flea market with her family. There, she met a man who changed her life. This man was selling panoramic Easter eggs. Tinker was instantly enthralled and resolved right then that she would grow up to create the same eggs.
“I saw that egg and I was just mesmerized,” Tinker said.
Luckily, Tinker’s grandmother was a baker and taught her many artistic baking tricks as she was growing up, although they never attempted a panoramic egg together.
It wasn’t until Tinker had graduated from high school that she decided to make her first egg by herself.
“I had no idea what I was doing,” she said. “I had no idea how to do it. So it was just a lot of trial and error, trial and error.”
Eventually, she figured out easier ways to create these hollowed-out sugar eggs, and she started making them for friends and family around Easter.
At the time, Tinker was working in the bakery at Safeway, but the job didn’t suit her well.
“I’m just a really creative person,” Tinker said. “And they didn’t want creativity, they wanted production. I was losing my finesse there.”
Seeing the negative effects the job was having on her, Tinker’s first husband suggested she stay home and work on perfecting her eggs and potentially begin to sell them. She quickly agreed and got to work.
Now, Tinker’s panoramic egg business takes up an entire three months of her year and she sells thousands in that short amount of time.
“My business just does better and better every year. Just look at all these orders; these all came in just as we have been talking,” Tinker said as she scrolled through dozens of orders on her iPad screen.
While these eggs may be adorable, this task is not for the faint of heart. Tinker said it takes days to create just one batch of these eggs. From creating the molds, to hollowing the eggs out, to adding the decorations, Tinker was struggling to keep up with the orders that were pouring in.
Thankfully, her husband Fred stepped in to help ease the workload, and the duo has been working around the clock to keep up with the influx of orders they’ve been receiving. So far this year, the Tinkers have already sold over 2,500 eggs, and the incoming orders aren’t showing any signs of slowing down.
However, if you thought creating these eggs wasn’t hard enough, try shipping them. Tinker said she takes a multitude of precautions when packaging the treats. From extra-solid boxes, to bubble wrap, to packing peanuts, to multiple “Fragile: Handle with Care” stickers on the outside of the box, she isn’t sure what more she can do to keep them safe.
Unfortunately, the eggs still break in transit fairly often.
“I feel horrible [when that happens] because [the customer] didn’t get the egg they wanted and I spent all that time making it only to have it crushed in the mail,” Tinker said. “It’s truly awful.”
Just as it seemed as if these eggs couldn’t get any harder to create and deliver, Tinker developed carpal tunnel syndrome. After undergoing surgery to try to ease the pain – to no avail – she went in a few months later to have surgery on part of her brain. When neither of those surgeries worked to relieve the pain in her hands and wrists, she underwent anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF) surgery in November 2021. This surgery is performed on the neck and works to remove damaged discs that could be causing nerve pain in other parts of the body.
Within a few months, Tinker was back to work preparing for the busy Easter season. Even her surgeons were stunned at how quickly she recovered from the back-to-back-to-back surgeries.
“One thing I live by is, don’t ever, ever give up,” Tinker said. “You can’t give up. I had all this pain in my hands and my wrists, and if I let that stop me, my business would have died. No one else was going to continue it for me, so I couldn’t just quit.”
Now, as she molds her busy work schedule around her physical therapy appointments, Tinker is happier than ever to be doing what she loves.
Tinker’s love of creating panoramic eggs is fueled by seeing customers’ children light up around them, just as she did at the flea market when she was 8.
“It is extremely time-consuming,” Tinker said. “And I have no idea how hard it will be every day with my hands. But to see the kids…with a grin from ear to ear – wow, that makes it all worth it.”
Tinker hopes to one day be able to open a shop in the Lynnwood area and keep her orders local, rather than dealing with the hassle of shipping items across the U.S. As a bonus, she would get most of the flat surfaces in her house back.
“The one good thing about this is I haven’t really had to cook for months,” she said as she stood in her kitchen, which was covered with eggs. “I take my crockpot outside and I throw some food in there and it cooks outside all day. But I’m kind of tired of having to go outside to cook my food.”
Tinker is also considering teaching a class on how to create panoramic eggs.
“I just don’t think this is an art that should die,” she said. “I think more people should be able to make these and pass this down to their kids.”
When the Easter season is over, you will not find Tinker relaxing in a lounge chair waiting for the next year to roll around. She has hobbies to keep her busy 365 days a year. From running her successful Airbnb business, to taking her boat out to go crabbing and fishing, to playing guitar, to feeding and helping the homeless community, to creating and decorating her own furniture: she never has a dull moment.
Tinker will have a booth set up at the Lynnwood Convention Center’s Spring Craft Fair & Vendor Market on April 9. There, people can buy one, two, three, four or six-packs of these intricate treats. Children’s kits will also be available for purchase. The kits come with everything needed for kids to decorate their own panoramic eggs.
Orders can also be placed on Tinker’s Etsy page, TheEGGladyByDarla.
— Story and photos by Lauren Reichenbach