This Monday, March 25, 2013 photo shows Brownsville resident Maria de Lourdes Barbosa holding one of her decorated eggs. Barbosa knows her market and characters from many cartoons and a variety of series. Barbosa works out of her house and produces an array of characters on egg shells. Barbosa first uses pencil to sketch the characters face before she uses paint to fill in details. (AP Photo/The Brownsville Herald, Brad Doherty)
Maria de Lourdes Barbosa creates cascarones for all ages.
From Sponge Bob to Spiderman to Elvis Presley to Harry Potter, no aspect from 50 years of American entertainment is overlooked.
"This is what I do. This is my hobby," she said from her living room, where a variety of at least 100 colorful Easter eggs were displayed near a table that serves as her work space.
"I started with Sponge Bob and Spiderman. You know, it was just an idea and I started doing it, and as time went by I added more to my collection," she explained. "People started seeing them -- mostly my family members and then by word of mouth, I think -- more people started coming."
The Brownsville Herald reports she started out selling a few dozen cascarones for $3.50 eight years ago. Now she makes from 360 to 600 eggs a year and sells a dozen for $8.50.
Barbosa responds directly to what her clients want and starts taking orders as early as December.
"People will ask for 12 of just Spiderman sometimes, or sometimes they'll ask for a 12 mix for boys or girls. And some people know what they want, like the Harry Potter or Star Wars collections," she said while showing off a detailed Voldermort, Harry Potter's nemesis.
Those collections are popular with adults. Barbosa said when grown-ups see what she can do with cascarones, they become just as excited as children do.
One person ordered two dozen eggs depicting the popular rock band Kiss. The customer made little microphones for the eggs and set them up as if the band were playing a live set, and used them as gifts for her family members.
Elvis Presley and the Beatles are also popular with adults.
But Barbosa has more eggs depicting every popular cartoon character from the Road Runner of Looney Tunes to more recent hits like Dora the Explorer.
"And all the superheroes are here," she said, showing off Batman and the Green Lantern. "I have a collection of everything."
While the cost of her artwork has increased over the years because of the time she has to put into the creation, she brushes off suggestions to charge a dollar each or $10 a dozen.
"I like to make sure it's something people can afford," Barbosa said.
Her passion doesn't just bring in extra income; the work is also a stress reliever.
She spends her days taking care of her wheelchair-bound husband and her 82-year-old mother, who sometimes helps her fill the eggs with confetti for big orders.
"I'm needed here a lot," Barbosa said. "So this is what I use as a stress reliever."
She wasn't always an artist, but after she discovered how well she could recreate people's favorite characters on eggs, Barbosa never looked back.
"When I started doing this, it just kind of interested me a lot. So this is what kind of like, `turns me on'," she said while laughing. "It gives me the motivation to get up in the morning and keep going."
While she's generated a local buzz in Brownsville with her eggs, Barbosa said she also has customers in Dallas and has even shipped a batch all the way to Virginia.
"That takes two or three layers of bubble wrap so they don't break," she said.
One might wonder: with hundreds of cascarones, what happens to the original contents? Barbosa said each egg is eaten.
"Usually I do two or three a day," she said, adding that she collects the shells all year long.
But there's no way around it: Meeting all the needs in time for Easter is a lot of work.
"This last week before Easter I stay up till 5 in the morning working every day," Barbosa said. "I work practically from 1 in the afternoon till all the way to 4 or 5 in the morning."
And she does it will little help.
"It is very hard and tiring because I do mostly everything myself. When I have a big order, I do have to have my mom help me filling in the confetti and all," she said. "I don't have anybody who can help me really draw because they've tried and don't come out exactly right and I reject them.
"That's precisely why I mostly do most of my work myself!"
While the deadline for cascarones is nearly up, Barbosa welcomes orders for next year because she loves the work.
"I dream of them sometimes," Barbosa said with a laugh.